For the past few months I have been putting together recce’s for the weekly Thursday Team Time Trial from WTRL. I race in a hungry mid-pack Latte (usually) team for Rowe and King – the Hyenas.
Eric asked me to put together a similar recce for the Zwift Racing League TTT on Tuesday… if you like it, maybe he will ask me to do more!
I know that around half the riders on Tuesday have never done a WTRL Team Time Trial on Zwift before… so I will dedicate a little time to what you should expect. Then, along with a course profile, I’ll give you some tips I have learned over the months to improve team performance.
If you haven’t seen it yet, head over to the No Breakaways Youtube Channel. This week they posted a nice introduction to the R.G.V. course, and our very own Eric Schlange posted his ideas for bike choice. I have my own bike recommendations below… but always remember, Eric does the science… I just do opinions 🙂
What’s a Team Time Trial
If you are already a Thursday WTRL TTT aficionado you can probably skip down a bit. For everyone else – you have gathered by now that the Team Time Trial format is different from your everyday rides and races.
In the TTT your team of 4-6 riders sets off at a pre-ordained time (more on this later) and works together to get around the course in the fastest time possible. Sounds simple… and it is. The trick is in how you get the best performance out of the team.
What makes a TTT different
Basically it’s teamwork. In a normal race on Zwift you are pretty much on your own. You might get comfort in seeing team jerseys… but frankly that’s about it. In the TTT you are working together, using the stronger members to help the weaker members to ensure that you get at least 4 riders over the line. Some of you out there have ridden together for years, and others have only met through the ZRL, so before we talk about the ride itself, let’s talk about the one thing that will make or break your ride: communication.
Team comms are a cute affectation in scratch races on Zwift, but in the TTT you need to know who has the legs, who is trailing, can they get back on. You need to be able to motivate your team, give instruction on what speed to aim for, call out features in the terrain… the list is endless. You even need to coordinate when to start the ride (see below)!
My team, and most of the teams I know, use an application called Discord. It takes some getting used to, but think of it like the Race Radio pro teams use. If you aren’t familiar with Discord take a look. If you aren’t going to use Discord, find another way to chat – whether it’s a group phone call, a Zoom meeting, or typing in a Whatsapp group!
The key to making the whole thing a success – and this is what the WTRL guys cracked – is starting each team a minute or so apart. That way your band of brothers (or sisters) has plenty of space ahead and behind to do your thing. Each team will have a start-delay (which your team captain will get in the next day or so). That time delay will be anything from 30 seconds to 17 minutes 30 seconds.
So… everyone congregates in the pen per usual… the big clock counts to GO GO GO time… and we all sit there like lemons (Pro Tip: Don’t be the team that sets off early… you will be rightly ridiculed by all and sundry – plus see below on time penalties!).
Then… when your time delay ends you GO GO GO – because your team’s time starts ticking the second your time delay completes (Pro Tip: make sure someone on the team is responsible for the countdown).
An insider note – it isn’t the first time to this rodeo for WTRL… they know, to the second, when you leave the pen. Don’t jump the gun or you may face time penalties.
OK… so you’ve got the team out of the gate at approximately your start time… now what.
An average TTT team in Zwift will benefit from the draft by having a “blob” form behind surging riders on the leading edge – just like you do in a scratch race. This works pretty well and your team of six will be able to move a lot faster than anyone on their own. Make sure your stronger riders are doing the surging, and your weaker riders are resting in the draft. There… a little discipline and you’ve just gained yourself 5 minutes on the lap of R.G.V.
But testing (once again… Eric does the science here!) shows that a single-file paceline formation is significantly more efficient in Zwift than a small blob. My experience shows that if the front of the chain is pulling at 4 w/k, the 6th man will be ‘resting’ at around 2.5 w/k. The trick is to manage your effort… which is why we pull short turns of 20-30 seconds above threshold before falling back and “resting” at/around sweetspot. Done well, your team will move at a pace significantly higher than you could possibly achieve otherwise. My latte team (basically a C team) moves at a consistent 4 w/k on the front. All you have to do is work out what your riders can manage when they are pointy end and the rest is physics.
In a paceline, situational awareness is the most important factor – know who is in front of you and who is behind you. Stay in the draft of the person in front – but be aware if a split is forming behind. When you are on the front you are expected to maintain race-pace (either w/k or kph), and when your turn is done – drift back. As the person ahead of you moves up the line be aware you will need to step up power ½ w/k. Be aware… this won’t work without some form of team communications.
As a team rider your job boils down to the following:
- Hold the line in front of you. Don’t drop back more than 5M… don’t surge ahead.
- While on the front maintain the target speed as long as you can knowing this is a sustained race – 20 seconds is perfect.
- When your turn is done soft-pedal for a few seconds and allow your avatar to drift back. Pay attention as you drift – coast for too long and you will be spat out the back.
- When on the back rest…
- As you move up the line listen for the front-rider’s count… when they finish their turn, step up your pace just a little
And thats it. Now you can TTT with the best!
R.G.V. Route Recon
One fast lap… that’s all this is. Nothing like Big Foot Hills. This is basically flat with one small bump up to the aqueduct about halfway around, and then a continuing series of rollers that starts around the 17.5km mark. In a traditional race, these pose zero difficulty… but the dynamic of a TTT is somewhat different. In the TTT success comes from keeping your team together, so anything that has the potential to break the group apart is a problem. Both of these areas have the potential to tear your team apart – particularly if you are new to the TTT format.
What to ride?
Bike recommendation on this route is pretty straightforward. Aero rules the day. I will be riding my S-Works Venge with the pretty Super-9 disc wheels.
While the Venge with Super-9s are the most aero setup on Zwift, there’s a pretty good setup available at level 23 – the new Canyon Aeroad. On hilly routes, the Aeroad even beats the Tron. Here are my recommendations at different levels:
- Level 6 Zwift Aero frame and DT Swiss ARC 62 wheels
- Level 13 Zwift Aero frame and Zipp 808s
- Level 18 Specialized Venge with Zipp 808s
- Level 23 Canyon Aeroad 2021 with Zipp 808s
- Level 33 S-Works Venge with Zipp 808s
- Level 35 S-Works Venge with Zipp 808/Super 9
- Level 45 get those 858/Super 9 wheels and pair them with the S-Works Venge
If you have the Tron and are level 23+ it’s a toss up… the Aeroad with the 808 hoops are compelling… but the beauty of the Tron bike is that you can set it and forget it. It’s always a decent choice.
Route Recon Rides
This is a popular race route. Today through Monday there are 19 different races and rides. If you want to get out to R.G.V. there’s nothing stopping you. Check for yourself on the event listing on zwifthacks.com.
France is a beautifully rendered world – my favorite of all of them. That said, on Tuesday you will be going to fast and hard to notice… take a gentle ride over the weekend and take a look.
It’s a beautiful ride, almost perfect for a Team Time Trial. I break this route into four sections:
- Flat for 13.5km
- Up the Aqueduct hill and down the other side
- A little more flat
- Bumpy stuff then a flat sprint to finish
Part 1 – Flat
R.G.V. is the perfect route to cut your teeth on as a newbie TTT team. It starts with a 13km flat to sort yourselves out. Use this time to work out your formation – whether you are blobbing or running a pace line, and to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. My suggestion is set yourselves a target speed for the flat and try and maintain that for the whole 13km.
Part 2 – Aqueduct Hill
Many will tell you this is a 400 meter hill averaging 2.5% starting 13.5km into the ride. It isn’t. What they are telling you is where the Aqueduct KOM starts, and its statistics. Unfortunately the KOM starts halfway up the hill – and ends halfway along the flat. Yah, it’s a bit messed up!
Right around 13km you will begin the rise – it is 2.5% on average and goes for 800M. The trick is that the hill undulates a little – starts as a 1% false flat then progresses up to 5% at its peak. The technique here is simple – don’t let your lighter riders race ahead. It’s not that bad and if you’re careful you will barely notice it.
Part 3 – More Flat
After a 500m flat across the Aqueduct itself you’ll drop back down the other side and it will be flat once more until you hit 17.5 km. This is a good time to regroup after the climb/descent and to get yourself back into formation.
Part 4 – Bumpy Stuff
For a TTT, this is the most challenging part of the course. Particularly if you are new to the game. A series of undulations – at first each one is just a meter or two… barely there… but they are just enough to mess with the team’s momentum. You will be exhausted by now so concentrate on staying together. 4km of that sets you up for three small hillocks – each one approximately 10m ascent at around 3%. This whole area winds around and around making it hard to get your bearings. Keep your eyes on the rider in front and stay there!
Don’t underestimate these three hillocks. The team will be wiped out by now and these three will split what’s left of you. Just remember you need 4 across the line, and it is the 4th rider’s time that matters.
From 24km to the start/finish gate is 1.2km of downhill and flat. Finish with a group sprint to show the crowd what you’re made of.
If you’re new to the TTT format this route is a wonderful starting point. Plenty of flat to practice your skills, and a little bit of technical undulation at the end to see how well you operate as a team.
If you are experienced at TTTs this is a flat out ride. Start with 6, end with 4. Claim your 20 points!