Last Sunday was the first Individual Time Trial at Silverstone, today was the first Team Time Trial, this time virtually on Zwift…
Over the past month or so I have joined up with a virtual team on Zwift, British Racing Team (BRT). It has been great and has definitely helped in races where you can ride with fellow team members and help each other out, but this was my first team event with them.
It was never going to be easy, this was a 40km TTT, and riding with higher rated Cat B riders was going to make it tough (and so was a 7am start time!).
After warming up and getting to the start area it was nearly time to head off on 4 laps of the Watopia flat course. This also makes it 4 flat-out laps, hardly any climbing and limited recovery time.
We had a full team of 6 and were all on Discord, which gives us the ‘Team Radio’ ability to talk to each other. This is great when riding with people from all over the country and throughout Europe.
With the final instructions from the team captain, Florin, we were ready. The start time of 7:02am arrived and we were off. A rolling start of about 200m before we hit the start line and we were trying to stay tightly bunched while getting up to speed and hitting the high watts to get things rolling.
We were just getting in to the grove when disaster struck for Florin, Zwift took him the wrong way, but he turned and did a massive effort to get back on but then it happened again, but this time he had lost more time. In the on screen leaderboard we could see that he was gaining but the effort was massive for him. Eventually he came on to Discord to say to us all to keep going. Such a shame as he is such a strong rider and was leading us well.
By this time we were riding well, but it I was already at the top end of my capabilities, riding above FTP is hard! The first lap was done in just over 15 minutes at 242w, 4 above FTP and this was very quickly followed up but lap 2 in 15:02 at 240w. Over 30 minutes riding above FTP was taking its toll though.
At this point the struggle was on and the suffering was very intense. Every now and then the team would be on Discord checking if everyone was OK and giving encouragement, but there was no spare breath to talk. It was all or nothing.
One of the challenges we had during the race were other riders on course who kept jumping in to our train (not ones riding the TTT, but others just doing their own thing). A couple of times their interference meant I lost the wheel of the team and despite the team putting messages on screen for them to get out of our ride, most (but not all) just ignored it and took advantage of our work, whilst getting in the way!
If this had been an individual race or workout there would be no way I would keep going at this rate. The body was complaining, it was a real sufferfest!
The challenge was that we had to finish with 5 of the 6 riders to count and with the problems that Florin had I had to keep going and somehow get to the finish. The power of riding in a team and not wanting to let people down.
There is one point on this course that really bites, it is not steep, it is not long, but the Esses get me every time. The rolling terrain just knocks off the speed and every lap I dropped back a bit. The rest of the team was so strong on there.
Everyone was working really well and I tried to get to the front when I could to give a break to the other guys. Mika, Jerry, Martin & Gareth were all doing a great job and doing big turns at the front, but also helping me out.
Then it was the last lap and everyone was giving it everything, I just wish I had more to give at this point. It was a case of carry on and get round.
The team knew I was struggling and did what they could to drag me along, but most important was the encouragement on Discord. Just a few words really help and Florin was still there to get us to the line.
I have never been so relieved to get through the esses on the final lap and to get to the finish line as fast as I could. The other 4 were a few seconds ahead by now and I gave every last bit of energy I could to cross the line and stop the clock, knowing that it would be my time that was the final time. During the final part of the ride the heart rate was as high as it has ever been on Zwift and only beaten at the end of Ride London 100 when the sprint was on down the mall.
At one point someone said to dig deep and the only conscious thought I had was there is no more digging left. I was at the total max of my capabilities and had spent quite a lot of the last lap with the head down just trying to eek out every last bit of effort. One thing is for certain though, I would not have done it without the teams help. The toys could have very easily been thrown out of the pram!
So that was it, we had crossed the line. It took a couple of minutes before I could get on to Discord to say thanks to the guys for all their help and the great work they did.
A selection of snaps that BRT and the team grabbed today (sorrys guys for knicking them, no way I could do any during the ride). They really show some great team work and even a few where I am not at the back!
Although it had been painful, and it was really painful, it had been a great experience and fun riding with the guys. It definitely tells me where the limit of my capabilities are, but as a fairly recent upgrade to Cat B I am pleased with how it has been going. With a solid block of training to come I will be back, stronger and fitter ready to smash it next time.
The official results show that we had a time of 1:00:32. Gutting that I had not got the legs to help the team shave off those 32 seconds, I know they could have done it!
A new personal best in terms of watts per kg today though and equalling the FTP is not too bad considering how I felt at the end.
There are other time slots for the races today (lunch and evening) so our time will be beaten (there are some very strong teams including the BRT 1 who will be going just after 7pm, fingers crossed for them), but after 3 teams have finished we are top of the leaderboard 🙂
This is a nice little video showing the team working together which gives a really good flavour of who the race works (luckily you can not see how much I was struggling in real life and the sweat dripping off me!)