This was a ridiculously easy race. The reason was that there were no cruisers around this time, only the usual sandbaggers, but even they were quite few, at least the ones that didn’t actually treat the race as just a moderate workout or recovery ride. Also the race had a distinct lack of strong heavies, which is a bit unusual. Maybe it was the late hour, a little too late for the Euros and a little too early for the Americas.
You can see the lack of competition in the results. You shouldn’t be able to win the golden turd after two measly laps around the Ring with a whopping 2 min time separation between you and the runner-up. It ain’t right. Obviously the remainder of the classification is legit. Note that almost four times as many riders were discarded by ZP, most of which were not registered on ZP at all. But at the same time it is interesting, because the results above tell you something about the power of cruising. It is quite clear. Remove weight advantage and competition between cruisers and this is what you get. Total domination over people trying to ride fair, even on such a short course. It ain’t right. But this is happening all the time in cats B, C and D on a daily basis.
As a sidenote, it’s an encouraging observation that so few among the corona mass invasion of new subscribers actually bother to sign up with ZwiftPower. ZP has its place, for all its shortcomings, and that is for managing leagues and series. But it ends there. And without that false shine of fairness that ZP painted over Zwift, it becomes blatantly obvious how flawed racing in Zwift is. The standard newbie discussion thread about racing these days is no longer the “Why do so many people sign up in the wrong cat?”, but rather the “How come people do 3.5 W/kg in a cat D race when D is specified as 2.5 W/kg max?” I.e. the newbies look straight at the ZHQ classification for the “true results” these days and couldn’t care less about the contrived ZP. And even the yea sayers, you know, the guys who go “You must look at ZP! ZP is da troooth!” seem far fewer in between these days. Or they simply drown in the noise of the newcomers, I don’t know.
Anyway, during prime time hours and with 3-4 laps around Innsbruckring rather than just 2, then you’d see much stiffer competition. I actually ended 4th here according to ZHQ after deliberately giving up the sprint for 3rd to an unregistered sandbagger I spent most of the race with, this in order to keep my average low, because there are a couple of tricky things about cruising the Innsbruckring. And I wanted to talk about that.
How do you cruise the Innsbruckring? It’s a great course and thus very popular. But it isn’t as easy to cruise as e.g. Sand and Sequoias or the other top choice race courses. And the reasons for that are two things. First, it’s a short lap of just 8.8 km. Second, the Legsnapper.
The Legsnapper is the 450m 7% climb towards the end of the lap just after you cross the bridge back to the north bank, just before the 5 km mark. People like to push it there. It presents an opportunity to drop people on an otherwise very flat course. However, pushing up the Legsnapper spells trouble to the cruiser.
Due to the short lap, if you are cruising in cat B or C, then you will hit the Legsnapper twice in the first 20 min block. Let’s say you cruise cat C. The start will be hard as usual, “fighting for position”, which translates into “finding the optimal group to suck wheel in just around cat W/kg limit”. A couple of kilometers after the start your hopefully optimal group will slow down. If the group is indeed optimal it will slow down below cat limit so that you can start lowering your inflated W/kg average (which is nowhere near 20 min yet by the way).
Then right before the 5 km mark comes the Legsnapper. Sandbaggers and contenders will start pushing and you can’t allow yourself to be dropped solo, not unless you have a juicier group right behind you to drop into the open arms of. And what if your current group will slow down considerably after the climb? Then you should be in it. No, you don’t dare to drop. So you follow. Obviously you won’t be trying to drop anyone yourself on the first lap. In 9 cases out of 10 it will be a bad idea. Instead you just follow and make sure you can draft the descent to start mitigating the sudden rise in your previously dropping average. So let’s assume you do and that the group does indeed slow down so that your average starts ticking down nicely again.
But then after another 8 km comes the Legsnapper again! And this time you may not be able to follow your group in the climb, because you are still inside the first 20 min block. In cat C and given that your group slowed down considerably after the first Legsnapper, then maybe. But it’s iffy. If you cruise cat B and given competition from other cruisers, following your group up the second Legsnapper can be a complete no-go depending on the situation. You may find yourself crawling up instead, in panic over your average.
Cruising cat D is easier. Deceptively easier. You will hit the 20 min mark right before the second Legsnapper. So you’re cool, right? No, not necessarily. This is the kind of course where you risk an overlapping peak 20 min period somewhere between the first two 20 min blocks. So unless you can track a trailing 20 min average in realtime, then you have to be careful.
The reason why you need to be careful is that potential overlap. The standard scenario in a race is that the first 20 min block is where you will push your highest Watts due to the hard start. So the 20 min average shown on ZP will be based on the 20 min period coinciding with the first 20 min (block) of the race. But you already have another power peak in the first 20 min block, the Legsnapper on the first lap, and people like to push the Legsnapper so hard that your Watts may become higher even than your Watts at the start, especially on the second lap, since you were smart enough not to follow obvious sandbaggers at the start but tried to find the frontmost group containing cruisers and legits. See the problem?
The problem is that even though the start was lower Watts than the second Legsnapper, there was still higher Watts than your group is now doing on the flat, so the start Watts are still a liability backwards in time, in your actual trailing 20 min average. So if you can’t track your trailing average in realtime but instead rely on the method I proposed in lesson 5 of Cheat School, i.e. restarting the average after the first 20 min block, then you risk going over limits if your group pushes really hard up the second Legsnapper.
This is a big problem for cat B and C cruisers. For the cat D cruisers I would suggest you don’t reset the average as you hit 00:20:00. What you can do instead as a rough method – and this you need to keep in mind already at the start of the race – is to make a mental note of how many minutes you went over limit after the start. Also try get a rough estimate of the kind of W/kg you did up the first Legsnapper. If you went over limit for 2 minutes at the start and if you are not really going harder up the second Legsnapper than up the first, then let your average run for about 2 more minutes before you reset. And keep your average in check. Yes, that could imply dropping.
If, on the other hand, you do indeed go harder up the second Legsnapper, then it gets even trickier. You may have to let the your first average run a little longer, but you could also be past the second Legsnapper after 22 min, which would reduce the risk of going over limit. Make sure you get good draft and hopefully easy pedaling in the descents, because you really need to get your average down a bit immediately.
Finally, there is one more hazard on the Innsbruckring. Because of potentially dangerous overlaps of 20 min periods between 20 min blocks, the finish can also screw up your peak average in the race and send you out of the podium or even your cruising cat. Sprints can be very dangerous because your average will take a significant hit and you are way less likely to monitor your average properly during a sprint than in basically any other situation. So ideally, you won’t have to finish the race with a sprint against another cruiser, but chances are that is something you won’t have much of a say in. You can only keep your fingers crossed.