Race Report: CeramicSpeed Series Qualifier Race – How to Cruise Out and Back Again

This was one race I just had to cruise! Sponsored event featuring a high-profile brand. Is there ever a better opportunity to display the filth Zwift swept under the carpet? Now, nobody is interested in anything but cat A here. They are the ones to be crowned ambassadors, i.e. a few of them will get to be a virtual ad sign for a bit. Almost like going pro, no? Well…

For best effect, although from a low category, you would of course want to win an event like this as a cruiser, and then brag openly about how you cheated yourself to a win… without actually breaking any rules. If it wasn’t for the usual cat A focus, I would be furious as a sponsor with a brand name to protect if I was fully aware of what a piece of unfair crap Zwift racing really is. And as an undercover cruiser I would just love to help create a little awareness.

The only problem was this was going to be a very difficult race, for a number of reasons.

First, the start list was huge. Three minutes before start I counted 98 ZP registered participants and a few more probably dropped in while I warmed up. We can safely assume there were many unregistered as well even though the rules said you needed to be registered in order for your result to be taken into account, although in the end only 86 finished in cat D. It was a long and tough race that would still attract a lot of people who don’t race regularly and who then got more than their fill during the race and bailed out. Anyway, it is more difficult to cruise a big field since the probability that there is someone in the race who can beat you increases with every additional participant.

Second, how can I be so sure there were lots of unregistered without actually looking? (I never bothered.) Well, it’s a fair assumption that people just wanted in, not caring too much about the rules, since there were plenty of sandbaggers too. I counted 33 cat C’s or worse 3 min before the race. They would all get UPG’s of course, but that didn’t stop them from joining. There were probably quite a few unregistered sandbaggers as well. And cruising a race with a lot of sandbaggers in it is difficult for two reasons. They may confuse you and have you believe they are threats to your placing, and if you don’t watch it you might be tempted to follow which could bust your 20 min average. Also, perhaps even worse since you can’t control the damage yourself, sandbaggers set up the heavies for a win. As a light cruiser I can’t follow a sandbagger for long or I will go over limit. But a heavy might be able to suck the slower sandbaggers’ wheels and still stay within limit e.g. by getting early separation in the first minutes that may be hard to bridge, if you are even aware of their presence somewhere in the far distance in front of you.

Third, an additional problem with huge start lists is that they are near impossible to keep track of during the race. Who is in your group at the moment? Are they on the ZP registered list? Are they strong, will they last? Are they legit, sandbagging or cruising? With so many participants you would need your own personal directeur sportif to shout in your ear what to do and how to respond to what is going on around you. Do the dishes and call in the favor from next-of-kin is my advice. It would actually be really useful when cruising. (I do the dishes and more but I still don’t get my directeur sportif – life isn’t fair!)

Fourth, I noticed many threats in the start list. There was an unusually large number of “nearly C”, loads of heavies and quite possibly cruisers too (I didn’t have time to go through the race histories of all the stronger participants of course).

Too many factors to control. I would have to focus on my average and just play the race by ear. The result? It was OK, I think. I got a 5th on ZP and missed the podium (the bronze to be specific) in a sprint, and if you have read earlier posts you may recall that I am not a strong sprinter.

Actually, it was a mistake to allow the short sprint to happen at all. I was planning on doing the usual thing and go on a push or long distance sprint about a km from finish, but being low cat C trash and after quite a few races recently I must admit I was a bit tired and decided to gamble instead. In hindsight it might not have mattered to the result, looking at the race histories of the small group I was in, but at least there would have been no real downside to trying the long sprint as the worst that could have happened was 6th. Note to self: Don’t let it go to a sprint ever again if you can avoid it…

So what about the rest of top 5? The race was won by a superheavy who finished minutes ahead of us. Since all my 20 min blocks (3 ½) were near limit I know for certain that it would have been absolutely impossible to stay with a guy like that without getting a WKG, not that I ever even knew of his presence ahead in the race. He was pushing almost 300W!

Silver was a heavy who worked hard and who I think pushed solo for the last stretch, which kills speed quite a bit. If a long sprint would have been successful (I doubt it) I just might have connected with him, but then he would have destroyed me in the sprint as I would have been toast and wouldn’t be able to match his Watts even if rested.

As for the little group I was in, which included 3rd, we were all cruisers except for 6th who worked hard and had a legit history. He had a clear weight advantage on me but most of the others beat him on the scales, so all in all he was double disadvantaged. If I could pick a deserving winner in this race, it would be him for sure.

How to cruise Out and Back Again then? I think the easiest cruises would come in cat C. The reason is that the Volcano KOM would start just outside the second 20 min block for them. So they would have somewhat better opportunities to go rather hard in the climb in a sort of late post-20 min push, and then recover the average in the descent. But that is only the forward 20 min average covered, and there are good chances of getting your 20 min average starting at the foot of the climb recovered with the help of the descent as parts of it can be supertucked. If the tempo was only slightly below limit in the approach to the Volcano KOM, however, then there would obviously be the risk of raising the trailing 20 min average above limit.

Note: In this race I actually had to drop in the early climb to get my average down before 00:40:00. Then I went on a hard P20P push. It was probably what caused a best 20 min average on ZP slightly above limit and gave me an upgrade post-race (the result still stands though). Doing so helped me reconnect with the riders I later finished with though, so the result would probably have been worse if I hadn’t pushed. But be wary of your trailing average in that climb. It could easily rob you of your cheater’s license.

The Zwift KOM reversed, which is also included in this course, happens at a relatively safe distance in time from the Volcano KOM. So just be mindful of your average as usual there, no special treatment needed. Apart from those two climbs the rest of this longish race is pancake flat favoring the heavier rider. And for the heavy rider able to ride at limit for the duration of the race (essentially cruising, since this is a 60+ min race in cats C and D) not even the climbs will set him back.

As a final note, am I sorry about the upgrade? Not at all! I was about to write something about it a few days ago that it was probably about to happen soon and that I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it. Racing is my preferred WO and cruising is really bad for your fitness if you, like me, have the physique where high intensity gives better results than quantity, the long and slow. As if I would have the time anyway… So back to bottom cat C again where I belong right now. I will likely keep posting even so with course advice for the cruiser, more dissections of the Zwift racing system, etc. Oh, and a new data analysis festival – new and improved, smoking hot and shocking – that I have planned for when I get the time. But first that new lesson in Cheat School that I promised the other day.

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Race Report: 3R Racing – How you are forced to cruise Petit Boucle even when you are not a cruiser

Sunday is the day when a lot of Zwifters go on longer endurance freerides. Some choose to join longer races in a lower category instead. Far from all of these sandbaggers are out to snatch a podium. They may grow restless after a while, however, since virtual endurance rides, although essential in many training plans, are terribly boring and since racing other people is much more fun.

Yesterday’s race was one such Sunday race on the longer side. This was the shortened Petit Boucle of 45 km, but with a climb in the latter half it will still take cat A just over an hour to complete. I doubt you could go any faster than 1:15 in cat D.

It wasn’t a well-attended race but with the increased subscriber count there were still a decent lot at the start line. Only a minority were registered with ZP and a majority of participants, registered or not, were sandbagging.

With a race of this length lasting over an hour a cruiser does not worry about legits at all. It is just other cruisers, particularly the heavy ones, one has to keep an eye on. This was rather easy this time since there was just a handful of names that had to be watched. And with only four legitimate finishes in the end according to ZP (me being one of them) this was an easy gold (14th out of 35 on ZHQ).

So let’s forget this race and talk about Petit Boucle instead. It is not a difficult course to cruise at all. At a quick glance the course profile looks potentially complicated but it really isn’t, at least not in cat D and probably not in cat C either.

Most of the course is flattish with just some low-gradient rollers strewn out here and there. There are three climbs, at least if you look at those websites that detail the Zwift courses, but I beg to differ. I would call it 1 ½ climb.

First, there is the Aqueduct forward climb, which is very short and goes into the second 20 min block, and so it is not a problem. Second, there is the Petit KOM, which is a mid-range climb, although I would rate it a little less taxing than Box Hill. Then towards the end there is the Aqueduct climb again in reverse, which isn’t really a climb at all since you gained most of the elevation already earlier in a 2-3% inclination stretch not associated with the actual climb itself.

The Petit KOM could have been tricky. However, it so happens that it fits nicely into the third 20 min block in cat D and probably in cat C too. Since it is a long race, chances are that the last half of the second 20 min block had your group slow down a bit and go under limit. So even if you are forced to avoid getting dropped or elect to push yourself in the Petit KOM, you should be able to accomodate those extra Watts in your 20 min trailing average without too much difficulty. In fact, if the start was hard it might even be difficult to go over limit here with everyone being a bit toasty – it all depends on how low you cruise.

Bear in mind, though, that the descent is not quite as nice and steep as the course profile on some site would have you believe. It can actually be surprisingly difficult to get into supertuck in the descent. You will get the chance to get some CO2 out of your lungs if you went hard in the climb, yes, but the net effect on your average may be smaller than you hoped for. So don’t overdo the climb unless you have a solid plan for keeping your average within bounds.

In an everyday race the rider texture in the last 15 km after the Petit KOM is likely to be rather fragmented. You therefore don’t have to worry too much about finding draft. It is not out of the question to treat those last km’s as a threshold interval (even though it is not it may still feel that way at that stage) and convince yourself you are Jensie. You might not be as stuffed with chemicals but you are a kroozer, ja? So it evens out.

There is one tricky thing about Petit Boucle, though, which I would like to address. It is not something particular to the course really but rather something pertaining to its length. In a longer race like this, on a course that isn’t pancake flat, there may be a whole lot of fighting for position at start. Assume you are a completely legit top cat in C, not an “Almost B” but a solid C, only on top. You don’t podium much, if at all, because the cruisers and heavies do that for you. But you can produce a 20 min average not too far from cat limit. Now, if the race is even half as full of sandbaggers as this race was, particularly if the number of potential legits is a little bigger than in this race, then you might get dragged into these position wars in the first 10 min. And even if the group you are in halfways through the first 20 min block slows down a bit, it might still not be enough for your average to recover in time for the second block. You could risk a WKG, which would be both ironic and unfair since you are forced to spend the latter 20 min blocks well below cat limit due to fatigue. Thus, even a legit rider needs to learn how to cruise, or you risk getting upgraded and then race mostly below your new cat’s W/kg span. It’s a shitty cat system, I know. And Petit Boucle could be one of those courses where you get more than a whiff of the poo. So stay safe in sunny virtual France, whatever staying safe means to you.

We will take a closer look at the first 20 min in an upcoming new lesson in Cheat School. Stay tuned.

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Race Report: ABSA Cape Epic Stage 3 PB Abus – How to Cruise Jungle Circuit (Reverse)

I got the bronze here and I am satisfied. It wouldn’t have been possible with a higher placing. I will explain why later on but essentially it was because of my low weight.

This was a tricky race on a very simple course. The tricky part was the lineup. Since this is a big ZHQ event it attracts a lot of attendees even on a Friday night. I noticed 2 min before race start that the start list consisted of what looked like 50% sandbaggers and higher-cat recovery riders, and that was only on ZP. The bronze on ZP translated into 27th out of 89 in cat on ZHQ!

I also noticed in the ZP start list that there was a 7 year old Canadian child with a 3.2 W/kg 90-day average weighing in at 30 kg. If he finished, then there was no way I or anyone else could beat him since he falls under the low Watt–low weight ZP rules and can legitimately win even though he breaks through the performance ceiling in cat and rockets out into space.

The start was hardish but the front group soon slowed down and the second group bridged to us. Everything was nice and easy with a draft speed giving me a decent margin below cat limit that would surely let my initially high average tick down well before the 20 min mark. But once we hit the caves this kid does the smart thing. Or rather, you could almost hear coach daddy yell in the background “Go Charlie!” He suddenly started pushing 3.2 W/kg and went flying. Since the now enlarged front group consisted of quite a few sandbaggers the group was baited into following. A brilliant move! And well-timed. If there were any ZP signups among those who got baited, then they would be screwed. They would never get their averages down in time. I quickly decided to drop of course.

I expected more riders would be sensible enough to drop but apparently nobody checked the ZP signup list (a good sign, because all cruisers do). Or maybe they were sandbaggers all of them. I dropped into a sizeable group right behind us but even they seemed to be all sandbaggers and intent on catching up with the front group. So I dropped down further into some stragglers. Who were also sandbaggers and intent on catching up with the second group. And so on. It took a while until I found draft at a reasonable pace.

The group I landed in let me lower my average in time and with a nice little margin on top that I could use to catch up with riders up front in a post-20 min push once the first 20 min block was finished. I connected with a couple of riders in the push. After a while some others connected and we turned into a group of maybe six or so riders.

However, on the second lap I still had a Watt debt from the P20P to pay for and the pace was a little too high for my liking. So when the group started to chase down stragglers with 5 min left of the second 20 min block and with my average still 4% higher than my 20 min Watt limit, I realized I had to drop again. The only problem was this group contained the rest of the would-be podium, both of them significantly heavier than me. 1st would go over limit quite a bit in a way that I couldn’t possibly have matched without getting an upgrade. 2nd had 24 kg on me and I wouldn’t be able to compete with such a heavy-weight advantage either. Both seem legit though and if we disregard the Light Rider’s Curse for a second their placings were well deserved.

Some semi-dispersed riders right behind seemed to go a little slower and I dropped back to them. After a while we coagulated into a new group of 6-7 riders. I must have pissed off, among others, future 4th on ZP (who I noticed was a heavy as we went on) since I refused to take wind. I’m quite good at that. I’m glued to their wheels and there is no point in trying to shake me off. It won’t work unless they are sandbagging. And I absolutely had to suck wheel to lower my average in time for the start of the third 20 min block.

I let my average run past 20 min as we approached the finish through the caves. We had slowed down further and I built up a 2% Watt margin I would be able to use at the finish. Not much but it would cover a short push at least and I had saved an Aero powerup too.

The start list on ZP was hard to read with half of the participants, interspersed, being sandbaggers, but I was pretty sure my group only contained one ZP legit rider, the heavy guy I mentioned. If he decided to sprint at the finish just for the hell of it, then he would likely outsprint me and I wouldn’t even be able to try without risking an upgrade. This is a common problem for the cruiser. You will often not be able to sprint at the finish without screwing up your 90-day average, since you are often already on or very close to the limit. And even if, as in this case, you have a small Watt margin up to your Watt limit as you approach the finish, a 20 min average will rise horribly fast if you start doing sprint Watts. It is very easy to bust out in a sprint, so beware.

I pushed semi-hard some 400m out and popped the Aero. Some other guy I was half sure wasn’t on the ZP list went after me and I let him pass while trying to keep 4th behind me with an average that very quickly rose slightly higher than I wanted it to. Luckily, it seems the Wahoo app overreports compared to ZP (or maybe ZP underreports) so there seems to be a little safety margin built into my cheating setup. And thus I could both finish third and stay in cat.

But what about the kid? Well, 7 years is awfully young. If they have the stamina to last 2 laps around Jungle Circuit at all, then very few would have the attention span or motivation to sit through the whole race. In fact, as a parent I’d be slightly worried over a kid who did. On the second lap I saw him standing still by the roadside. Maybe his favorite cartoon had just started. ‘A’ for effort nevertheless.

So how do you cruise Jungle Circuit. Well, there really isn’t much to say. It is a very flat course. You just maintain your average and monitor the tactical situation basically. It won’t be the course itself that destroys your cheating dreams but, if anything, other riders.

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Race Report: 3R Innsbruckring Flat Race 2 Laps – How to Cruise Innsbruckring

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.


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Race Report: UK Armed Forces Cycling Community Race Night – How to Cruise London Loop

Time to take up arms against British forces. As they say, “In love and war…” Hence they wouldn’t mind a little cruising, would they?

The course was two laps around the lovely London Loop. I won on ZP but I consider it a botched race as I went over limit slightly and damaged my 90 day ZP average. I might bust out of cat any day now if I’m not careful and keep the gold fever in check.

The London Loop, which includes the climb up Box Hill, is a very interesting, very tricky course for the cruiser. Or to be more precise, it is tricky if you can’t measure a trailing 20 min W/kg average directly (I still can’t) and thus have to rely on guesstimates from 20 min block averages (please refer to lesson 5 of Cheat School if you didn’t understand that sentence). Which would explain why I went over limit at all. I would assume it happened somewhere around the period of 00:10:00–00:30:00.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that legit top cat riders would do well to stay away from the London Loop even though it is a fun course. As a strong legit rider it would be only too easy to go over limits somewhere in the first 20 or 30 min, carried away by sandbaggers and an eagerness to position oneself well before and at the beginning of the first climb.

My guess is that this is a typical course where those about to will get their upgrade. But two laps is not a short race in Zwift standards! Even in cat B you are looking at a 50 min effort, and down in cat D it will be difficult to go under the hour mark. So if you are riding legit and push hard early on (and why wouldn’t you, seeing as you are not a cruiser?) then you might get upgraded for that initial effort while still suffering badly on the last lap at maybe 0.3 W/kg below limit, since by then you are out of both matches and steam, way out of contention against the complimentary sandbaggers and cruisers that your race came stocked with. And the next races you join, you will be assigned gatekeeper for the gruppetto up in the next category. Isn’t it ironic?

The course starts close to the Tower of London, follows the north bank of the Thames westwards and down south, takes Lambeth Bridge over to “Surrey” (yeah well…), up Box Hill, then down and across Tower Bridge and back to the finish arch.

The standard hard start will take you through most of the inner city section. Your group may slow down by or a little before Lambeth Bridge and by that time your average will be quite high. So you are going to have to slow down further if you want to avoid a WKG or an upgrade. This means the early climb will be affected by your need to go under cat limit for the remainder of the first 20 min.

As soon as you finish the first 20 min you can do the post-20 min push. As long as you are not pushing Watts higher than those at the start of the race and since you had to go under limits for a bit towards the end of the first 20 min, you don’t necessarily have to restrain the post-20 min push to cat limit. You can actually go harder. Your trailing average still contains some minutes of under-limit effort and ahead of you there is the descent where you can get some rest and get your average down. At the foot of the descent later on your average will likely be quite a bit below cat limit if you supertucked the descent.

That doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Well, it’s hard to gauge exactly where your peak 20 min period will be. It may not be the first 20 min as is usually the case in most races. To make things worse, if you did well in the climb and managed to drop some riders, it will also be very tempting to create additional separation to safeguard the descent against heavy riders by stomping that last little climb just beyond the KOM portal right before the descent starts. And then once the descent has started you don’t want to slowroll up to supertuck speed, so you stomp it again. Those additional Watt peaks could easily send you through the performance ceiling even though your average may have been OK during the latter part of the Box Hill climb up to the KOM, regardless of whether you are cruising or merely riding legit.

Notice here how the line between cheating and playing fair gets blurred? It’s not you. Or “they” (villains like me). It’s that fucking W/kg cat system that ruins races on such a fun course. But should you, if you ride legit, safeguard against an accidental upgrade surprise here at a point where you don’t feel ready to move up to the next category and get crushed? It’s up to you, but you really shouldn’t have been put in that choice at all. With a results-based cat system you wouldn’t be. Don’t forget, as a legit rider you are going to be toast on the second lap.

Let’s move on. Try get up to speed and into supertuck as soon as you dare in the descent. There are a couple of spots where you may have to pedal a little to not lose precious seconds on the pursuers, but otherwise you can supertuck most of it. Also be prepared as the descent ends and you turn into the train station. It is very easy to lose seconds there as well. Your heart may have broken a smile again after supertucking but your legs may have turned a bit cold and stiff.

Once you have pushed up the steep little escalator climb up to the station entrance – and pushing hard should be fine here – make sure you get up to cruising speed fast on the flat. After that you should be relatively safe until the finish unless chased by a big group or a couple of rhinos.

During the first lap you will want to have wheels to suck post-descent as there are a fair few flat kilometers before you hit Lambeth Bridge the second time around and drag is no longer an issue. And there probably will be wheels nearby. In fact, you will have to weigh the value of any time separation against drafting opportunities already in advance towards the last bit of the first Box Hill climb. It’s too early to attack anyway. First lap is all about positioning for the second lap, where you will make it or break it.

On the second lap, however, only cruisers, sandbaggers and top cats will still be around (by necessity). The field will be much thinner and dispersed. In this run I climbed mostly solo in the second climb and then went on a solo ZP victory from the summit. They never caught me in the descent in spite of my low weight (thank supertuck for that). This is a Pantani or Virenque kind of course where things like that can actually happen.

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Race Report: The Alpe Dash by HERD Racing League – How to Cruise Road to Sky

Road to Sky is by far my easiest cruise. It isn’t a particularly popular cruise, so the races are typically a mix of of just sandbaggers and legits. Further, the heavies only have a very small advantage there. They have the upper hand in the short approach and if they can make clever use of it, then they can get a head start in the climb that may be hard for a lighter rider to bridge without going over limits. But usually they don’t present the normal, often unsurmountable, problem for a cruiser on the lighter side of the scales. Finally, even a stronger cruiser, should you ever meet one on the Alpe, does not have much of an edge since the pace should be set as even as possible for efficiency – as long as you can stay at limit for the entire duration of the race, be it at 100 or 150 BPM, you are competitive. So essentially, when I cruise Road to Sky I expect to win. And I did, this time too.

The start was slow and the front group arrived at the climb a couple of Watts below my set limit average of 190W. Well, not quite the front group. There were three riders ahead, although within eyesight, who I was sure belonged to the sizeable group of sandbaggers that had signed up.

Once we hit the climb I just kept going at the same pace all the way until the finish. Like in the Lutscher CCW race two days earlier, this is a 1 hr+ race in the lower categories, meaning the legits simply can’t keep up. Somehow this course also seems to be way more demoralizing to many participants than the Lutscher. Which is kind of funny to me. Sure, it’s a little bit longer, but it’s way easier on the legs and the heart. You just keep going steady. TT style (unless you, quite unlikely, really need to drop someone). Piece of cake. And again a huge lead on the runner-up. Note that 14 riders got DQ’d or UPG’s, more than actually finished the race within cat limit. People always go too hard in the early climb. And those were just the ones registered on ZP… Like I said, you rarely face skilled cruisers on Road to Sky, playing the German board game known to us as Zwift racing.  And the legits can’t last at 2.5 or 3.2 or whatever W/kg for a race that long. Hence the wide time margin. It has absolutely nothing to do about heroics or physical prowess. It’s just plain cheating, slipping into the blind spots of an idiotic race rule set that should have been reworked years ago.

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Race Report: 3R Climbing Race – How to Cruise Lutscher CCW

Lutscher, especially the counter-clockwise version, presents an interesting challenge for the cruiser who doesn’t fear a climb. It’s much trickier than e.g. Road to Sky, which is a very straightforward climb.

You start in town with a shortish approach to the mountain. Then you go up the steep side. Then you go down the somewhat shallower side. And then up again the steep side toward the finish.

The approach is so short that it isn’t quite critical. Still, you don’t want to fall behind too much at start. So the first challenge is to find a group with a suitable pace to draft behind. You can go a little over limits here but remember that you need to compensate for it later in the first climb during the latter part of the first 20 min. Sandbaggers and inexperienced cruisers will fail to do so and get snuffed out unknowingly already in the first climb, ZP will tell them later.

If you cruise in cats C-D, then the first 20 min block will occur well before reaching the first KOM portal. This means that while you may have to compensate for a hardish start by slowing down in the first climb, a margin below cat limit, then as soon as the race clock hits 00:20:00 you can do the P20P, the post-20 min push. But not only can you suddenly afford to go back up to cat limit in your climb. You can actually really push it and go above limit.

The second 20 min block will end in or close to the descent, where you will aim to reach 58 kph ASAP to start supertucking and basically do 0W as much as possible. However, remember that if you push it too much once the second 20 min block starts, even though the descent will take care of the average for the second 20 min block, your trailing 20 min average cannot quite tolerate a super high effort, in case you cruise well below your true capabilities. So if you had to end the first 20 min block at, say, 0.2-0.3 W/kg below cat limit in the first climb to compensate for the hard start, then you can only push the first part of the next 20 min so hard. In e.g. cat D, you probably shouldn’t average higher than 2.9 W/kg (before the 95% recalculation, so effectively something like 2.8 W/kg).

The third 20 min block, depending on your cruising cat, may involve both the descent, the flattish stretch before the second climb, and the first part of the second climb. The descent is going to make your trailing 20 min average plummet, so you can afford to push after that. It will be up to you whether to start pusing already on the flat, if that makes sense considering the race situation and your rider characteristics. If not, then you hold a little and wait until the climb starts and then begin dropping people.

If you are cruising cat D, then the race will continue into a fourth 20 min block although incomplete. Just be mindful about your trailing average. If you pushed too hard towards the end of the third 20 min block you will have to compensate for it during the finishing minutes, which is far from ideal.

Remember that when cruising lower categories, this is a +60 min race. There is absolutely no way any non-cruiser could keep up with you. By definition their FTP should be 2.5 W/kg or 3.2 W/kg tops. Unless they somehow defy the laws of sports physiology they cannot stay at that level for over an hour, and since the ZP FTP grossly overstates a legit rider’s true FTP, they will not last in the final climb. So the only opponents you will have are cruisers and sandbaggers. Try to tell the difference.

I am going to need several more runs before I can say I have perfected the Lutscher. But it was an OK run. I was caught off-guard by a late entrant that I wasn’t aware of. I was certain (mistakenly) that he wasn’t ZP registered and never worried about him. Being a bit heavier than me and also going slightly over limit, whereas I made damn sure I wouldn’t, he slipped away with quite a margin during the final block. I’m not completely sure I could have beaten him without getting a DQ. Being an ex-cat C rider like me but with a weight advantage he could make better use of the descent and the flat. He was very efficient. Still, I got a silver and am quite content.


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Race Report: Midweek Crit Race Series by SZR – How to Cruise (and Still Lose) Downtown Dolphin

With a slow week in the Build Me Up program for a change, I thought I would add a race, starting in my old cheating pen. I had set my eyes on the new edition of the SZR iTT series the day before, which would have taken me up and down Bologna and then up again on a TT bike. It would have suited me fine at 73 kg and capacity to do the whole race at WKG limit (although admittedly at a rather high HR as things stand now). But things went a little upside down in life and I lost the opportunity. Losers can’t be choosers, so I signed up for the new crit race series the day after instead, knowing full well in advance it would be awfully hard or even impossible to accomplish anything in it.

There’s not much to say about the race really. I went out hard-ish at start, then stayed around cat limit trying to get as much draft as I could with still freakishly high average Watts dropping all too slow, had to drop from groups going at DQ pace a couple of times. And, being a little rusty, in the last minute had to basically stop pedaling in panic to avoid an otherwise inevitable UPG.

Then once we hit 00:20:00 on the race clock I was free to do the… let’s give it a new cool acronym… the P20P, the post-20 min push that I described in lesson 5 of Cheat School. The idea is that the first 20 min of a race is usually the period where your Watts are the highest, especially since the first minutes typically involve unsustainable Watts way beyond cat limit. So the latter part of those 20 min are shaky since you need to get your average Watts down considerably to pay for the early high Watts or you get a DQ. However, as soon as you are out of the first 20 min block, considering the latter part of it was spent clearly below cat limit, you are again free to push hard, at leat up to cat limit again or even higher if you can compensate for it later or if, as in this case, the race will finish somewhere between 20 and 40 min.

Anyway, I gave the P20P a go but didn’t really put my heart into it since the race was obviously already hopelessly lost by then. I ended up 6th but even so only due to primes. Now, the classification is an obvious example of a point I have raised many times before. Heavy riders, relatively speaking, enjoy an advantage in cats B-D. Depending on the scenario, this advantage can even be so huge as to make the race theoretically unbeatable by a light rider. Let’s have a look:

The winner and the runner up went slightly over limit which might screw up their 90-day average. Mr Bronze could roll over the finish line at a comfortable 2.269 W/kg, though, and the reason for this is his weight. The average weight of the top 10 (me included) is over 94 kg, i.e. more than 20 kg on me. There was absolutely no way I could have kept up with the podium in this race. I would have gone over limit by a mile. So with a lineup like this you cannot place well as a light rider in a crit race. It is a mathematical impossibility and you are not allowed to do your best accoring to the rules as doing your best will earn you a DQ. You simply have to hold back and let the heavies win. Crit races are a no-go for light riders. And no, the presence of the Green Cone of Stupidity (Zwift trademark) wouldn’t help here. Sorry.

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Race Report: 05 Oct 2020, KISS Underdog Series, Lutece Express, 3 laps

Noooo! I got upgraded in the sprint! HAHAHAHAHA!

I knew this was going to be a tough race. Lots or cruisy types and way too short to make people tired. I’d say the route favors a heavy’ish rider too. 80-something is a nice figure in cat C-D here.

Anyway, don’t you just love it when the organizers, who have more than one cruiser signed up in the race, announce before start that all sandbaggers should leave the race immediately (you know, those guys that are going to get a UPG from ZP anyway). And then they go cruising with me. Priceless!

So for something like half the race I was in this group with five other cruisers. Standard scenario. People try to mess with each other a bit but nothing really works since everyone is too strong for the performance ceiling and no one wants to get a DQ. So after the last turn around l’Arc de Triomphe my average was at 186W and I should have leeway up to something like 194-195W. So I thought, hey, I’ll go hard like everyone else (not everyone did, wisely enough, or more cruisers would have got an upgrade tonight). But the approach to the finish is so damn long! It never ends! And you don’t look at your meters when you’re hammering or sprinting. And, to make things worse, I was one of the lightest too. The Watts racked up somehow. I saw 197W on the average just past the finish line, coming in 2nd from that group. Uh-oh…

I can’t be arsed to sit out another 90 days just to keep proving the point. I think I have made it clear here already, over and over. Just go back through the blog history and read. It’s all there. And it’s not lies or exaggerations. You can verify yourself.

I’ll go back to cat C and actually start working on my fitness again. It’s about time, I guess. And now, since I have already sullied myself by cheating openly, maybe I can allow myself to keep reporting on cruising in cat C too here, although I won’t be able to cruise in C myself. No names of course.

Cruising works, still does, as long as you don’t screw up like me. And you should still try it yourself just to verify what I say. And no, it should never have been possible to cruise in Zwift. Or sandbag for that matter.

It’s still possible to fix this. Zwift just needs to do it. Every voice counts. Don’t rely on others to get things done for you. You need to speak up too. Once the topics I have covered are the talk of the town, then Zwift can’t hide anymore. They will be forced to do something. Right now the complaints are just a trickle beside a stream of nonsense. Yes, it’s inconventient that you need to exit the application to start a new route, but I don’t care! I can live with that! But we need fair racing, not just for us but also for the health of the community as a whole and for Zwift as a brand name for the future. And more people need to talk about this openly. So in a sense it’s not in Zwift’s hands (since they are masters at doing too little, too late). It’s in our hands. We just have to assume individual responsibility, as many as possible. And speak up!

Three things need to be done:

1. Enforce categories

2. Remove the performance ceiling and stop the after-the-fact DQ’ing of people you let into the race

3. Scrap the W/kg cats and introduce a results-based categorization

This will solve all sandbagging and cruising problems instantly, although you can also scale into it and do 1-2 first and add 3 later. It will also remove unfair advantages for people who never asked for them, like the heavies, the ultra lightweight etc. And it’s on you to make it happen. Can we count on you?

Anything for a fairer and healthier Zwift, right?


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Race Report: 2 Oct 2020, 3R Sand and Sequoias Race, Sand and Sequoias, 2 laps

Not much to say about the race. Easy cruise, easy win. The start list looked timid.

No heavies. Perhaps just one guy who could pass as a semi-cruiser. Loads of late and unregistered signups, a quite well attended race in fact. I have had the feeling lately that fewer and fewer of new subscribers bother with registering on ZP, which is a good thing. ZP must go.

They kicked off all cats simultaneously, a terrible idea. Only four registered riders in cat D passed the needle’s eye at the finish. There was a lot of yellow dots who went way too far sticking with the blue dots. Most of the few registered legits must have got a DQ for the first 20 min. Later on they were all doing a modest pace but by then it was too late.

I made the race unnecessarily hard by racing against riders I knew were unregistered, not really dropping in power over the race. At least it made for a better workout that way.

This was really a low blow. There was no challenge in this race. Another race half an hour later on the same course but just one lap would have been way harder because of a tricky start list.

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