Race Report: 30 Sep 2020, Midweek Autumn Series by SZR, Park Perimeter Reversed, 3 laps

Perhaps I shouldn’t race consecutive days. Then again it’s just cruising and I’m starting to worry about my fitness. But I wanted into the lion’s den. Swedes are a tall, big boned people, tech savvy and somewhere in the middle in the European Overweight League. Lots of heavies. Quite a few cruisers too. And this is a race series that naturally attracts Swedes, although as usual it’s a mixed bag.

Things didn’t look bad at all in the early signups though. Heavies, yes, but not many 100+ kg. Not many sandbaggers. Not even many blatant cruisers, although one could suspect a few of the participants could advance to cat C quite easily. But like yesterday there were lots of last-minute signups.

Much better race organization tonight though. You should always do staggered starts. And when you stagger cats, cat D goes last and not first and not together with cat C. (They got that right tonight.) The race wasn’t tagged as having invisible off-cats but I never saw any other cats. Much better that way, provided the starting pens are well filled.

With quite a few late sandbagger signups, the start was hard. The front group got strung out and kept snapping. Early on I tried to bridge a couple of times but I ended up letting the front half go. It was suicide pace for a cruiser and I honestly don’t think I could have kept up anyway.

The only problem was that there were still two riders piggybacking at the front that I was sure were no sandbaggers. This is a tricky situation when cruising. You don’t want this to happen but it often does. And it can go either way. Most of the time it doesn’t work out for them and they have to drop solo, but sometimes it works. If that front group slows down a little later, then the non-sandbaggers can get their 20 min average down, won’t get a DQ but are still a minute or so away from you. It’s very hard to catch up with them even as a cruiser.

With sandbaggers in the front group, and this is why it mostly fails, the pace won’t slow down enough and piggybackers might get DQ’d. But if you’re unlucky the front group splits in two halves and the non-sandbaggers can go with group two, get draft, get their averages down and still be a minute away from you, both of your groups moving at about the same speed.

I noticed a little later, though, that the two troublesome riders in the front group had dropped and we were bound to catch them sooner or later. In fact, they were going really slow. I’m not sure. Maybe they were just waiting for a group to join (namely us), but they just so happened to be doing exactly what I would have done in their situation: panic over an over-limits average and few minutes left of the first 20 min block, and hit the brakes.

I wasn’t so worried about my own average this time. As opposed to the last… number of races. I got it down to 193W before the race clock struck 00:20:00 (195W is my absolute maximum at 75 kg). And at exactly that moment two riders shot off from my group like cannon balls! But it wasn’t some hardcore cruiser tactics. They were just chasing primes. Phew! And soon enough we caught the two riders. I was especially worried about one of them. He looked too strong for cat D and was probably not droppable. He would also beat me easily in a sprint, but that would still somehow be better than having him a minute away up front.

Once the two riders were caught and we were out of the first 20 min block the pace picked up again. Very different from yesterday’s race where the second lap of two was really slow. Here we kept more or less the same pace throughout the race.

Some riders couldn’t take the upped pace and had to drop. We ended up a group of initially just five, later down to four riders. Me, the two caught guys and another guy, just floating about in total isolation, miles behind the sandbaggers, miles ahead of the legits. And we took turns trying to torture each other, all in vain. One guy, presumably light, pushed all the climbs just to be nasty. One guy, obviously heavy, overtook us and got a little distance that had to be bridged after every damn descent. And it went on like that for the last two laps.

I wouldn’t be able to drop the others and certainly wouldn’t keep a distance solo to the finish after a breakaway attempt. So I just sat with the group and waited for the sprint. I was guessing one or two of them weren’t registered, so I was confident that I would podium at least. But beating all of them in a sprint just wouldn’t happen.

The ZP winner (the guy I was the most worried about during the race) smartly revved up his sprint late and passed me. Well, being way stronger than me, it was bound to happen anway.

So this vile cheater had to settle for silver. You won’t always win as a cruiser, but you get chances (and podiums) others don’t. Like ever. It’s easy. Because the system is broken. I could never exist in a results-based categorization. And it’s on you to ask Zwift nicely for that. Or maybe not so nicely. Whatever floats your boat, whatever spins your wheels.

Some 40 riders in the category were removed by ZP, 8 sandbaggers ahead of me and then a whole bunch of unregistered behind me.



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Race Report: 29 Sep 2020, Team Vegan Tofu Tornado, Tick Tock, 2 laps

With my cheater’s license renewed it was time to go visit Watopia again and play some banjo. You know, duel the system a bit like I have been doing. Well, I tried everything. I even squealed like a pig. It didn’t help. I couldn’t possibly have got a better result than 4th.

Now you should tag along and try to follow me to understand what a 4th really means here and exactly why that happened. Who knows, you might pick up a banjo lick or two on the way.

This looked like a suitable race for a cruiser on the ZP website. Very flat, a little too flat for my liking, but with full draft, not that many heavies signed up and a good turnup it nevertheless seemed reasonable enough. Besides, there was only really one other suitable option for me tonight, but that race had a notorious heavy weight cruiser in it who I didn’t want to lose to.

There were loads of last minute signups, so 2 min before the race the participant list for cat D had grown to over a scroll length on ZP, meaning it would be hard to keep track of everyone during the race to tell the registered from the unregistered and the lambs from the wolves. The list looked like this:

The list is cut off but I’m guessing it may have been up to 40 registered riders. Some time later in the results, ZP picks up only 19. The rest were DQ’d! (You can imagine the tempo – more about that below.)

I didn’t have the time to study the late arrivals of course, and they were plenty. But down to like 6 min before the start I had a pretty good picture of what I was facing. At that time there were just a couple of cat C’s listed. Well, there was actually two more hidden in the D field, exactly how they managed to get downgraded, I wasn’t sure and didn’t have time to figure out. Then there were two female sandbaggers – this is a bit unusual although not unheard of – who were categorized as female cat C and clearly over limits for D judging by their past results. I memorized their names too. And then finally there were two or three guys who weren’t cheaters but who I would have to keep an eye on still.

The race was listed as having invisible off-cats, which I prefer, although sucking some slow cat C rider’s wheel can be useful sometimes. But they were not invisible. And with no staggered start groups and high attendance the start was a complete slaughter.

I got into some kind of front group while at the same time thinking “whoah I don’t like this pace at all”. With cat A’s and B’s driving the pace, the big front group got strung out fast and I reluctantly clung on to the tail end. But you know, when you look down on your mobile and your average still shows 300W after a minute, with no signs of dropping off, and you’re cruising cat D, then it’s time to devise an exit plan.

I think I hung on to the front string for 2-3 min. Then I spotted an all-yellow blob not too far behind. It was an easy choice to drop. The only problem was that yellow blob seemed to go awfully fast too seen from a distance. And it did. While slower than the front string, some 12 min into the race my average was only down to 210W. I still had 8 min to go before the first (and worst) 20 min were done, which would define my avg W/kg in the results on ZP. I wanted down to 190W. Or maybe 195W as an absolute maximum, one that I wasn’t even completely sure my 90-day ZP average could take. It would be decided on the second or third decimal and the last thing I wanted was to get upgraded and lose my cheater’s license again. Now, 8 min may seem like plenty to get the average to drop 15-20W some 12 min into the race, but the group still wasn’t slowing down! I realized I would be forced to drop once more.

As luck would have it, I got the chance to splinter off the back together with two other guys whose wheels I could suck. Going considerably slower than the second group the average still moved awfully slow, however, but I didn’t want to drop from those two either. I made it to the descent down the ocean tunnel and had to stop pedaling completely with a knot in my stomach, just rolling, while the last few seconds of the first 20 min block were ticking out.

I managed to get the average down to like 194-195 with just a couple of seconds to go. Now I was safe. Well, actually, I didn’t feel safe yet. I felt I had to do some calculations on the mobile while cruising the flat of the tunnel just to make sure. Yes. I was safe. But barely so. It was very close to a screwed up 90-day average though. Although ZP pinned me a little lower afterwards my calculations put the 90-day average at 2.4966667 W/kg!

Soon enough an approaching, mostly yellow group caught up with us and I ran with them for the rest of the race. All of them seemed fairly strong but no one seemed to be interested in catching up with any forward group. The pace dropped considerably on the second lap. I think I hit a low in my second 20 min block of 164W which, given that I am light and weak and unfit, is still a joke compared to what I have been used to. It almost felt like some fat burning ride. This was no way to end a race.

I tried to pry a little in the ascent up to the forest, hammered it and forced them to catch me on the bridge. They still hung in there, all of them. I only recognized one registered name in the group, which didn’t mean a whole lot with all the late signups, but that name was one of the non-cruiser guys I was a little worried about. Since he wasn’t a cruiser like me, I would have to wear him out some more before the finish. It might actually work. So on the climb out of the ocean tunnel on the second lap I repeated the push, then let them catch me while still making sure the pace didn’t slow down too much for them to catch their breaths. This time a couple of guys had to drop. Excellent…

The plan was to rob the group of the sprint through a third push while popping an aero at something like 800m from the finish, a push that would last all the way. Not really a breakaway attempt, I mainly wanted to make sure their legs were sour before the sprint, because I reckoned all or most of them were heavier and more muscled than me. And also fit enough to not get dropped easily (there were clearly some questionable cat D’s in that group).

I executed my little plan and got caught and overtaken by two or three of them at maybe 200m from the finish, caught up with them again somewhat and lost the group sprint to the front guy, a heavy who wasn’t registered anyway.

And this put me at 4th. The podium were all minutes ahead of me. They must have been sitting in that second yellow group I dropped from after 12 min. Now, I’m sure they slowed down on the second lap. And fitness wise I would have had no problem staying in the group. I’m a cruiser! But I had to drop or I would have been DQ’d and upgraded.

So how come they didn’t get DQ’d? How come their first 20 min didn’t average above 2.5 W/kg, since I claim mine would have had I stayed with them?

The answer lies in their weights. They all weigh some 15-20 kg more than me. And this means two things to me. First, they more than likely had more muscle mass than me, which would let them produce higher average Watt at the same perceived effort. Second, with their weights they would have way more wiggle room compared to me in squeezing in extra Watt below the cat D performance ceiling of 2.5 W/kg. And you can also see that their Watt numbers are indeed higher than almost all the rest of us participants in cat D. Our W/kg are similar but they are doing 40-45W more than me on average. Of course they are going faster on the flat! And of course I couldn’t keep up with their speed without getting DQ’d! This race was simply impossible to win for a cruiser on the lighter side.

Yes, this is coming from someone who was intentionally cheating in the race, who should be racing in cat C according to the ZP ethics, who had lots of excess capacity throughout the race, and who had a fairly good grasp of what was going on tactically.

Now imagine you had been in this race too and that you were fairly light, and that you were a “true” cat D who could keep a 2.49 W/kg average but only barely so. An upper zone 4 effort, but you’re not afraid of the pain. Bring it on!

How do you think you would do in a race where not even a cheater stands the slightest chance? Also remember that the podium will be back for more cat D races. Indefinitely, should they want to and should they play their cards well (double whammy: heavy weight cruisers).

You would be completely shut out in races. Your only way out of this would be into the bottom of cat C. Not that you would ever get rid of cheaters like me or heavies like those on the podium, not with race rules like ours. Because there is plenty of cheaters and heavies and heavy cheaters in cat C too. And in cat B, so stop dreaming.

Do you see how broken the system is? Is this really your idea of fun?

You shouldn’t complain though. At least you learned some banjo.

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Race Report: 22 Sep 2020, KISS at Race – EU PM, Whole Lotta Lava, 2 laps

Under the volcano, playing with fire. I really need to slow down. I am very close to screwing up my categorization and I was dangerously close to going over limits today. With a best 20 min tonight of 2.495 W/kg, and with a 2.521 W/kg and 2.457 W/kg in tow come October, I will land at a 2.491 W/kg, barely cat D.

In this report I thought I would will teach you a nice little cruiser trick, or principle rather, but let’s go through the race first.

I overdid tonight’s race, much like the Alpe the other day. I beat the ZP winner by 3 min 21 sec, barely under the cat D limit. So yes, this would be a gold in about a week from now, which is when an over-limits result from July 1 poofs. But it was an unnecessary margin. It’s just so hard to judge where you stand as a cruiser sometimes.

The race wasn’t so tricky to read as some of the recent races I have participated in. But a race of this size, 162 participants whereof 34 cat D’s, gets messy still. Few participants were registered with ZP, though, which simplifies things a bit since it is the ZP crowd I am competing against, but with so many participants of various categories cluttering the in-race rider standings you sometimes have no idea if any legit riders are already ahead of you, or if it is the other way around and you ought to slow down a bit.

The start was quite comfy. The pace was too high to keep up for long without going over limits but nevertheless manageable for me, so I would have to be careful.

I got into the front group, knowing there would be quite a few sandbaggers in it. The ZP start list looked like this 5 min before the race. No children or high-end heavies to worry about.

I recognized few names in the front group during the approach, meaning there would be a lot more unregistered sandbaggers on top of those I knew of beforehand. I tagged along all the way to the foot of the volcano and then decided to drop during an early climb section. Still at 75 kg (why am I not losing weight?!) I then had 8-9 min to lower my average W/kg from something like 220W down to ideally 190W, or 195W at the very least.

I lost precious time looking for a suitable group of cat D’s to hitchhike on while lowering the average. But group after group were doing 2.7-2.8 W/kg and I had to let them go. With just a couple of minutes left, I had to slow down to something of a crawl to push the average down fast. I barely made it to 195W. And in the meantime yellow dots were whooshing past me left and right. I lost count of them. This didn’t look good at all!

Shouldn’t those who passed me be sandbaggers anyway, racers I could ignore? Probably, yes, but not necessarily. It is really inefficient time-wise to go slow in a climb. Ideally, you only want to push low Watts on a descent, where your speed doesn’t suffer that much from the low effort. And even on the flat you can coast a bit from time to time if you’re in a group. If the riders passing me had had a more even pace over the approach and the beginning of the climb combined than I had, as mine had turned very uneven by then in spite of the relatively slow start, then they just might have been able to pass me while still under limit. I couldn’t exclude the possibility completely, which probably explains why I kept a high pace for the rest of the race.

Actually, as soon as the first 20 min block was done I hammered the rest of the climb. My reasoning was that I had already completed a large part of the climb and stepping on the remainder probably wouldn’t hurt my next 20 min block or even an overlapping block that much since I had a descent to look forward to, where my average would drop rapidly. I’m guessing the 2.495 W/kg ZP put me at was the first 20 min but later blocks probably weren’t much lower.

On the second climb up the volcano I started to pass some cat D’s and felt more at ease since those still ahead of me began to look more and more like obvious sandbaggers that I didn’t have to worry about. The last part of the race was spent in a small group with some slow cat C’s and two cat D’s that had me a little worried. I then got completely taken by surprise by the finish arch since I had mental picture of the waterfront finish for some stupid reason, but it was probably a good thing that I never tried to sprint against the other two guys, who turned out to be sandbagging anyway.

Now time for the treat. I stated in the last race report, the one up the Alpe, that an even pace is preferable in a climbing race in Zwift, and that it included the approach. I’ll add something to that. The thing is an even pace takes better advantage of a quirk in the ZP calculations. It’s not an exploit, it’s not that good, but it’s useful knowledge nevertheless.

Assume you are a cat B cruiser at 70 kg racing a climbing route that lasts for two 20 min blocks. The first block is roughly 10 min approach and then it’s the first 10 min of the 30 min climb. Assume there are several groups during the approach you can choose between, all with varying speeds. You gain seconds by drafting in a group that hammers the approach of course, but the speed increase going from fairly hard to really hard isn’t as big in relative terms as when going from fairly hard to really hard in a climb. You are in draft during the approach, yes, but the exponentially increasing air resistance during high speeds nevertheless kills some the effort during the approach. During the climb you are mainly fighting gravity, which behaves differently as a counter-force.

Your effort is better spent climbing and – here is the thing – you want to spend as much time as possible over limits during the climb. But how can you do that, especially if the goal is to keep an even pace? You aren’t supposed to hammer any climb sections, right?

The Watopia PD will DQ riders going over limits. But their speed cameras are a bit funny. They don’t care if your total race average is above limits as long as no 20 min block puts your Watt x 0.95 above the Watt limit for your weight. And that implies that you can go over limits for the entire race. That was confusing, I know, sorry. But I’ll give an example.

So you weigh 70 kg and in cat B the max is 4.0 + 0.1 W/kg before ZP DQ’s you.

70 kg x 4.1 W/kg = 287W

So 287W is your max then? You stay below 287W in the race and you should be fine? Wrong! You’re passing up on a golden opportunity here as a cruiser.

The Watopia PD reckons your 1 HR FTP should be no higher than 287W in a race as a 70 kg rider in cat B, but the way they calculate this is essentially by treating your “best” part of the race, your “best” 20 min, as an FTP test. And, as you know, to arrive at your 1 HR FTP the formula is:

[Best 20 min avg. W] x 0.95 = 1 HR FTP

or put differently

[Best 20 min avg. W] x 0.95 / Weight = 1 HR W/kg limit

So imagine you, being this cat B rider, keep an ERG-mode-like even pace throughout the race. Then your [Best 20 min avg. W] x 0.95 / 70 kg must never exceed 4.1 W/kg for any 20 min period in the race. Let’s solve for [Best 20 min avg. W]:

[Best 20 min avg. W] x 0.95 / 70 kg < 4.1 W/kg

[Best 20 min avg. W] < 4.1 W/kg x 70 kg / 0.95

[Best 20 min avg. W] < 302W

Thus, as long as no 20 min period in your race is higher than 302W, then you won’t get a DQ. But 302W / 70 kg = 4.3 W/kg! You can do 4.3 W/kg throughout the race and get away with it as long as you pace it well!

I was actually above 2.5 W/kg in cat D the entire race tonight. I just made sure to manage my trailing 20 min average. That’s how you cruise.

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Race Report: 20 Sep 2020, 3R Alpe du Zwift KOM Race, Road to Sky

It was time to dust off the Tarmac Pro. I needed a Sunday cruiser workout that wasn’t too short. There happened to be two Road to Sky races close together on the schedule and I quickly decided that it would be the ride for me since AdZ happens to be one of my favorites. I opted for the race with the most signups, mainly because the other race had a known cruiser in the participant list. I figured better the devil you don’t know. It’s more fun that way.

I’m only cruising “virtually” until the end of month, which actually makes me a sandbagger in cat D since ZP pins me as a cat C, but I did try to stay within cat D limits as usual. Anyway, this would have been an extremely easy race had it been something like 2 Oct. With ZP showing 2.45 W/kg afterwards and with 10 min on the ZP winner according to the ZHQ race results, it would have a been a rock solid gold.

10 min? How can you win Road to Sky by 10 min in a race with a fair amount of participants? Well, there are reasons how this came to be. For starters, the ZP results list only shows one single eligible finisher (who thus was defaulted the gold)! I came in 6th according to ZHQ. Mr Gold did a 3.6 W/kg and Mr 5th did a 2.8 W/kg. Sandbaggers, all of them.

Oh, and perhaps I should show you this too:

This is the signup list on ZP from less than 10 min before the start. As you can see there is only one ZP registered participant who isn’t joining the wrong category. One of the others has even done a sub-60 AdZ in the past!

You can’t get a fair race in Zwift these days. It just doesn’t happen. If we are to get a bit philosophical here, though, you could perhaps say that from a utilitarian standpoint Zwift is actually making the right choice not to scrap their crappy cat system. I mean, look at it! Out of 10 signups, only one wants to race in his category. A whopping 90% want to cheat. So by still offering the opportunity to cheat, Zwift is actually maximizing happiness in cat D! It is clearly better to make 90% of the participants happy at the expense of 10% rather than the other way around. This is pure rationality! Or… wait a minute…

I think there is a reason why we see such an unusually high proportion of sandbaggers in this particular race though. It’s related to what I call the Sprint Race Catapult that comes with the W/kg cat system, only from the opposite end sort of. (You should read the post in the link if you don’t get the point.)

Some of the cat C’s are probably competitive, meaning they could actually have a shot at the podium in a more standard format race, like a 20-30 km race on a semi-flat route. But Road to Sky takes a lot more time to complete and these guys won’t be able to hold their 3.2 W/kg for that long. They might also be used to punchier races where you can hide in the draft between punches. So with their frail egos they prefer to join cat D instead, so that they don’t expose their suckiness. What if anyone saw that they could only land a 2.9 W/kg up the Alpe! Oh dear… Best join cat D! Anyway, that’s my theory. Only God knows what goes on in their minds.

But I didn’t get much competition in the cruising, despite this starting field. Half of them just went straight sandbagging instead. It’s probably the format. Climbing races are a little different. They are also ironically much easier to cruise than a flat race.

What is the optimal way to cruise Road to Sky? I don’t have data to support it, but my hunch says you should treat it like a TT race as far as possible. I doubt it would be a winning strategy to go over limits in the approach. There would still be time for you to make your first 20 min average W/kg drop as the climb starts, but you wouldn’t really want to have to slow down further at the point where you are already starting to go slow.

Instead you should probably aim for an effort on the cat limit, but getting draft is important here. It might be worth it go under the limit a tiny bit if that is what it takes to get draft. But if I had to drop from a front group of sandbaggers that pushed too hard for my average, I still wouldn’t want to slow down too much in order to let myself get caught by a slower group from behind. If you will get caught (and chances are you will if you drop solo and the pursuing group is large), then you might as well let your average drop in the approach and then recover by going over limits at the foot of the climb. But ideally, you get into a group early in the approach that has you going on the limit all the way to the mountain. You want to get there early but not pay too high a price for it.

Once the climb starts, since you don’t get that much benefit from drafting compared to a flat race, you should strive to keep an even pace. Don’t try to drop people the moment the climb starts. You are playing the long game. You are better off staying on the limit all the way to the finish while monitoring your 20 min average W/kg.

As for your average, it makes more sense than in a flat race to see the race as just a number of consecutive 20 min chunks. Once you complete one chunk with an OK average, you just start the next and don’t look back. You don’t have to worry too much that what happens in the last 10 min of the previous chunk will spill over into the next, because you will strive for an even pace and won’t be punching much anyway. You had to let slip a heavier rider in the approach? He might already be heading for a DQ. but if not, then reel him in slowly instead of trying to bridge fast. You have plenty of time. Avoid sudden movements in your average.

What is going to happen to anyone who isn’t cruising, especially during the winter when most Zwifters are on an exclusive Zwift diet with no long outdoor rides, is that they are going to start dropping off in pace after no more than 55 min. And a few minutes past the hour they might need to shift their gear range a tooth or two if they are to stay on a level RPE (essentially threshold). If you are a high cat B or better, then you might not reap much benefit from them dropping off since the total finish time will be too short, but otherwise this will be the moment when you start catching guys in front of you. Because, as opposed to them, you won’t have to slow down since you are cruising. Your HR will start to rise at the same time as they drop off, but there will still be plenty of room in your HR diagram before you hit the red, so you can afford to keep the pace up.

Actually, you might catch others long before that. Surprisingly many riders in C and D don’t know how to climb the Alpe efficiently. They shift gears way too little, keep a bad cadence for the situation, try to recover in corners and may instead start to hammer a climb section inexplicably. And then soon enough the balloon bursts, whether they are actually toast or just demoralized. The end result is the same regardless.

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Race Report: 17 SEP 2020, ZHQ Beta Crit City Race, Downtown Dolphin, 12 Laps

Haha, what a disgusting race! Almost as disgusting as this year’s Tour de France.

It turns out my previous race, my first licensed cheater race, although within W/kg limits, still brought up my 90 day average to 2.503 W/kg, just a smidgeon above the ZP limit, meaning I got back into cat C overnight. Doh! Now I have to wait until the end of month to get rid of an over-limits result from 1 July before I can cheat again and get away with it. I will still cheat though. I just won’t get away with it on ZP until then.

I felt I wanted to try hit the Betas again. If you haven’t tried the Betas yourself, then I can explain. There are Zwift HQ crit races, many laps around a short downtown track. They come in two forms. The normal crits and the beta version. The normal crits are essentially a bunch of cheaters going round round like a carousel. The Betas are Zwift’s attempt at providing foolproof protection against these carousel cheaters. People trying to sandbag are awarded a green condom above their heads. Like “Look at me, I’m a cheater!” You don’t say… who could have told?

Now keep these protective measures in mind as you read the rest.

The previous race I was lazy in my research and got a wrist slap for that, but this time I checked before the start that no children had signed up (you can’t win against them legitimately, or at all). Initially, there were no heavies signed up either. 

Solid cruiser routine is you always sign up in the last few minutes as to not give people the time to recognize you or study your stats beforehand, which might scare them off or alter their tactics against you. (I’m not primarily talking about clean racers here but rather other cruisers, your main adversary when cruising.) I signed up late of course. 

Another reason for signing up late is you are ideally, unless impatient like me, choosing between races until the very last minute, while you yourself study the ZP registered participants. You know, the ones that didn’t get a chance to study you since you joined late. You don’t need much of a warmup when cruising anyway. So if you happen to be a finance guy, a software developer or just a gaming streamer dreamer, then you might happen to have two standalone computer screens or more at home and can leave the ZP record of participants window open on a secondary screen, or just print it out, for reference during the race. It helps you make better tactical decisions. What wheels should you stay on, what wheels can be ignored, what wheels should be avoided and why, etc.

Anyway, since no one really wants an early green condom, they’re kind of itchy, the start wasn’t particularly hard and I had no problem getting to the front group or making the decision to stay with them. But it was a damn close call all the way through! A little too hairy for my liking, as the group had me pushing my average W/kg awfully close to the limit (a best 20 min “effort” of 2.48 W/kg). That’s what happens if you are among the lightest in a group of cruisers. It’s hard to cruise against heavier cruisers!

In any case, it was so obvious that the front group was full of the unclean. People pushed hard up the cobbled climb to try drop the others, even though it didn’t work on the last lap, or the lap before that, and then on top of the climb the pace slowed down considerably and the group just coasted until the rollers as to get the averages down again. How do I know? It’s because of this:

This is a cruiser profile. Mine to be specific. The other cruisers’ HR graphs looked worse than this, with more greens and yellows in them. Those who were registered on ZP at all also showed just long rows of UPG’s.

As we were all on the limit, more or less, nobody had any real hopes of breaking away. It would have been a guaranteed DQ if you had a ZP cheater’s license and would have failed anyway since the rest couldn’t be dropped. This could only end in a bunched sprint, which I would lose being light and weak.

As we came out of the corner before the finish on the last lap there were six of us left. Only Mr 6th wasn’t a cruiser. Kudos to him for putting up such a hard fight over twelve laps against five cruiser monsters! The front group had originally consisted of eight riders but two had been dropped on the last lap as the tempo went up, neither of them a cruiser.

Mr Gold and Mr Silver sprinted themselves to a fresh pair of green condoms right under the finish portal. (Pretty impressive sprinting actually.) I came in 4th behind an unregistered guy, having screwed up the corner a bit. As mentioned, the only non-cruiser came in last in the front group and was awarded the ZP gold. The two dropped guys took what was left of the ZP podium.

A little poetic justice for once. Note that. Poetic justice. This wasn’t Zwift’s doing at all, nor ZP’s. Throw all the green condoms you want at us. What really happened was a bunch of cat C’s killed themselves over maths and ill-chosen signups so that the clean racers, very hard-working ones, could step over their bodies and cross the finish line. We went way too far this time. Some sloppy cruising…

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Race Report: 15 SEP 2020, 3R Sundown Race Series, Watopia Figure 8, 1 Lap

With a shiny new license to cheat from ZwiftPower and with strong assurances from Zwift that the license is not going to get revoked, I quote, “anytime soon”, I am of course eager to get started. I have been waiting for this moment for some time.

As Fortune would have it, however, I ended up in an unusually tricky first race for a ZP approved cruiser. As I clicked Save after the race I had literally no idea of how I was doing. Well, you never do as a cruiser, or even as a legit racer in the lower cats, thanks to the Zwift and ZwiftPower race rules, but this was worse than usual. I could see four different scenarios before me. 

It might have been a DQ

It might have been gold

It might have been silver

It might have been sixth

With the downgrade to “D almost C” and with two weeks left before a nasty 2.64 W/kg in my 90 day average on ZP is washed away, I was scared I would go over limits slightly already in my first race, which I couldn’t afford just yet. Later, at my current 75 kg, I will be able to do 195W over 20 min and get away with it, but I had decided to stick with the straight 1-hr 2.5 W/kg of 187W as the upper limit for my average. I did monitor my average the whole time of course. But you know, when you do the crime, thoughts on having to do the time do pop into your mind. Doing another 90 days behind the bars in cat C didn’t seem all that appealing now that I was finally free. It shouldn’t have been a DQ. I had watched my Wahoo app power meter closely. But what if still somehow…?

Best case scenario was gold or silver. It all depended, firstly, on the guys in front of me. Some of them seemed to be sandbagging. Some of them were no sandbaggers but had very high power variability and thus looked like the quintessential cruisers, possibly on the cusp of getting DQ’d, but I wasn’t sure at all. I decided to drop from them after a while as I was pressed on time and had less than two minutes to get my average down 5W to be on the safe side in the first 20 min block. 

And then, secondly, there was the guy I spent the most time with in the race. He looked potentially legit but wasn’t house broken and just wouldn’t let me exploit him. Since he wasn’t playing ball (cruiser ball) and since he was obviously heavier than me, it was too dangerous to keep up with him so I ended up letting him go eventually. If he turned out to be Mr Gold later on ZP, then I’d happily settle for a silver and call it a day.

But it could also have been sixth. I don’t know why that number popped up in my head. But it represented a scenario where I was way behind in the field. It was a possibility too.

It turned out I actually got a sixth!

I should perhaps point out that I am not disappointed at all. I’m happy to have gotten away without a DQ in my first ZP approved cruiser race and have made a mental note to research my races a little more next time. But I would like to discuss the race anyway as it touches on some interesting points I have been discussing on the blog recently. 

So why the meager result? It turns out there are explanations and that this race was actually unbeatable for a cruiser. Let’s look at the race report.

First thing to note is that – surprise, surprise – twice as many riders were sandbaggers and/or unregistered as were cleared by ZP. Seven riders got removed from the ZP results ahead of me, all above 2.5 W/kg. All these people make it harder for legit riders and particularly for cruisers like me to read the race.

The next thing to note, which isn’t visible from the edited report, is that there is a team in the race. Although they get split up (in front of me and behind me) it probably had some kind of impact on the race, e.g. that the pace at start was exceptionally slow and only picked up in the first climb. Nothing wrong with running a team in the race, but it should be noted there was one.

So let’s go over the podium. In 1st and 2nd place are two children. Neither of them cross 200W in their averages and so they get away with W/kg that would make them competitive in cat C and even cat B. They will never be upgraded by ZP since they technically never go over limits and can go on and win races in cat D indefinitely. You can’t win against them as a cruiser, it’s impossible. Even if not holding back (and thus getting DQ’d), I just might have had a chance against young Mr Silver last summer but certainly not today. And young Mr Gold I couldn’t beat even in my wildest long-term goal fantasies.

Then we have Mr Bronze. He actually goes with Mr 4th as they are part of a team, although they are not obviously “colluding”, which again would have been perfectly fine, at least they weren’t toward the finish. It must have taken more than a sprint for Mr Bronze to gain 15 sec on Mr 4th. He dropped his buddy.

However, look at the weights of those two guys. They are true heavy-weighters. No wonder I had a hard time getting my average W down the first 20 min! They are doing 66W more than me! If you don’t understand why this is of huge importance, then you need to read my recent post on the Light Rider’s Curse. Someone like me can’t beat these guys without going over limits. Unknown to me at race start, as I didn’t research the race at all beforehand, the podium was entirely out of reach already from the beginning, even if I hadn’t been cruising and went over limit. Huge weight differences (both up and down) and an idiotic race cat system are the reasons.

Were the heavies cruising? Both have unusually many wins in their race history but I think those can mainly be attributed to the weight advantage, at least in the case of Mr 4th. While not unusual at all, Mr Bronze clearly had spare capacity in this race, and without having had a look at his previous race efforts, I would assume that he could advance to cat C quickly if he committed to it. Like in three races or so. Mr 4th’s race effort is higher. In fact, it is similar to mine as mine was driven up more than expected by this rather strange race. But of course, seeing as I know I had spare capacity too, although not at all as much as Mr Bronze, I believe Mr 4th has it in him to advance to cat C too, should he want to.

Then we have Mr 5th, the guy who wouldn’t let me suck his wheel (and didn’t even seem interested in taking turns with little me!). Since it was just the two of us completely isolated for quite some time, during which I couldn’t draft and get my average down more efficiently, I had ample time to study him. It was clear that he was heavier than me since i) he blasted past me from behind on descents making him hard to lose on this somewhat hilly course, and since ii) my W/kg average got dangerously high trying to catch him. I never quite realized at the time that the weight difference was that large though. A tough adversary for a fairly light cruiser, even under different circumstances, since he was not quite racing flat out (he was definitely not on a recovery ride though, don’t get me wrong). Another day in another race I would have settled for silver behind him. The heavies are a real menace to us not-so-honest not-so-hardworking cruisers…

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Race Report: 29 Aug 2020, 3R Volcano Climb Race

I should lay low, waiting for the cat downgrade by next month’s end, now that I already have a nice triplet of sub-2.5 races in the ZP race records. But I just couldn’t help myself. I had to cheat a little more today and picked this shortish race. It seemed ideal. I chalked it up as honing my cheating skills.

The start was hard. A few D’s joined up with some C’s in a D front group that I decided quickly not to try to go with. I went with the second group instead the initial km’s, but we actually caught up with the front group in the underwater tunnel and stuck with them. 

I was monitoring my Watts in the Wahoo Fitness app closely of course, and some 12 min into the race the group was still pushing 3.0-3.2 and my average W was by then dangerously high, well above 200W. At 68 kg plus another 7 kg of unflattering belly fat, I had only 8 min to get the average down to 185W, my mark to be on the safe side.

I dropped and just spun the legs for a few minutes. Some C’s went past. Approaching the foot of the volcano a mixed C/D group caught up with me. I had monitored them for a while and they weren’t going much slower than the group I had dropped from, so I quickly decided to let them just pass. 

It actually seemed to take a while for the possibly legit D’s to reach me, so I then opted for a semi-slow pace of 2.0-2.2 to postpone getting caught as much as possible. I wanted to give them reason to work hard to wear them down. It turned out I timed it well. By the time the first seemingly legit D rider caught up with me, I was barely below the 185W mark. 

I stopped the Wahoo clock and restarted it after around 24 min and by then the average was still dropping. The first 20 min are always the most dangerous, the time frame where you are most likely to go over limits as a cruiser. Since I can’t actually measure a rolling 20 min window in the Wahoo app, and since the race would last around two flips of a 20 min hourglass, it made sense to restart the measuring just to be sure I wouldn’t go over limits on the second half. It seemed unlikely but you never know what comes from behind.

The D rider that eventually caught up with me, an Englishman, came together with a C rider that we both let go once the climb started. The Englishman, who later got the silver on ZP, seemed well aware of the situation in the race and quite possibly what I was up to as well. I let him do all the work of course. Not that we were going over limits, but I wanted generous wiggle room in my average for the final stretch and it seemed like I would be getting plenty of wiggle.

Towards the latter part of the climb a Norwegian D caught up with us. I had decided to let it happen. After some struggle around who would pull or set pace, the Norwegian decided to up the pace. The Englishman seemed to make a quick decision to let him go. To me, though, it was a tough choice. On the one hand the Norwegian was pushing 2.7 and it was still a little early to let my average rise again. (Also, he could have been going quite hard solo to get to us, meaning he might even already be DQ’d.) On the other hand, this was a climb, which could motivate a high tempo in the climb since the Norwegian would most likely slack off a bit on the descent. 

I reluctantly let the Norwegian go. Then I changed my mind and dropped the Englishman to bridge to my neighbor (I’m Swedish as you know) by the arch. As I suspected the pace dropped significantly on the descent and I think I hit a low of 169W on my second cumulative average. That meant I would be able to go flat out for quite some time toward the finish. The question was only when to drop the hammer.

During the final part of the climb I noticed that guys from the front D group were once again visible in the list on the right. They had slowed down considerably. In fact, they were only some 17 sec away. Potentially, they could pose a threat. And potentially, I could bridge to them if they kept the pace for yet some time. But they went so hard the first 20 min… I decided against trying to catch up with them, which would have meant an early hammer, a real effort in fact.

Remembering my last cruise on Champs Elysées, where I had brought out the hammer from the back pocket at the overpass, some 1.5 km away from the finish, I decided to go a little later this time. The Norwegian was most likely heavier than me and with more muscle mass (the average rider always is), so I couldn’t risk a sprint against him. I would have to drop him well outside sprint range. 

By the 900m mark I decided it was hammer time. The Norwegian didn’t fight back. With a safe time gap I coasted the last meters to the finish.

Obviously, I got a UPG on ZP for this but stayed safely within limits for an average of 2.4 W/kg. The Norwegian got a DQ too or wasn’t registered. And, as mentioned above, the Englishman took the silver 40 sec behind me. Come October and I will steal that silver.

So who won then? According to ZP a kid took it down. Exploiting the sub-200W limit of cat D at 38 kg and 149 cm, he pushed a legitimate average of 3.8 W/kg. And won of course. 

I wouldn’t want to the deny a young boy the pleasure of winning a race or two in Zwift. Really. Because it will do him far more good than for us grumpy old men. But still… what can you say? Well played, ZP! Hope you’re doing alright so far down in the bunker.

My effort for the race was as follows:

Ignore the green blob. That’s the spindown. Consider the rest. Don’t think for one second that this is what a reasonable race effort over 42 min may look like, that it is somehow within the acceptable range. The racing was a complete joke. That’s what cruising is about after all, a slice of roflcopter with some WTFPWN! sprinkled on top. I could have gone MUCH harder. I should be going MUCH harder. I would have gone MUCH harder in my true category. And any race participant in Zwift with their FTP set correctly would have to work MUCH harder doing e.g. the McCarthy WO or Zwift’s 30/15’s GWO.

Think about that the next time you see a HR graph like this from a race podium.

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While the Watopia PD Looked the Other Way

Summer vacation drew to a close and now I’m in the city again with days that grow shorter and over 30 min to get to roads even remotely worth riding. And so I’m back in Zwift on weekdays. Time for some cheating!

I noticed that my last little screwup in a race was 1 Jul. Well, it wasn’t even a race but an official group ride and ZP picked it up. I got caught on the Watopia PD speed camera doing 2.8 W/kg. But I have served my sentence on 1 Oct. Or should have. We’ll see, because my current 90 day top 3 average doesn’t actually correspond to activities I have participated in. But anyway, I thought I’d prepare for an autumn of intense, relentless cheating. And for that I need a “legitimate” downgrade. Thus I needed two more races staying within cat D limits.

Filler Race No 1

First was the Namibian Race League of 23 Aug. I had just recovered from an infection with fever the day before. Not covid this time but bad enough to call in sick. Safe to say, I was in pretty bad shape right after and so the race actually turned out to be fairly tough although I did hold back somewhat. 

Since I was set on monitoring my average Watts closely, not to let it slip beyond 187W at 75 kg, I decided to go “easy” at the start (meaning hard instead of the standard insanely hard). So I let a front group or two of sandbaggers go straight away. 

There is always the risk that there is a piggy-backing legit rider on the wheels of the front group frequent flyers. Or a cruiser. If it’s a cruiser, then that’s a risky strategy. He is then banking on the group slowing down considerably mid-race, or he runs the risk getting a DQ or even screwing up your categorization. It can pay off though, and if you let a guy like that go, you won’t catch him. But a legit rider you may have to let go. The hard part is telling which is which. In this case, though, there was no doubt about it. I would let them go.

After the start I decided to drop two more times ending up in chasing groups. You start with an initially very high average Watt. It will drop over the course of the race (I have no means to measure a semi-rolling best 20 min, so I have to play it by ear partly, relying entirely on the total average). It just has to drop enough over time and it is not always easy to predict whether the drop rate will be enough.

In the final climb I decided to start sliding down immediately, although I ended up also catching up with a few riders who went too hard at the foot of the hill. I was already at the target 2.5W/kg I had set in my mind and just tried to stay there.

This so-called effort, if I had been downgraded already, would have sufficed for a bronze. It would have been hard to improve on the result further, though, at least on a day like that. The winner was a heavy-weighter with a private Zwift profile (and thus no HR data) and a 45 sec lead on the runner-up. Go figure. 

Filler Race No 2

The second race, The KISS Underdog Series of 23 Aug, 3 laps around Champs Elysées, was a bit funny in that it turned out so soft and mellow. I had opted for a 2.3 W/kg to pull the 90 day top 3 down a bit to get some leeway in October, so I was nowhere near VO2Max at start. I went really slow and just stepped on it briefly from time to time to bridge early gaps forming. I also decided to race as a C for a change, so I was only really cheating in my imagination. 

Some D riders slipped away one by one during the first third of the race, looking fairly legit. But I had an average to protect, a low one at that, and had already accepted a placing way down the imaginary D field. 

Soon enough a nice group of maybe 8 or so riders formed, mostly D but with some other C rider too taking it slow. The group was going well below cat D limits and I was sure we were quite far down the field by then.

The group kept together and I kept my Watts low and even, staying in the draft. During the first part of the third lap the group became a little antsy. No surprise there. And also no surprise than things also calmed down a few km before the finish, as the group was preparing for the final dash. 

Since my average Watts had dropped so low there was a little room to play, so I had decided well before the overpass on the final lap that I’d hammer the climb and then just keep stepping on it until the finish. This was my first time riding the course but I had noted the distance to the finish from the overpass already on the second lap.

Appearing as a blue dot in a clutter of yellow dots on the minimap, there was no incentive to chase me down of course, but I’m pretty sure I would have pulled it off even as a yellow dot. I dropped the group hard and kept at it almost all the way to the finish. Doing so I passed several D stragglers ahead of the group I broke off from. On the final stretch I took a quick breather behind one of them before beating him in a sprint that he initiated. This was, surprisingly enough, the ZP legit silver guy. So come October and this could have been a “legit” silver. All while the Watopia PD looked the other way. But the Law of W/kg is just! Right?

The winner in cat D? Well… have a look at the HR graph yourself. I won’t comment on it. But I can’t refrain from commenting on the winner of cat C in the same race. Even though I have stated before that you will find that cruising is very common once you start looking, you will nevertheless have a hard time finding a more ridiculous display of cruising than that. Absolutely priceless! And the Watopia PD just looked the other way.

The Perceived Effort of Race 2 and a Comparison

So how was the perceived effort in this second race? Well, I’d call it light excercise by my Zwift frame of reference. Remember my How to Spot a Cruiser post? Remember the example HR distribution graph, taken from a notorious cruiser? This is what my own graph looked like. A Zone 3 effort. This level of effort is piss easy. It is racing most foul.

I refuse to be beaten by a “legit” Zone 3 guy while pushing a high Zone 4 in a race in the lower categories. And so should you.

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Race Report: First Win as a Cruiser

Here is the rundown of my first win in my new career as a cruiser. Or cheater, if you will.

So I was coming out of the lockdown. Which was actually never a lockdown in Sweden, only I myself locked myself in voluntarily, sort of. First there were weeks of outdoor riding in fairly cold weather, and as you know, if you don’t ride organized outdoors you easily lose fitness coming from Zwift. It didn’t get any better catching covid-19 at the one time I had to crawl up from under my isolation rock. I was lucky, no doubt about it. No need for ICU. No scarred lungs. But 5 weeks out of the saddle or any exercise whatsoever nevertheless. Add to that quite a few corona kilos, the extent of which only dawned on me a short time earlier, in terror, as we had recently got a new and more reliable set of scales. Safe to say I was a wreck coming back to cycling. So could I really succeed now as a cheater, which I had planned for? Maybe I actually belonged in the lower category that I intended to cheat in?

The cheating venue of choice as a cruiser debutante was the ZHQ Beta Crit City Race on the 10th of June, taking the cat D riders 12 laps around The Dolphin. It was actually a bit rough for my fitness level but at least the start wasn’t overly brutal. The start was rather simple and straightforward too. There was never any doubt as to which group I should stick with at the start. A couple of guys went flying with a cat C group, as C started simultaneously. Obvious sandbaggers. Otherwise the front D group seemed reasonable as the pace settled rather quickly, so I wasn’t too worried that I would go over limits. Then, after the first few minutes, it was merely a matter of sitting in the front group until the last few laps. I even got reasonable amounts of air down my lungs except on the last lap. Even so I did see green cones of shame appearing left and right during the race.

My HR distribution:

I got really lucky with powerups in the last three laps. I wouldn’t have had it any different. First I got the ghost twice in a row. I put them to good use, I think. I never strained myself too hard in the cobbled climb and rather let myself drop to the back of the group there throughout the race. I recovered by sticking to habit to keep pushing over the summit to build up momentum quickly before taking a breather. And this is where I used the ghosts. The idea was to make it apparent that I used them, just as I was about to pass the front guy. Then I pushed a little, invisible, but not too much so that I would make the others nervous right when their HR was at their highest. And then I’d appear a short distance ahead of them and force them to bridge on the little breathing stretch before the final rolling little hills leading up to the sprint.

On the final lap I was in a group of five or six. Only three of us appeared in the rider list on the right, so either the others were already DQ’d or they were lapped and had joined during any of the climbs. I just needed to beat two guys. But the group really pushed it now. I had got the sprint powerup on the last lap, fittingly enough, but I was forced to use it in the rolling hills as I got dropped there. These guys were pushing it so hard some 400m out already! Cruisers like me or not, would they really last for the sprint? 

Coming through the final bend hard with the powerup ticking out I had a speed advantage although from behind. But by bump drafting them, just like in NASCAR, I caught up with them, got level and… just slid right through them. And then I just kept stepping on it – in a sitting sprint. I could hardly believe how easy it was to build up a 1″ lead as I crossed the finish line. I felt like Peter Sagan. (And it’s about there any similarities end abruptly, in my head, then and there.) 

It should be noted here that I’m naturally very skinny (or should be). Thin-boned, low muscle mass, low Watts. I don’t think I could produce a green cone if I wanted to. An aerobic system that, if it ever saw better days, then that was a long time ago. At 185 cm my ideal weight is probably 68 kg [sic!] or perhaps even as low as 65 kg, like in my 20’s, without dropping to unhealthy levels of body fat. I have been sitting with 70 kg in Zwift for quite some time but then ballooned up to 76 kg during corona. And I have never ever won a sprint in Zwift before. Not even close. It felt like stealing candy from kids, and I suppose that sums it up pretty well too.

Sorry, Mr Silver, who was actually completely legit as far as I could see when studying his track record on ZwiftPower later (he got the gold there). He really deserved that win but Zwift wouldn’t let him have it due to the idiotic W/kg categories that let cheaters like me reign. As for the others in the front group… well… I will only speak for myself. This was Cheating Deluxe, although I did come out a little high, 2.6 W/kg, so I would have to underperform even more in the following races to get a later 90-day-average-best-of-three below the 2.5 W/kg mark.

ZP, fighting a hopeless battle against wind mills as usual, wouldn’t allow me of course. I got an insta-auto-UPG as this was my first step to down-classing to D in order to cheat legitimately after summer once my previous effort levels have slipped out the back of the 3-month cooldown window.

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