As usual, we started our ride with a few minutes of warm-up at an easier pace. I was riding the big wheel with the beacon, so most people were able to stay behind or only slightly in front of my avatar. The 1.5 – 1.8 w/kg pace always seems stiff enough to keep everyone pedaling but not so hard that people get easily dropped.
Once we made the turn toward the first sprint banner, I laid out the plan for the first break-chasing exercise. Out of our group of 50, 3 riders would attack for 30 seconds at 3.0 w/kg. Then they would reduce to 2.0 w/kg, working together by taking pulls. The first iteration did not go as planned. Instead of a break of 3 riders, more like 15 went up the road, and they didn’t exactly stick to our effort limits. That’s the price we pay for not all being on Discord and listening to the instructions, as some seemingly did not see the typed messages either.
Despite the snafu, the first attempt provided a learning point. The group of 15 worked very well together, and even when they reduced the effort, our slightly larger group was unable to pull them back. We didn’t work quite as well together, having a strung-out bunch that could not benefit as much from the draft. We regrouped after exiting Richmond proper, heading out of town for our first climb.
Leading into the climb, we discussed the importance of positioning at the base of a climb. Just like IRL racing, where in the group you start the climb can have a significant impact on where you finish the climb. Heading into Box Hill, we talked about heavier riders or those who struggle on the climbs trying to position themselves towards the front of the group. That way, they can still benefit from the group while drifting back through it during the climb. Ideally, they would end up at the back of the group but still in it at the top of the climb. If they do get gapped, it is a significantly smaller gap than if they started at the back of the group. Likewise, for riders looking to attack or place high in the race, they need to be at the front to ensure that they do not miss any critical moves or can attempt to get a gap without having to ride through a large number of riders. It’s generally a bad tactic to burn a few matches moving from the back to the front of the group, as it means that you will pretty much have to make an attack twice as long as it needed to be. Not the most efficient use of energy. As we made our way up the climb, all trying to ride as close to 2.5 w/kg as possible, the bigger riders drifted back through the lighter riders, and we more or less ended up together.
Approaching our shorter, steeper climb, we talked about how to approach the different types of climbs. On the longer shallower climb, we discussed trading space for time by limiting the gap over the duration of the climb. The shorter, steeper ones, though, require riders to be much more attentive and willing to go to “the dark place” to maintain contact. Yes, losing time or contact on any climb is bad, but staying within yourself on a long climb can keep you from losing huge chunks of time due to an implosion halfway up. However, the punchier climbs aren’t long enough to really cause a massive implosion of the legs if riders have developed a fair ability to suffer. The 23rd Street hill on the Richmond course is a good example of this. Riders who can sustain a higher output for 60 seconds can survive that climb, even if they are bigger riders, whereas Box Hill would destroy them at that same output due to the much longer duration of the climb. This became painfully clear to those who attempted to climb 23rd Street at less than a 3.0 w/kg rate. Huge splits opened up in a very short time. In a race situation, it would be very unlikely that a rider could overcome that gap were the split to happen on the last lap.
On lap two, we went back to our exercises on chasing the break. This time around, we had two very successful iterations. The gaps went out to about 20 seconds, and the pack began the chase. Everyone worked together fairly well, and the breaks were pulled back in short order. In fact, the chase group stayed so tight that we pulled the breaks back much quicker than anticipated. This allowed more time to recover and prepare for a go at our climbs.
For our last time up Box Hill, we limited the duration and frequency of attacks/hard efforts. We did this to show the effect of burning matches on the climb vs riding steady up the climb. Every time a rider exceeded our set level, it could be done for no more than 15 seconds, representing the short attacks that often happen on this type of climb. After the attack, the riders had to ride at a much easier effort for 20 seconds to recover. The recovery was set at a level below our designated steady pace. After the 20 seconds, riders could return to steady pace or attack again. Due to the restricted efforts, some people were able to attack continuously, but we showed that the steady climbers with relatively few attacks were right up there with the constant attackers but with an easier ride.
The last climb was an all-out hammer. However, I put some stipulations on it. As long as the rider could maintain within 1 w/kg of the max effort that he/she hit, they could keep going. The minute the rider fell more than 1 w/kg off of the pace, he/she had to sit up and ride at 2.0 for the remainder of the climb. That simulated what happens when a rider blows up, demonstrating how much time can be lost due to a mis-timed surge or pour dosing of energy. Some were able to hold a hard pace the whole time, while others went out too hard, paying the price.
Overall, it was a good session, and everyone seemed to pick up the key tenets of the class. Look forward to returning to Watopia next week for some Crack the Whip.
Here’s the full ride video: