Castelli SkillZ and DrillZ Ride, 5 April – To close out the cobbled classics season, we finished off our series on the importance of positioning. While last week we focused on the short, punchy climbs, this week we stayed on the flats. Like normal, you can view the full class on Zwift Live by ODZ on Facebook.
Positioning is a common theme in many of the SkillZ and DrillZ lessons. That’s because positioning can be the small detail that can make or break your race or ride regardless of your fitness level. This weekend was one of the greatest one-day races of the year, Paris-Roubaix, and the need for being well-positioned is made abundantly clear. Over the 225-plus kilometers of racing, riders cross 29 sections of cobble stones, most of which are in the last 100 kilometers. Those sections represent 29 separate places where a positioning error can take a rider out of the mix. In this year’s edition, the favorites stayed right up at the front through the first two-thirds of the race. Then it happened. Tom Boonen slipped back to the back of the front group. Almost immediately, a small group went off the front and bridged to the leaders. Boonen did have a teammate go, but the gap jumped to over 30 seconds in the blink of an eye, too large of a gap to cross solo. Just like that, Boonen’s fairytale ending chance was over.
After our normal warm-up and practice moving around the group, we got straight into it. Like last week, we divided the group into two, A-M for group 1 (G1) and N-Z for group 2 (G2). For the first drill, I had G1 move to the front and G2 sit at the back half of the group. When instructed to do so, G1 accelerated from 1.5 to 2.5 W/Kg. G2 had to wait to accelerate until they saw the G1 acceleration. Once the group stretched out, G2 was released to bunch the field back up. This caused chaos immediately. The accordion effect resulted in double digit gaps right away. It took us a while to chase back on, and the G2 folks had to expend considerably more energy than their G1 counterparts. After swapping positions between the groups, we confirmed for everyone that tail-gunning at the back of the field had potentially devastating consequences on energy expenditure and one’s ability to respond.
For the second drill, G1 sit at the back of the group and G2 moved to the front. On my signal, G1 attacked G2 from the back, but G2 was allowed to respond as soon as they recognized the attack. While the pace picked up, G1 never really got anywhere, as G2 was able to identify and respond before G1 riders could even get to the front. The same thing went for G2 when we swapped roles. Additionally, the attackers had to burn the acceleration matches just to get to the front, leaving little left to create a gap. And, as we have shown in previous classes, an attack is of no value if you can’t get a gap and consolidate it.
Crack the Whip
After finishing with the two DrillZ, it was time to play Crack the Whip. It is a very simple game. Stay behind the beacon. For those who break the rule, there is a punishment. Riders who pass the beacon had to sit up and stop pedaling for ten seconds, followed by a hard push to get back on the group. The purpose of the game was not to simply exact a toll from those who blew past the beacon. The focus is to keep another rider on the front. The purpose could be to have an advantage going into the final sprint or to make another rider work. In the end, the why is not important for Crack the Whip. The goal is just to keep the beacon on the front. Granted a few people simply sat two seconds off the beacon to avoid the risk of passing the beacon, but after a little cajoling, they joined the fun.
After about ten minutes of Crack the Whip, we ended the ride on the cool-down. To close out the day, we reviewed the day’s objectives. Remember, positioning can be critical to the success of a ride or a race. Sitting at the back is great if the pace is consistent and the terrain doesn’t change. Any accelerations, attacks, or rolling terrain, though, will make life at the back a horrible experience. Remember that when you try to position yourself during the next ride or race.
During the next Castelli SkillZ and DrillZ Ride, we will go back to covering breakaways where we will send a group off the front and chase it down. Thanks to those who joined us and those who watched the event streamed live. Until next week, Ride On!