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How to ride an ultra-distance cycling challenge: training, fuelling and riding tips for events over 200km

How to ride an ultra-distance cycling challenge: training, fuelling and riding tips for events over 200km

The legendary world of ultra cycling – typically defined as endurance challenges of 200 to 300km or longer – is often seen as the preserve of super-fit semi-pro athletes and extreme amateur racers. However, with the right training and mindset, any amateur cyclist can conquer an ultra.

The annual sportive calendar is now studded with epic one-day ultra events, while the World Ultracycling Association also oversees a calendar of ultra events worldwide.

Because ultra challenges are even longer than the Queen stages of the Tour de France, every heroic finisher is guaranteed lifelong cycling kudos.

Neil Kelsall, 52, from Surrey, began road cycling in 2010, but after completing a few cycling jaunts to the Alps and the Pyrenees, and a 150km sportive in Yorkshire in 2019, he tackled his first ultra – the Mallorca 312 – last October.

“I had dabbled with road cycling but never really committed,” admits Kelsall. “But I was due to take my son Tom – who has learning difficulties and Type 1 diabetes – to Mallorca for a Special Olympics training camp, and the 312 was moved from April to the Sunday we were there. So with three months’ notice, I decided to give it a go, knowing I might not make the 14-hour cut-off time. I did it in around 11 hours and it opened my eyes to what’s possible.”

Liane Jackson, 39, a member of Kingston Wheelers in London, bought her first road bike in 2015, but she has swiftly upgraded her goals from the 46-mile Ride London sportive in 2017, via the 135km Étape du Tour and 150km Étape Morocco in 2019, to the 296km Dragon Ride this year.

“When I did the 46-miler, it sounded super-far, and I thought ‘how can people ride hundreds of miles?’” she laughs. “But when I finished it in two and a half hours, I thought: ‘I can do 100 miles’. Then I just increased my distances over time. A lot of this is psychological. When you’re fit and loving it, even big distances don’t feel so far.”

How to train for ultra distances

When training for an ultra event, you should increase your mileage slowly over time.
Russell Burton / Our Media

According to coach Richard Rollinson of CPT Cycling, who trained Neil Kelsall and other riders for their first ultra events, the secret is to build up your mileage slowly. “Start small at the beginning of your base training and remind yourself that your fitness now is not where it will be at the time of the event,” he says.

“Increase your training volume gradually and progressively each month,” Rollinson adds. The general advice is to up your volume by 10 per cent each week.

Gary Hand of Espresso Cycle Coaching says new ultra-riders will benefit from working in blocks.

Although it’s possible to take a more casual approach for a standard sportive, preparing for an ultra requires more planning and recovery. “Structure your riding with three weeks on, one week easy,” he suggests.

“Then at the end of your easy week, when you are fresh, do a large endurance hit with one big day ride. Don’t be scared to test yourself with a ride of 130 per cent of the distance of the longest ride you have done in the past eight weeks.”

A safe way to build up your endurance rides is to do loops of a set course around your area, so you always have an escape route. “If you’ve been over-ambitious, you’re never far from home,” adds Hand.

Pacing for ultra-distance cycling

Your weekend rides should get closer to the length of your ultra.
Robert Smith / Our Media

What pace you sustain on your endurance rides will depend on your fitness, but Rollinson suggests you should strive to develop Zone 3 power (76 to 87 per cent functional threshold power, or moderate intensity) up to around two hours, Zone 2 power (56 to 75 per cent FTP, or easy to moderate intensity) up to around six hours, and Zone 1 power (under 55 per cent FTP, or recovery pace) on any longer rides.

“As amateur cyclists, we get obsessed with FTP – the power you can sustain for an hour – but that’s not right for an ultra,” says Kelsall.

“Richard wanted to train my endurance engine to sustain a lesser power but for a longer time. That means more time in the saddle, not smashing myself for an hour.”

Because ultras are much longer than traditional sportives, your big weekend rides should eventually nudge as close as possible to the distance of the event, to avoid any shock on race day.

“If you only have seven hours to train each week, build up your longest ride to 80 to 90 per cent of your expected finish time,” advises Rollinson. “But if you have more time, build your longest training ride to the same finishing time as your goal.”

One of the big challenges is keeping these long training rides fun. “I’ve seen people who train hard then take weeks off because they get fed up,” admits Jackson.

“So I went out training with my club and I did social rides. Go somewhere interesting, like the Peak District, to enjoy the scenery. Even when I use Zwift, I have Netflix on.”

Tempo rides and ‘sweet spot’ training will help you hold the pace of a group or conquer climbs.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

You will also benefit from shorter, sharper sessions, but make sure they are tailored carefully to your challenge. “Specifically targeting intensity is essential in balancing the most effective training for your ultra-distance event,” says Rollinson.

“So if your event has multiple climbs, look at how long it may take you to complete the climbs and train to the likely duration and power. This is normally around ‘tempo’ (Zone 3) or ‘sweet spot’ (Zone 4, or 88 to 94 per cent FTP).”

Deliberately mixing up your pace on shorter midweek road or turbo training sessions can help to simulate the complex dynamics of an ultra event. After all, longer distances mean more changes in pace and geographical surprises.

“I did lots of rolling tempo rides, where I alternated between periods of Zone 3 or Zone 2 power, followed by a spurt towards ‘sweet spot’, and then back down into tempo pace, not recovery pace,” says Kelsall.

This will prepare you for holding the pace of a group, catching up the riders in front or conquering a climb.

You also need to boost your muscle strength to handle the brutal physicality of an ultra. “Muscular endurance, accompanied with tendon and muscular strength, are key factors for an ultra-cyclist,” insists Hand.

Jackson did midweek gym and yoga sessions, but strength-building low-cadence drills will also help. “Add over-geared accelerations into an evening workout,” suggests Hand.

“Do 30 minutes at 76 to 89 per cent of your FTP, at 80 to 90rpm. But on every fifth minute add a 20-second acceleration at 120 to 150 per cent of your FTP, at 60 to 75rpm. Progress this to 60-second accelerations and aim for two to three blocks in total.”

Simply working out how to fit all of these sessions into a busy week is a big enough challenge in itself. The secret is to work with, not against, your work schedule.

“You have to take it seriously, but there is a balance: I’m not a professional,” says Jackson.

“Now a lot of people have the luxury of working from home, which helps. But I would go to the gym before or after work; do a couple of hill sessions on a Wattbike or laps of Richmond Park midweek; and then do bigger sessions at the weekend: a two-hour recovery ride on Saturday, and a long, hilly hard ride for four to five hours on Sunday.”

How to fuel for ultra-distance rides

Mentally break down long rides into shorter chunks to tick off.
Robert Smith / Our Media

However hard you train, it’s impossible to finish an ultra without a smart nutritional strategy. Nutritionist Will Girling of EF Pro Cycling says it’s essential to carb-load the day before your ultra.

“Current research suggests you can carb load in just one day, and you should aim for 10g of carbs per kg of bodyweight to achieve maximal glycogen storage,” he explains.

“So a 70kg rider needs 700g of carbs. But go for a big breakfast and lunch, rather than leaving it all for dinner, or you will wake up feeling bloated. But more carbs doesn’t mean more food. Aim for density over volume. So for breakfast have porridge, but add some syrup and a banana, with a glass of orange juice on the side, rather than just eating more oats.”

Sports nutritionist Craig Watson says energy-torching ultra riders must learn to think differently about food.

“Doing an ultra means you are an athlete, not the general public, so when you see Government guidelines saying don’t eat white versions of food, that doesn’t really apply, as a lot of people find white bread, white rice and white pasta easier on the stomach when you’re carb loading,” he explains.

“Cakes and sweets have their place on race day, too.”

On the day of the event, fuel up with a breakfast that’s high in carbs for energy, but low in fat and fibre, which can slow digestion.

“A good breakfast will have 2 to 2.4g of carbs per kg of your bodyweight, so around 140g of carbs for a 70kg rider,” says Girling. “Oats, rice or rice pudding are easy to digest. A banana with maple syrup or honey, or bread and jam, are light too.”

Kelsall found brown toast with peanut butter, banana and honey particularly effective.

Make sure you stay hydrated and pay particular attention to your body’s warning signs.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

To stay fuelled during a 200 to 300km ultra, Girling recommends a mix of liquid, semi-solids in the form of gels, and solid foods.

His suggested solid snacks include bananas, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Squares, Soreen malt loaves and Alpen Light bars. “You are looking for fast-digesting, high-GI food,” he says.

“And you need 90g of carbs per hour to maintain exercise performance.”

This should include making sure you get plenty of ‘real’ food into your body.

“In an ultra-distance event, you will not get away with just bars and gels like you would in shorter events, so eat plenty of real food such as sandwiches,” advises Rollinson.

Although you can’t carry 11 hours’ worth of food, Kelsall insists it’s best to be as self-sufficient as possible.

“I started with five to six drinks sachets to put into my bottles, so my pockets were bulging, but there might be a queue for the feed station, or they might not have what you need,” he warns.

“And not eating properly is the worst thing for ultra riders. According to my power meter, I burned just shy of 8,000 calories.”

Your hydration strategy for an ultra should be similar to that for a normal sportive. “You want at least a bottle an hour, with 20 to 30g of carbs in a 500ml bottle, and some sodium to improve hydration – around 200 to 400mg of sodium ideally,” explains Girling.

But on an ultra, you need to pay more attention to your body’s warning signs. “Check for white salt marks on your jersey, which suggests you need more salt, and monitor the colour of your urine to check for dehydration,” adds Watson. “Wrinkly or dry lips are also signs of dehydration.”

Ultra-distance mind games

Mentally break down long rides into shorter chunks to tick off.
Robert Smith / Our Media

Ultra challenges are full of surprises, but checking your kit in advance is the best way to minimise problems. “Make sure that you or your local bike shop have given your bike a check over,” says Rollinson.

Jackson recommends you get all your kit ready the night before, and Hand suggests checking the weather to ensure you get your clothing choices correct: an ultra ride is hard enough without getting unnecessarily hot, wet or cold.

When you begin the race, stick to a sensible pacing strategy. “My coach Richard worked out that my average target power should be 200 watts for the first few hours and if I stuck to that I would have the stamina to finish,” says Kelsall.

And remember to preserve energy whenever you can. “Save your legs on the downhills,” suggests Hand. “Turn the pedals when you are riding 20mph downhill and you may gain 2mph, but that’s not a huge benefit for the effort.”

Don’t pedal on downhills to save your energy for the uphills.
Russell Burton / Our Media

During an ultra, you’ll endure plenty of stress and self-doubt, so it helps to chop the ride up into manageable segments.

“For a 300km ride, break it into six different 50km checkpoints,” suggests Hand. Kelsall says this really helped him in Majorca: “Ultra events are hard to get your head around, so I gave myself milestones: to get to that monastery, to reach the top of the gorge, to finish this climb.” Use whatever mind games keep you focused.

“My Garmin 830 has a hill profile, so you can see when the pain is coming up and when you might get a recovery,” says Jackson.

But remember that on any ultra, you’ll feel a surge of fear, whether it’s during those nervous first training rides, or on race day. But this fear should be regarded as your fuel. “You need the right amount of fear for an ultra,” adds Kelsall.

“If I’d been complacent, I wouldn’t have put pressure on myself to keep going. If you fear the target a little bit, that’s what’ll make you succeed.”

Five of the best long-distance bike rides

The Dragon Ride is one of the most challenging sportives in the UK.

There are many ultra-distance events dotted throughout the year, and around the world, but here are five of the best.

The Way of the Roses (273km)

The Way of the Roses is a beautiful coast-to-coast route that sees riders dash from Morecambe to Bridlington via York and Lancaster. Riding west to east means you should enjoy a tailwind for most of the ride.

Dragon Ride: Dragon Devil (296km)

The savage Dragon Devil route of the Dragon Ride, in the mountainous region of the Brecon Beacons, is one of the most challenging one-day sportives in the UK, at 296km with 4,614m of ascent. It takes place annually on 19 June.

Granfondo Milano-Sanremo (296km)

The Granfondo Milano-Sanremo takes place on 5 June. Follow in the tyre marks of the pros by completing the lion’s share of the historic Milan–San Remo course, taking in the Liguria coastline and famous climbs such as the Poggio and Cipressa.

Mallorca 312 (312km)

The Mallorca 312 takes place annually in April. A (hopefully) sun-soaked spring challenge in the cycling mecca of Mallorca, this ultra will see you join 8,000 other riders on closed, signposted roads in the beautiful Serra de Tramuntana mountains.

Team Joe Barr 200 (320km)

The Team Joe Barr 200 is a gruelling long-distance ride that takes place in May and is a World Ultra-Cycling Association event. It takes you through the beautiful rural landscapes of Ireland and Northern Ireland and you can tackle it solo or in a team of two.

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Tips For Disturbing Events: Moving Past Overwhelm And Into Empowerment

Tips For Disturbing Events: Moving Past Overwhelm And Into Empowerment

No one is immune to distressing events. No matter if it is a global emergency, political policy, or a professional performance report, the stress can create a ripple of havoc through your personal and professional life. Gone unchecked the mind will run wild and become the culprit of obsession and undesired reactions. Taking the time to intentionally reflect will help to uncover deeper layers of understanding of the situation, your personal connection to it, and the action you have the ability to take. Most importantly, reflection gives you the ability to conduct the symphony of your thoughts and clarifies the measures you are best suited to take. This clarity will bring greater calm and emotional sturdiness to your life, even when things are difficult. Below are some tips for addressing difficult events. I encourage you to put this article to use. To bring these solutions to life you have to engage in applying the following content. Knowledge is only power when knowledge is actively used.

Before you can act effectively in the world it’s important to look within and identify the specific emotions you are feeling that are connected to what is happening in your environment. Don’t ignore your feelings, listen to them, work through your emotions and use them as a tool by redirecting the energy behind them in a more fruitful direction.

Questions you can ask yourself are:

  • What emotions am I feeling? You might find there are hidden emotions amongst the obvious ones.
  • What is the core need behind the emotions I am feeling? Emotions are indicators that translate into tangible desires. Some needs are basic survival needs, such as safety. Other needs that span beyond survival might be things like the acknowledgment for your work or contribution to making a difference.
  • How is this emotion helpful and how can I put it to use? Emotions can be employed for taking positive action after you have a grasp on them. It may be that the emotion is what keeps you motivated or that the emotion provides empathy.

The next step is to assess how you want to react and choose your plan of action. It is always the gray area of uncertainty that causes the most stress. One of the most valuable tools for combatting overwhelming emotions is to identify what you have the power to change and what is beyond your power. Once you clarify this, you can go about letting go of what you don’t have the power to change and take action with that which you can change. Having a plan of action releases anxiety and stress and can help break the negative loop in your head. Reinhold Niebuhr said it best, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Many people get stuck due to overwhelm. They have a hard time sorting through what to do and end up doing nothing at all or taking action based on inordinate emotions. They may choose actions that don’t result in the best solution or their efforts may peter out as their emotions subside. The goal is to create a sustainable effort. This will allow you to gain the emotional benefits of accomplishment and enable you to make a bigger impact.

No matter the type of event, your power lies in changing your thought patterns to direct them toward a positive impact and towards allowing yourself to release what is not yours to carry. It takes practice. Repetition is essential when creating new neural pathways. Your typical tendencies are engraved pathways in your brain, similar to a ski trail that has been used over and over. It is easy and natural to follow the established path. Going off the path is difficult, and in the beginning, it is especially challenging to carve a new path. After you travel down a new route for some time, a new path begins to form. Eventually, you can go down that new path with ease. That is exactly what happens in your brain when you practice a new thought pattern or behavior. New grooves are created and soon the formerly unfamiliar way of becoming the norm.


National and global issues are complex and there are many causes that call for support. There is no way you can solve all the world’s issues. Pick one-to-three causes that matter most to you. Know your capacity and use your unique gifts to be a part of the solution. Then trust that other people will step in to cover the areas you can’t. Making a difference can come in many forms. You can ask yourself:

  • Who is being affected? What do they need? It is better not to assume what people need and ask the community, or those supporting the community, how you can best help.
  • What organizations or people are already helping and how can I support them?
  • What resources do I have that can help? (temporary housing, clothing, money, etc.)
  • What specific skills do I have to help from afar? (fundraising, emotional support, social media awareness, etc.)
  • Are there any hands-on ways I can help? (building structures, cooking, healthcare, etc.)
  • Who are the key influencers who can make a change with the current event and influence policies or relief in the future? (government, legal, community, etc.) How can I support them?

Remember, don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much. Stick to what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. Otherwise, your good intentions can have adverse effects on your mental health and could end up burdening the cause.


When it comes to personal and professional challenges, there is a much deeper personalization that occurs. This requires reflection and greater sensitivity for all the parties involved, including yourself. Before reacting, pause to assess the situation and get clear on your approach. Begin with owning any errors you may have made. Admitting to errors and taking the appropriate corrections shows courage and strong character. Accountability gives you the opportunity to grow and improve. Numerous studies have shown that the benefits of taking ownership of one’s mistakes outweigh the consequences. Of course. assess the right course of action for your specific situation.

Next is to loop in the parties involved. See if you can identify what the other person or parties’ needs are and what their communication style might be. You can brainstorm alternative ways to address the situation and potential outcomes. It may also be helpful to talk through the different approaches with a couple of people you trust.

After reflecting and reviewing your options, you can make an accountable choice for how you want to address the situation. When you take this approach, you will most likely take the best course of action. Even if the results you wanted don’t pan out, with this tactic you will be prepared for a less favorable outcome. Rather than feeling like a victim, you will feel empowered.

Practicing accountability is courageous and places the power to shape your path in your hands. Remember, you can only do what is within your control. The other party or parties also play a role in being accountable for their actions in the situation. It is not your responsibility to shoulder unreasonable reactions. In fact, if you do, you are doing others a disservice by not allowing them to grow. Knowing what is and isn’t yours to take on is important for all parties involved.


Being a part of the solution, no matter how big or small, is both important and helpful. Every action builds momentum, just as every drop of water creates a title wave. An added benefit to taking action is that it allows your mind to let go — leaving you feeling at ease and uplifted because you have become part of the solution.

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Tips for ticketing and pricing your virtual, hybrid and in-person events

Tips for ticketing and pricing your virtual, hybrid and in-person events

Monetizing events and assessing and proving their value to internal stakeholders has always been a challenge for marketers and planners alike. Now, in the new events landscape, things are getting more complicated. 

With virtual, hybrid, and in-person events all in the mix, it’s up to marketers (with the assistance of their planning team partners) to create events that generate the most value for their businesses. Easier said than done. How do you price your trade shows, meetings and conferences so that people will pay the right amount, without your organization leaving money on the table? 

To achieve this, you’ll need to learn about the benefits and limitations of each format as well as how to structure tickets and prices to deliver the value that attendees and sponsors want.

A bold, new events frontier

This new event landscape has changed how organizations and professionals plan, market and sell their events. But here’s the twist: some things remain unchanged. The basics remain—It is still critical to know your customers deeply and tailor your value proposition to them. Understanding your audience’s challenges, motivations and aspirations is the key to engagement, revenue and more. Regardless of the event format. 

However, what has changed is rather unprecedented. With access to new and larger audiences, event marketers have a chance to rethink their strategies around monetization and develop new ways of creating and capturing value. There are now more opportunities than ever for event planners to think beyond ticket sales and recognize the hidden value within their events. 

Yet, with new models and methods comes some confusion and many questions: 

  • What kind of registration types should you offer?
  • How much should you charge? 
  • Should you tailor price points for different audiences? 
  • Can you still make money on free events? 
  • How can you prove ROI?

Finding value and ROI

Think beyond ticket sales to maximize value and event ROI. 

To price and ticket your event optimally, you must first define its value—for attendees, sponsors and the organization itself. You can then maximize that value by mapping it to relevant attendee, sponsor and organizational goals. Maximizing value leads to higher ROI for your organization and a more rewarding experience for your audiences. 

Many organizations focus on ticket sales as the key driver of ROI, but ticket sales are just one slice of a much larger ROI pie. Cvent has identified five benefits that contribute to event ROI: 

  • Direct revenue
  • Attributed revenue
  • Attributed sales pipeline
  • Brand equity
  • Knowledge exchange

When assessing the full value of your events, you must look at all the benefits they provide to the organization along with the costs. There are many things beyond direct revenue that impact how much money an event will make. It can take time for these to come to fruition, but it’s important to include them in ROI. 

Success in the new events landscape

Remember to view value through the eyes of all key stakeholders While you can highlight event value in objective terms (e.g., number and type of sessions, speakers, exhibitors), what matters most is how your stakeholders perceive the event. Imagine yourself in the shoes of attendees, sponsors and internal stakeholders. 

For more about finding success in the new era of events, we encourage you to download Cvent’s new eBook, How to Ticket and Price Virtual, Hybrid and In-person Events.

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Tips for talking with children about tragic events

Tips for talking with children about tragic events

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -As the community continues to process Lily Peters’ death, it can be difficult or uncomfortable for parents to talk with children about this tragedy.

Alison Jones is a psychiatrist with Marshfield Clinic in Eau Claire.

She said it’s important to talk about tragic events like Lily Peters’ death with your kids.

If you don’t, they’ll likely find the information somewhere.

That information may not be accurate.

For elementary students, Jones said one way you can talk to children is focusing on safety in the community.

Share with them ways they can be aware of their surroundings and what to do if they need help.

She said for both adults and children, community is also key.

“As a psychiatrist in the community, I know that this is a really challenging time, and it’s important to lean on your community members and support services that we have within the region and working together as a community,” Jones said.

Jones also recommends watching for changes in your child’s behavior.

“Kids asking more questions, really perseverating or getting stuck on details about the event or even other things that are happening in their lives,” Jones said. “Maybe being more clingy or wanting to attach to their family or not wanting to go out of the home without their parents.”

Jones said if you do notice changes like this, or if your child starts acting out, reach out to their schools or other resources in the community for help.

Copyright 2022 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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8 Zwift Racing Tips for Improving Efficiency and Winning Events

8 Zwift Racing Tips for Improving Efficiency and Winning Events

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Fitness and power are great tools in Zwift, but just like in real life, tactics can play a huge role in how your race goes. Here are eight tips I’ve learned from racing in and watching hundreds of Zwift races, from weekday crits and the Movistar Challenge to the UCI Zwift World Championships, where I assistant directed Team USA.

Join the pen as soon as it opens

The start of a Zwift race is one of the most talked-about and painful parts of virtual cycling. But before the actual start, your race strategy begins. The pens open up 30 minutes before the start of each race, and you can join them at any time. In larger events such as the Tour de Zwift or Haute Route Watopia, there may be over 500 riders on the start line! That means that if you start at the back, even with good legs, it could take you miles to eventually reach the front of the race.

Start position is first-come, first-served, so click “join immediately” upon the pens opening at 30 minutes to go. Once you are in, you can exit out of Zwift. Your start position will be saved, but now you are free to go ride around, get in a good warm-up, and then re-join the pen in your original grid position. Just be sure to come back with a few minutes before the start.

RELATED: How to Crush Virtual Racing

Be warmed up for a hard start

It often takes just about a full sprint to stay with the group at the start of a Zwift race. Similar to cyclocross and short-track racing, the start of every race is crucial. Once the field hits the first pinch point—such as a climb—the race will be blown to bits. Do not wait until the start clock hits zero before starting to power up! You need be pedaling—hard—the second the race starts.

Timing the start can be tricky, but with a little bit of practice, you can launch off the start line with minimal energy expended. I like to start winding it up with about 10 seconds to go. Once I see 0:03 on the countdown, I put in a hard and sharp acceleration to spike my power right as the timer hits 0:00. This helps break the sticky draft (more on that in a minute) and rockets me to the front of the group in just a few seconds.

If you time it right, you’ll only have to sprint hard for a few seconds; and after that, you can slowly bring your power back down and settle into the group. About 20-30 seconds into the race, the field will begin settling into its normal race pace. For a weekday A category race, this will probably be around 4-5 watts/kg. The B and C races will be slower. Practice timing your starts in every race you do.

Know the course!

Course reconnaissance is often overlooked and undervalued, especially in virtual racing. Real-life pros have the luxury of riding the actual roads in preparation for a race like Paris-Roubaix or the Tour de France; but on Zwift, it is so much easier. Anyone in the world can ride on Zwift, and learn the courses and climbs from the comfort of their own home. More details such as the length and gradients of climbs and sprint segments can be found on Zwift Insider and Strava. Pro triathlete Meredith Kessler—who was the female overall winner of last year’s Zwift Pro Tri Series 3—has often said that she prepares for virtual racing in the exact same way she would IRL, by knowing every nook and cranny of the course before she begins the race.

Knowing the course will help you measure your effort and pace yourself throughout the race, on the climbs, and especially at the finish. Steep climbs are the hardest part of any Zwift race. This is a critical point in the race—a section of road that is likely to split the field or be the launchpad for a decisive breakaway.

Come into these critical points at the back of the group, and you’ll need a Herculean effort to ride through the splintering group and make the front split. And if you do make it, you’ll have burned more than a few matches doing so. Knowing the course ahead of time will give you the upper hand by anticipating when these critical points are coming. Hit the bottom of the Watopia Forward KOM in fifth wheel as opposed to 75th, and it could mean the difference between winning the race and getting dropped.

RELATED: This Pro Zwifter Has the Best Pain Cave You’ve Ever Seen

See through the dust

The dirt sections of Watopia are especially tricky because they are hard, which can obscure the view of the race. The peloton also kicks up a huge cloud of dust when they hit a dirt section, limiting visibility and making it almost impossible to see the riders ahead of you. Also, the dirt has a higher rolling resistance on Zwift, meaning that you will have to work significantly harder on a dirt section to go the same speed than you would on Watopia’s paved roads.

For dirt sections, start at the front of the group and expect to up your power output by at least 0.5-1 watt/kg. And instead of watching the riders on the screen, keep an eye on the mini-map in the top right-hand corner of your screen. The dust cloud doesn’t affect the mini-map, so you’ll be able to see the pack stringing out on the map before it’s too late and it splits right in front of you. Another alternate-view strategy is to hit the figure 9 key on your keyboard which will give you an overhead view unblocked by the dust.

Beware the sticky draft

Zwift’s algorithm allows riders to draft, which means the riders in the group do less work than the riders at the front to maintain the same speed, just like riding outside. Unlike riding outside, however, you can get blocked with a “sticky draft” when you want to pass a rider. What happens is that the rider trying to overtake can get stuck on another rider’s rear wheel, and the passing rider is only able to break the sticky draft by putting in a significant effort—greater than 1 watt/kg—to get around them.

Drafting, of course, has a lot of benefits. It is incredibly helpful in fast bunch rides or Zwift races. You can sit in a peloton at 3.8 watts/kg, while the group is traveling over 30 mph and the riders hitting the front are pushing 5-6 watts/kg. Use the draft to your advantage, and you’ll be saving hundreds of watts over the course of a Zwift race.

The sticky draft is most noticeable at slow speeds and on climbs. You could be pushing 5.5 watts/kg while the rider in front of you is only doing 5.1 watts/kg, and you might not be able to get around them because of the sticky draft. Knowing about the sticky draft is the first step in defeating it in these situations. As soon as you realize it’s at play, just put in a short spike of power, and you’ll be able to pass the rider in front of you without too much hassle.

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Save as much energy as possible

At the end of every Zwift race, my goal is to have the lowest average watts/kg of every rider in my group. This shows that I saved as much energy as possible, and made it to the finish with the freshest legs. What’s the point of averaging 5 watts/kg if you get beaten in the sprint by a guy who averaged 4.2 watts/kg? It still amazes me how many races I finish with an average of 4-4.5 watts/kg, and see I’ve beaten riders who averaged 5-5.5 watts/kg.

The same principle applies to drafting: You should pedal at the lowest wattage you can while drafting off another rider. If you can stay in the draft at 200w, there’s no point in doing 250w; it’s just a waste of energy. Zwift will show you if you are in the draft with a helpful icon, as well as your avatar’s body position. In the middle of the screen, Zwift will show a “CLOSE THE GAP” message if you are starting to fall out of the draft, including the distance that you need to close to get back into the draft. An even simpler trick is to pay attention to your rider’s body position. On one of Zwift’s road bikes, your avatar will sit up if they are in the draft at more than 20mph. During large events with more than 100 riders, you may get pushed to the side of the group, and if your avatar is in the drops, this is an indicator that you are no longer in the draft.

Drafting and energy conservation is arguably the most difficult aspect of Zwift to master—I’m still not sure I have done so—but with a little bit of practice, it’s amazing how much energy you can save, and make it to the finish line with a monster sprint kick.

Use the super tuck

Banned by the UCI, but not by Zwift, the super tuck is arguably the most valuable recovery tactic in the game. There is normally no coasting in Zwift. But the super tuck changes that, allowing you to get that little bit of respite that can put the oxygen back in your lungs and flush the lactate out of your legs.

In order to activate the Zwift super tuck, you must be traveling at least 36mph, the decline must be steeper than 3%, and you have to coast (stop pedaling). The super tuck saves energy by reducing your drag and thereby increasing your downhill speed and lets you stay in groups of riders pedaling at 2.5-4 watts/kg.

Finish fast from a few wheels back

Zwift sprints can be chaos. Unlike real-life racing where leadout trains jostle for position and only so many people can occupy space at a certain time, in Zwift riders can simply move through each other by putting out a higher power.

Adding to the confusion is the sticky draft, which may block you behind a rider who’s moving just slightly slower than you with 300m to go. As all sprinters know, if you get boxed in with 300m to go, there’s nothing you can do. No amount of wattage could overcome poor positioning.

Timing is crucial when it comes to sprinting on Zwift, and I still haven’t come close to mastering this, either. I’ve watched and participated in hundreds of Zwift races, from weeknight crits to the UCI Zwift World Championships, and I still haven’t figured out where the ideal launch position is with 300m to go.

There is no stock finishing strategy for all races. Sometimes the winner comes from 30 wheels back at 300m to go. Other times it’s the fifth-placed rider who wins.

What doesn’t work is starting from the front. You never want to be in the first three riders with 300m to go, assuming it’s a large field sprint of more than 20 riders. Starting your sprint with about 300m to go from about five wheels back seems to be the way to go.

The steeper the gradient of the final few hundred meters, the more ground you can make up using pure power alone. Conversely, fast and flat field sprints are all about timing. I’ve seen field sprints finish at 45+mph, and the top-10 riders separated by less than two-tenths of a second in the end.

All of this boils down to a few pieces of advice, and my last Zwift pro tip: When approaching the final sprint, consider: 1) how tired you are and how many seconds you can hold your maximum sprint power; 2) how hard the race has been; 3) the gradient of the final 500m and how fast the bunch will be going; and 4) your competition.

Make sure you’ve trained and prepared for these fast and furious finishes—and a workout like this one (from our recent Zwift Triathlete group ride with Joe Gambles) is a great way to help ensure you’ve got the matches you’ll need to burn to get there.

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