The New Year of 2022 hailed a return to familiar ground in unfamiliar surroundings! The NWV’s first virtual racing squad is competing in the current Zwift Racing League. The league is a series of 10 races over 10 weeks, based on points for teams of 6 riders competing in different type of races on different courses on Zwift’s virtual training/racing platform.
One’s gone off
After a Zwift technical glitch prevented any racing in week one (but we celebrated still being joint first), week two saw a fast paced points race around Zwift’s London Classique course. It was a baptism of fire for most of the Velo’s squad as it started flat out with lots of riders being caught out and left behind early on.
Two club members managed to stay with the front group to fight it out for points over the finish line each lap. Chairman, Mike Hornsby led from the front showing he had the power to mix it up at the sharp end of the race. He had Scott “OB” O’Brien, his most senior domestique, for company in the front group.
After a tough 5 laps and almost 33 kms, a sprint for the line from the leading group of 23 decided the winner. Mike finished a vey respectable 8th, with OB showing his long standing lack of sprinting ability finishing 14th. Mike “The Engine” Ferrie came in 48th, Chris Podmore 56th and Ian Lamb 57th. Shaun Murphy was a DNF. Overall the NWV was in a very respectable 5th overall.
Big number two
Like (Ian) lambs to the slaughter we came back for the next instalment. This time we had virtually flown across the pond to New York’s Central Park circuit. The Park Perimeter Loop is a tough undulating course with little time to rest, particularly as there were points on offer again on each lap. Another fast start and again some of the squad were caught out. Mike H, Mike F and OB got straight into the front group, but new recruit Nath Cawley and Shaun Murphy got dropped early doors. Nath was popping his virtual race cherry, but it was al over quicker than expected and packed in, drained after only a few kms. Shaun was a DNF too.
It was left to the from three to score some points for Velo. After one of the lap sprints the two Mike’s were caught out by the surge in pace and lost contact to the front group. OB (has he ever told you he used to race IRL a bit) used his racing experience to keep near the front and hold the wheels. After a couple of futile attempts of breaking away for a solo victory, OB was left to mess up the sprint and finish 11th out of the front 15. Mike F rode strongly to 18th and Mike H was 23rd in the same group.
Third time’s a charm
The next event was then a team time trial (TTT) over in France. This is a novel event where each team starts together at intervals from other teams and ride together to get the fastest time over the course. The fourth rider to finish stops the clock for each team.
With this being our first go at such an event the team struggled t get the right right pace going at the start. This week, another new face joined the squad in the form of Ant “Dolittle” Doolan. With great current form and masses of enthusiasm, Ant started well. However, a good 300 yards in, disaster struck as a mechanical caused him to pack the race. The remaining 5 of two Mike’s, OB, Lamby and Chris P, smashed round the course going from a 15 second deficit to catching the team in from for 1 minute. A superb performance got them SECOND overall on the night! This moved the team back up the league to 4th overall (having taken a hit in NYC).
Four your legs only
The fourth race was the hilliest to date as we travelled to Neokyo for the Temples and Towers course. Ant Doolan was back for revenge and we also subbed in Dan “Mad Dog” Madden as Lamby was on lates. After another quick start, the two Mikes, Ant, Chris P and OB again settled into the front group after the usual bun fight at the start. The race split up a few times with the climbs with eventually it came down to OB, Ant and the two Mikes’s near the sharp end. A big climb inside the last 10km sorted the men from the boys and OB (now released from domestique duties) managed to haul himself up it with the front group. Again, another piss poor sprint meant 7th from 8(!) at the finish. Ant showed real class and finished 9th after an epic climb and they sprint to destroy the rest of his group. Mike H came in with 14th and Mike F an excellent 21st. Chris P and Dan struggled but kept peddling to get 60th and 61st respectively to grab some hard earned points for the team.
Controversially, Mike H was penalised points for being OVER POWER in this race. The guy just doesn’t know his own strength. No, seriously, he doesn’t even though it’s displayed on the screen in front of him! As a result we dropped down the results for the event but managed to stay the same overall
Five times, I’m jaded
The next race in the series was the toughest test so far. It was back to Watopia for the Climber’s Gambit course. The only mountain top finish in the league. After the week before’s showing, the Velo was pinning a lot of it’s hopes on Ant D. Sadly though he “couldn’t make it” and so we had to rely on the big Mike F, Lamby, Nath, OB and new recruit Neal Pollock.
After a quick start it settled down into a steady pace as most riders awaited the climbs. After a few splits on the first categorised climb, Mike F and OB were in the front group. Lamby and Neal were not far behind, but Nath had that classic pro bike bike rider mechanical of his brother ringing him and interrupting his wifi signal (wtaf) and as such disconnected from the race.
After an epic last climb battle, OB on his best “Tron” bike managed to stay with the leaders and dragged himself over the line for a well earned 3rd place. Mike F (with the honour of being the tallest guy in the race) virtually defied (virtual) gravity and to an amazing 8th. Neal finished a very good 21st and Lamby 26th. It gave us 4th overall on the stage and maintained fourth overall in the league.
With two more points races and two more TTTs left in the series it’s all to play for. Good luck to the squad for the rest of the league and as they say in Watopia “Ride On!”
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