Westcroft Team Time Trial, 28km (Cycling - Zwift)

They say that to finish first, first you must finish. Well, of course that is true, but you know that at Westcroft we like to challenge the norm and question those things that most people take as a given. We’re not afraid of re-writing the rule book if necessary, finding new ways to look at things, and if needs be, going back to basics. It’s the Westcroft way. Well, we have a new chapter to add to the Westcroft TC Handbook, which I think we can slot in right after ‘Cake – the breakfast of Champions’, and just before ‘Cycling in fish net stockings – not aero, but don’t dismiss just yet’ .

We shall title this chapter,

‘To finish first – first you must start’

If there was such a book, this chapter would reference Chris Holland trying to co-ordinate a number of us registering ourselves correctly on the Zwift and Zwift Power apps, ensuring that we were all linked via our team name, with names displayed correctly, and we’d entered the right event. Sounds easy, but we could easily fill another chapter on its own with tales of how complicated this process turned out to be, but we got there in the end. However, the real highlight of this chapter would have to be how one team member fell asleep on the start line. So, much like any ‘real’ event, the real challenge sometimes is not finishing, but starting, but that was the whole point of this event – this was our practice run for the Triathlon England, London Time Trials the following week. A practice run of not only riding together but getting on to the event in the first place.

Chris has now perfected the process of getting us registered, we highlighted the potential areas of failure, and we are all definitely feeling more confident about actually starting (and finishing) the main event next week – for to finish first, first you must start. Westcroft Handbook Chapter 27.

At this point, 8 riders have entered the Triathlon England, London event, with the line up for this practice run of 6; Chris Holland, Simon B, Andy Long, Andy Nippard, Rachel and myself, and the event a 28km team time trial – 4 laps over a relatively hilly course. A time trial for those that maybe unsure is a race set against the clock, individuals (or teams in this case) are set off in time intervals, you are not so much racing people on the course but racing their (and your own previous) times. All competitors needed to enter a virtual racing pen and stop pedalling at 7pm sharp and wait for their allotted start time, at which point your team can roll out – ours was an 8 minute wait – 8 minutes of remembering not to pedal (or be disqualified), and a further 8 minutes of praying the internet didn’t let you down. Now even we can stay awake for 8 minutes (on a good day), but unfortunately in the virtual world, 8 minutes can see our equipment fall asleep. This only becomes apparent when you try and set off and you are sat in the pen watching your team ride off without you, so it was a tricky start for one person who had to wake themselves up again, and for another team member who wasn’t connected to Chris’s countdown conference call and missed the start very slightly. Two lessons learnt - plans in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

So, we set off with two riders out of sight, but with other riders in the distance and behind you it wasn’t immediately obvious where everyone was, so how hard do we ride? Too fast, and you are putting the chasers under pressure, but are they ahead? so too slow, and you are the straggler. Again, lesson learnt – tortoise and hare stuff – get the team together has got to be the number one priority.

Looking back, the team came back together very quickly, and that was it, we were off racing. Mostly trading places, giving each other shelter, constantly scanning and trying to match others power outputs whilst trying to keep as tight together. The plan had been for Andy N and Chris H to set the pace and take the brunt of the workload on, and for the most part, it felt that way. It was an undulating course, so the riders places would change depending on riders strength or commitment, and occasionally we would have to contend with a rival team who we had caught, or had caught us, but we were racing, and it felt good. It never fails to amaze me how Zwift draws you in, and gets your competitive juices flowing.

The stopwatch would stop when the first 4 riders in our team went over the finish line, and about two thirds of the way through four riders went off the front itching to get over the line and secure the best time the team could. That last section was hard, we all gave everything we had to give, and I for one had to commit 110% to stay in the group of 4 until the finish line. I’m not sure if everyone else was as spent at the finish, but as we crossed the line, Chris’ voice rang out ‘can anyone still talk?’ … I just about managed to blurt out a ‘well done, team’.

But that was it, the other two finished not far behind, and we had completed our first competitive event of 2021. It may have been online, but in this modern World where we are reliant on logging on, internet connections, and just staying awake, Zwift have seemingly been able to even replicate the stress and anxiety of even getting to an event, and it truly felt like an event, even though I was still at home!!

We completed the 28km’s in around 49 minutes, only 26 seconds behind the Thames Turbo ‘B’ team (B refers to riders abilities – B should really stand for ‘Blooming good’, in fact only one of our team is actually a B rider). Given this, the start we had, and the challenging course, I think we were all delighted with the results. We gave all we had to give, to the extent of Simons watch giving him some shocking stats, seemingly telling him that he spent 40% of the ride in heart rate zones you really don’t want to spend much time in, and recommending he spends 4 days recovering.

So, the Zwift riders regularly (virtually) get together, and tackle a number of events from shorter evening rides to longer Sunday morning rides, and now we are racing!! If you are interested in joining, of course, just let any of us know (ideally Chris).

So, the Triathlon England, London event is a 28.9km team time trial, taking place on Thursday 11th February at 7pm, where we have 8 riders competing from various kitchens, garages, sheds and spare bedrooms across the area. Just like Westcroft – it’s the new normal. Wish us luck.

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