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Training whilst isolating | Zwift Mont Ventoux Ride Review

Words by Will Crump

on 14/07/2021 17:30:00

Zwift-Virtual-Mont-Ventoux

Written by: Jake Sanders, Sales Advisor at Leicester

Hi, I’m Jake and I’m part of the store team over at Rutland Cycling Leicester. I’ve been a road rider for around 3 years now and my bike of choice is a Giant TCR: lightweight, aerodynamic and fast! Unfortunately, this week I was presented with the news that I must self-isolate. With the world’s biggest bike race, the Tour de France, on our screens currently, I found some inspiration as to how I should fill my newfound time.

Stage 11 of this year’s Tour saw Jumbo Visma’s Wout Van Aert storm to an incredible solo victory on a gruelling double ascent of the legendary Mont Ventoux, beating race favourites Tadej Pogacar and Richard Carapaz. I asked myself, how hard can it be? With the power of hindsight, that was a very foolish statement to have made.

I took to Zwift’s epic recreation of Mont Ventoux, 20.9km in length with 1534m of vertical elevation; all from the comfort, or later discomfort, of my pain cave. As of the beginning of my ride, I stood 185cm tall and weighed in at 86kg, with an FTP somewhere in the region of 250W. Not the most remarkable stats but hey, I never claimed to be a pro!

Zwift-Mont-Ventoux

Virtual Mont Ventoux

Route Length: 20.9Km

Meters Climbed: 1534m

Max Gradient Incline: 15% (8% Average)

Equipment Used:

  • - Elite Direto X
  • - Endura Xtract II Bibshorts
  • - SIS, Enervit Nutrition
  • - A Fan
  • - Specialized Torch 1 clipped to Look Keo pedals & Cleats

The Equipment

Zwift-Mont-Ventoux

For this ride I climbed aboard my winter bike; a 2012 Cube Peloton Pro. Hooked up to my Elite Direto X, a cutting edge direct-drive smart trainer that translates every meter of elevation into pain! The Direto X displays my live power output, accurate to +/- 1.5% and simulates gradients of up to 18%, absolutely necessary for the day’s climb! The Direto X is constantly adjusting the resistance to account for changes in gradient and road surface in Zwift, giving a truly immersive indoor riding experience.

For indoor riding, especially in the middle of July, I have a few essentials that will improve your experience tenfold. First and foremost: a fan, it’s incredible how hot indoor riding gets and you can very quickly overheat if you’re not moving the hot air away from you. For the climb I had 2 fans going, because I’m greedy like that! A towel to wipe away sweat is also a must have.

Next on my list is a quality, properly-fitting pair of bibshorts; staying comfortable allows you to keep smashing through the miles with efficiency and a smile on your face. My personal choice was a pair of Endura Xtract II bibshorts, probably my favourite from a comfort standpoint. Lastly, I recommend using clipless pedals.

When indoors there is no need to worry about clipping out at a set of lights, road shoes and clipless pedals allow for maximum power transfer and pedal stroke efficiency. I wore the incredibly stiff Specialized Torch 1 shoes, paired with the Look keo pedal system - a partnership for success!

Shop all of our Turbo trainers here!

Nutrition & Hydration

Zwift-Mont-Ventoux

Nutrition and hydration was key for me on this ride. I aimed to take in one 700ml bottle per hour of riding. In the first hour I took water, however in the second hour I took a SIS electrolyte drink to replace the salts lost in my sweat, of which there was a lot! In the morning I fueled myself with granola, full of slow-releasing carbohydrates to give my body the energy it needs throughout the climb. On the bike I aimed to eat every 15-20 minutes.

In the first hour I took on solid food, a peanut butter & jam sandwich, eating a quarter of the sandwich at regular 15 minute intervals. However, in the second hour I opted for gels, an Orange flavoured enervit gel 20 minutes into my second hour, and a Pink Grapefruit SIS gel 40 minutes in! Both put over 20g of carbohydrates back into my system, helping me to keep climbing when my body wanted me to stop.

Shop all of our Nutrition here!

Zwifts Mont Ventoux - The ride itself!

Zwift-Mont-Ventoux

In Zwift, you can ride whichever bike & wheelset combo you like! I went for a stunning Specialized Tarmac SL7 with some super lightweight ENVE climbing wheels. I did this climb once last year, however the suffering seemed to have slipped my mind. As I hit the foot of the mountain I was reminded of what a beast it was as the gradient quickly ramped up to 10%! The Direto X made this immediately noticeable and forced me into my 34T inside chainring, which I remained in for the duration of the climb.

The pace of the first 500m of vertical elevation was consistent, strong and maybe slightly overconfident. As the temperature shot up, I had to remind myself that there is a long way to go; so I knocked off the power ever so slightly. Through the next 250m I focused on keeping a steady tempo despite the wild changes in gradient, at one point hitting 15%! 750m of elevation, halfway… My legs were really feeling it at this point however the mental victory of knowing I was closer to the summit than the base gave me a second wind.

Zwift-Mont-Ventoux

There was a point at about 1000m, where the quality and meticulous detail of Zwift’s recreation of Ventoux really hit me. You power through a sweeping right hand hairpin and the view opens up, revealing the upper section of the mountain. Protruding through the clouds you get your first glimpse of your destination, the world famous meteorological station, which is more resemblant of a lighthouse; finally you have the end in sight!

Unfortunately, the summit is still a further 500m up! From this point on the gradient calmed down slightly, to around 5-8% giving me the chance to soak in the virtual views, tricking me into believing I was on the iconic roads of Ventoux with Pogacar and Van Aert! As I neared the summit, my power slipped and my cadence became more irregular. Each pedal stroke became more and more difficult but my altitude kept increasing and I was approaching the magic number...1534m and through the banner I crawled. I was struck with a huge rush of pride and relief to then be able to say; I did it!

The descent made all the suffering worth it. Despite not being able to match Wout Van Aert’s frankly ridiculous 100+km/h descending speeds, I was able to watch the kilometers fly by at light speed on the way down. I reached speeds I wouldn’t even dream of reaching out on the road, over 80km/h, absolutely tearing up the virtual tarmac! All while using the now banned super tuck, because the UCI rules don’t apply on the virtual roads of Zwift! Post-ride I went for a recovery meal with plenty of protein to rebuild damaged muscles, and carbohydrates to refill my glycogen stores. I also did some stretches to loosen up my hamstrings and back.

Zwift-Mont-Ventoux

My time of just a touch over 2 hours is certainly not breaking any records and pales in comparison to the likes of Wout Van Aert, however I like to think that I have demonstrated the strength and resilience of the incredible human body and proved that anybody can push past their limits with consistent training, sensible preparation and a positive mindset! When undertaking a challenge like this, it’s important to not compare yourself to other people, you’re doing this for you.

Even getting on the bike, or virtual bike, at all is your victory, you’ve made the decision to better yourself. It’s been incredible to see the positive effect that cycling has had on many lives in this difficult past year. I'm excited to see this continue to grow and ultimately see more people riding bikes!

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