A 6-stage event open to all Zwifters, the 2017 Elite Kiwi Tour (also known as Elite Tour of New Zealand) featured flat, hilly and mountainous stages, along with an individual time trial. Spread over a 12-day period, the stages featured the London and Watopia course to see riders battle it out for the Yellow Jersey (General Classification), Green Jersey (Sprint Classification) and Polka Dot Jersey (KOM Classification).
The Tour proved to be a challenging, exciting and a rewarding stage-event; I set a new FTP during Stage 3, of 323 watts (5.21w/kg)!
Elite Kiwi Tour 2017 – Stage 1
The Tour kicked off with a flat and fast one. Totalling 23.1 miles, we would complete 3 laps of the Volcano Flat course. Setting off quickly, the pace remained high throughout the first lap (28.8mph average). Maintaining a low heart rate (154bpm), I planned to go for a late break-away with a few miles to go.
Eager and energetic, my competitors began to slowly but surely raise the pace. We cruised around the second lap a little faster than the first (29.0mph average). I was still sticking to my plan of a late-break.
As the miles ticked down, the speed continued to rise. It was almost as if riders couldn’t contain their excitement and energy as we neared the final few miles of the race. Approaching the part of the course where I planned to attack, I laid down my power and gapped the peloton. Another rider joined me to form a 2-man break-away, however he seemed unwilling to carry on with the effort. With a charging peloton only a few seconds behind, I decided after 3 minutes of effort (7.07w/kg average) to return to the bunch for a sprint.
The bunch sprint ended up almost being a 1km time trial – Starting 800m from the line, riders began to pump out all the power they had in a bid to win. With legs a little more tired than usual, I crossed the line in 11th.
Below are the General Classification (GC) standings after Stage 1:
Elite Kiwi Tour 2017 – Stage 2
The first hilly stage of the Tour, Stage 2 looked set for some ‘fireworks’, so to speak.
Two laps of the London Figure 8 course, we would take in the streets of downtown London, before heading over to the notoriously challenging Box Hill, which we would ascend twice…
Setting off quickly from the pen, we whizzed around the lower streets of London, flying by Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, before charging over to Box Hill. Hitting the climb quickly, riders began to shoot up the climb at paces I knew they couldn’t sustain.
Knowing my physical limits, I paced myself up the climb and soon found myself at the front of the race. The peloton had fragmented entirely as riders began to drop off from the serious pace being set. Knowing this was a good opportunity to shell out competitors, I maintained the high effort to the very top of the climb, averaging 5.94w/kg for 5 and a half minutes.
Despite the fierce climbing, the effort didn’t stop at the summit. I, along with those around me, continued to push it for the first half of the descent to ensure a significant time gap to those further behind. Averaging 28mph for the following 10 miles, our time gap of around 1 minute had fallen a little to 45 seconds or so as the 7 of us prepared for our second and final ascent of Box Hill.
Wu Yunfei, a Chinese competitor, attacked a few miles before the foot of the climb. Knowing he wasn’t a threat to GC, I let him go. Hitting the bottom of the climb fast and hard, the serious effort began to take shape.
Although we climbed slightly slower than our first ascent, it certainly felt as if we’d ridden just as quickly up it. Returning to my ‘pace-it’ strategy, I averaged 5.76w/kg for 7 and a half minutes as we crested the summit and began the descent. With Yunfei now clear of our chasing group, it appeared that it would come down to a bunch sprint. Having planned another late break-away, I targeted the short but steep climb up the escalators before London Bridge.
Cruising into the escalators, I laid down my power once-more, and continued it over the top of the climb to distance myself from those around me. I managed to drop one rider in the process, whittling the group down to 5. Having ‘burnt quite a few matches’, I gave it all I could in the dash for the line. I crossed the line third out of the five of us; I finished 4th in Stage 2.
Unaware of what the GC standings would look like after I crossed the line, I was keen to find out how many places I had moved up in the leaderboard. After a few minutes, I did find out – I was the leader, leading the Tour! My lead over second place couldn’t have been any smaller though – Aaron Dunn sat behind me by less than a second.
It says Stage 1 in the ride report title below, but it is in fact a report of Stage 2:
Below are the results from Stage 2:
The top 5 riders in GC after Stage 2:
With my legs feeling good, I decided to join the WBR Buffalo Stampede 2.5w/kg interval session, led by fellow teammate Andrew Behnke, who should be nicknamed ‘Behnke the leg butcher’ – A savage session post-race. A 6 min warm-up, then 4 x 15s max / 15s rec, 3 x 30s max / 30s rec, 2 x 1min max / 1min rec, 1 x 2min max / 2 min rec, and then back down… And then all the way back up (I stopped after the third set of 1min efforts) 😀
Elite Kiwi Tour 2017 – Stage 3 – The Race of Truth
The Individual Time Trial, also known as the ‘Race of Truth’, is a race between you and the clock. With all of us auto-assigned time trial bikes in-game, and drafting ‘turned off’, the race would be a reflection of our strength as riders. 12.8 miles long, we would complete 2 laps of the Watopia Flat course in the reverse direction. Unlike your typical time trial format, we would all set off at once.
Knowing this would take somewhere in the region of 27 – 28 minutes, it would effectively be an FTP Test + a bit. Having not done one in a while, I decided that I would absolutely nail the first 20 minutes, recover for a tiny bit and then hang on until the finish line. Determined to keep my GC lead, I knew this stage, along with stage 4, would be crucial in deciding whether I would take the title or not.
As the pen doors opened, riders shot up to at least their FTP w/kg or above. Pacing is critical in a time trial, and I had that in my mind throughout.
I started off ‘cautiously’, making sure my excitement didn’t get the better of me. I averaged 339w (5.47w/kg) for the first five minutes. Continuing to hold my pace well, my average power after 10 minutes was 340w (5.48w/kg).
My power continued to hold very well as I passed the 15 minute-barrier; my average power still at 340w. However as expected, my heart-rate had risen and so had my fatigue levels. I was now at my limit. The final five minutes of the first twenty were extremely challenging. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in an effort!
I completed the first 20 minutes of the TT at an average power of 339w (5.47w/kg).
Exhausted, I needed to recover for a few seconds before returning to threshold. With a few miles to go, I knew that I would remain GC leader at the end of the stage. I was increasing my lead over my nearest rival, Julian De Meo, who hung around 20 seconds behind me as we charged towards the line.
As my ride came to an end, I found out that I had set a new FTP!! Having not done one in a while, I expected a large increase in power; and my expectations were met: 297w –> 323w (5.21w/kg)! Very happy 🙂
The first 20 minutes of the TT were hell, as you can see below:
I finished Stage 3 in fifth, maintaining my GC lead. Looking at the results, I was pleased to see that I had taken 18 seconds out of Julian, and 1 minute 1 second out of Andrew Hinton, who would now move up to third overall. The w/kg put out by the first 4 riders are seriously impressive; on-par with WorldTour riders.
The top 5 riders in GC after Stage 3:
Elite Kiwi Tour 2017 – Stage 4 – The Queen Stage
The only mountain stage of the Tour, Stage 4 looked to be brutal in-profile. We would complete two laps of the leg-breaking Watopia Mountain Route, totalling 37 miles and 4,400ft of elevation gain:
Having raced the night before at Scunthorpe Track League, where I picked two wins along three second-places, my legs were beginning to feel the full effects of my past few weeks of training and racing.
With 10 minutes till the race began, my Garmin Vectors had stopped working. The batteries had died – What a moment. In a rush, I quickly brought in the Kickr and placed used its power source for the race. The race began unusually at a medium-level pace. I assume everyone was conserving their legs for the two 30-minute ascents coming up!
We began the first climb at a reasonably high effort level, that slowly rose as we climbed higher and higher. Close to threshold, I was suffering as we neared the summit of the ‘Epic KOM’. But we hadn’t finished climbing yet!! Oh no, this WALL of tarmac, 1.3km long at 10%, had to be tackled. It was mad. Clambering over the top of the wall with a few others, I bombed it down the other side.
I had made a few seconds on my closest rivals (De Meo and Hinton), who were working together to bring me back. Reaching speeds of over 100km/h, we quickly completed the descent and were working our way back around the mainland before ascending for the second time. De Meo and Hinton joined us to form a lead group of 7.
Cruising around the flat roads, we prepped ourselves for the second and final (thank God) ascent of the mountain. Back up towards threshold, I knew I had to crack De Meo and Hinton to further extend my GC lead. And I did! Slowly but surely, I pulled away from both riders as we crawled up the climb. A couple of riders attacked towards the top of the Epic KOM – I couldn’t follow. They were no threat to GC however, so I decided to continue with my pace. Reaching the very top of the wall, I worked with Hakan on the descent to consolidate our time gap over De Meo and Hinton, who were chasing.
Working together, Hakan and I stayed away from De Meo and Hinton all the way to the line. Taking 30 seconds out of them, it was a pretty successful stage. I out-sprinted Hakan to take 3rd on the stage.
I nearly passed-out after finishing (no joke).
The results from Stage 4:
The top 5 riders in GC after Stage 4:
Elite Kiwi Tour 2017 – Stage 5
A welcoming flat stage, Stage 5 would be one for the sprinters. 3 laps of the Greater London Flat course would result in 25.6 miles of fast-paced racing.
My legs were tired and achy whilst warming up, and unfortunately they weren’t feeling any better as we nailed it out of the starting pen. A few riders decided to keep the pace very high for the first couple of minutes, resulting in the peloton fragmenting. Ollie Jones and I bridged across the attackers, and worked with them as we formed a decent time gap to the now reformed peloton.
Maintaining a gap of around 30 seconds, we cruised through the next 20 miles well, averaging 27.8mph. Approaching the final few kms of the race, a couple of riders had bridged across to our group of 7, forming a group of 9. Ending in a bunch sprint, riders began their sprints pretty early down The Mall. With legs like lead, I tried to contest for the win but it wasn’t going to happen. I finished 6th. Nonetheless, there were positives. I had extended my GC lead as De Meo left the Tour, to 2 minutes 32 seconds.
Sprint Classification standings after Stage 5 – The top 3 riders:
Just two points separate Hinton and myself!
Elite Kiwi Tour – Stage 6
The sixth and final stage of the Tour, we’d muscle our way up and over the KOM climb 3 times as we’d complete 3 hilly laps of Watopia.
To be honest, my legs were still wrecked.
Robert Gesink, a Dutch WorldTour pro, joined us in the starting pen! I’m not sure if he knew what he would be in for 🙂
Starting quickly, the effort-level had no time to fall as we blasted into the first KOM hard and fast. Climbing the KOM in a respectable time of 1:47, I found myself with a few others, off the front. Continuing the high-effort, we established a considerable gap to the chasing group. Knowing I was ahead of my nearest rivals in GC and that I was not too far away from taking the Sprint and KOM Classification, I pressed on and our gap grew. Our breakaway group stayed together for a large proportion of the race, before Jones and Takasawa broke-away on the final KOM.
Ending in a bunch sprint, I finished the sixth stage in sixth place.
Looking at the overall standings, I was more than pleased to see that I had taken the General Classification (by 4 minutes 24 seconds), Sprint Classification and KOM Classification!! Time to rest the legs 🙂
Overall General Classification (GC) Standings – The top 3 riders:
Overall Sprint Classification Standings – The top 3 riders:
Overall KOM Classification Standings – The top 3 riders:
I thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 Elite Kiwi Tour, despite all the suffering 😉 Congratulations to all that raced! I’m looking forward to the next multi-stage event in Zwift.
Thanks for reading 🙂