TTT Skirmish on Sand and Sequoias

This Thursday marked the fourth consecutive entry of the Dolfijn triathlon teams in the weekly Team Time Trial competition on Zwift, which has seen participant numbers sky-rocket in the recent ‘intelligent lockdown’period. After learning the ropes from Martin Verheesen in the first two races, and having some connectivity issues in the third race, this fourth race had to mark our strongest performance so far.

The race was held over a 42.6km course, with two laps on so-called Sand and Sequoias: a mostly flat route with a light climb through Titans Grove (2.6km at 2,2% average). For our team we had selected a strong mix of powerhouses that would push us through the flats with the likes of Wilbert Grooters, Nick van Ingen, Erik Brandsma and Thomas van Dop, combined with nimble riders with enormous watt per kilogram statistics such as Rick Marsman, Koen Hijman, Martin Verheesen and Wouter Dijkshoorn.

Right at the start these eight warriors formed into a high-speed train with a clear mission: four team members needed to cross the finish line as fast as possible, four others had to sacrifice themselves somewhere along the desert-landscapes. The first ten flat kilometers were mostly an internal battle for taking the front position, as all riders were still brimming with energy. Consequently, even just holding on in the group took a strong effort, while taking the front position took an investment north of threshold for all, with intervals around 400 watts.

After flying through the first sector, we approached Titans Grove. Even at low gradients, this climb meant the aerodynamic advantage of riding in the back was heavily reduced, so we had to find a steady pace that was acceptable to all team members. This was not yet the time to lose anyone. In spite of our efforts to keep a steady pace, small gaps appeared every now and then; a result of not always being able to quickly gauge and adapt to the changing gradients from the virtual word. An improvement area for the next hilly race!

Throughout the descent and the flats that followed Wouter and Martin made sure that our train kept speed. Wilbert and Erik selflessly sacrificed their chances of finishing with the group by putting out enormous turns at the front, just to allow the others to lower their heart rates below threshold levels. They dropped after these efforts: their legs busted, their jobs done.

Just six riders remained to tackle the second climbing of Titans Grove. The punishing tempo put Koen and Rick in the pain zone, but they both showed enormous mental fortitude, shifted their gears up one last time, and took to the lead for a final push before surrendering to the burning lungs and legs.

The final seven kilometers, none of remaining four ‘Dolfijnen’ were allowed to drop, but none of them intended to either. Wouter and Martin gritted their teeth and once again took major turns at the front. Nick and Thomas held on, no breath left to voice their discomfort over the discord live chat. As the team entered the last 2000 meters, the pace picked up again, and was not lowered until the end. As we muscled ourselves over the finish line the clock showed 59:11, at an average of 43.4 km/h. This team achievement resulted in an overall 28thplace out of 210 teams, a Dolfijn best so far. With a good training done, clear improvement points identified and morale boosted, we look forward to next week’s flat TTT! And we hope to see Torino Triathlon Club again and many of you on the course!

Thomas van Dop, atlete De Dolfijn Triathlon Club