Fourth 6Points Zwift ride

A very good ride today with a responsive peloton (although we lost 11 to the fence early on, despite fair warnings and fence toggling). I was able to flex the fence between 10 and 5 seconds with no problem, and also to 2 seconds for the start of the minirace.

3 minutes to the start, with 60 riders already arrived

The InnsbruckRing course is a really good blend of flat riding with a usefully difficult hill, but just one, so it’s quite easy to keep a group together as well as have a demanding course.

4 laps of the InnsbruckRing town course

Quite a few regulars were out, and help from David Smith again as backup beacon. All ride data at https://zwiftpower.com/events.php?zid=251293 for those registered…

The ZwiftPower results, for those registered

…or at Companion for everyone else.

178 riders were booked, with 144 starters and 86 finishers, the best yet in all categories for 6Points Mallorca rides. I was on the button at 2.5w/kg, or 187w average for the ride as advertised.

144 riders in the peloton since we started (some were Late Joiners)

It was also good to get appreciation from riders during the ride, and at the end, as usual. This one was particularly effusive, from William Kletzien during the ride, on Zwift messaging, that I (as beacon and ride leader) and riders use to communicate on screen, using Companion to type our messages. As you see above, William finished 10th on ZwiftPower.

Internet backbone glitch yesterday affecting Zwift?

I had an Internet glitch yesterday morning, but I think (hope) it was a national backbone issue. All sorts of sites (including my ISP, BT) had outages at the same time. I carried on pedalling alone, and after the main ride I got Internet back and could save the (60 minute) ride, but I wasn’t in ZP or Zwift “results” as I crossed the 60 minute point (with a banner telling me how far and how fast) without Internet. That’s the first issue I’ve had for a long time, I definitely think it was in the network.

Finishing the ride alone!

It all ended OK, but 2/3 the way through my C-G ride today, I started riding alone. I was OK in the Volcano, and sometime between then and the next screenshot I lost Internet.

All’s well at this point

This usually indicates a Wi-fi dropout, which I haven’t had for a long time, and it usually short-lived, but this lasted until beyond the end of my 60 minute ride (the Zwift game runs in the device, so Internet isn’t needed except for login, seeing other riders and saving the ride).

Alone in the desert!

I have learnt that it’s best not to panic, especially on the Apple TV which doesn’t have an easy local way of retrieving a partial file from the device, as for laptops and mobile devices.

Companion seemed to run OK for a while, connected to the game (indicating local Wi-fi was OK) but that disconnected eventually (maybe a coincidence) and it was hard to get it to reconnect (or even start on my iPad, although it would start but not connect on my iPhone).

Then I looked at my DownDetector app, which tells me what problems any well-know public Internet services might be having, including ISPs like BT (mine), and LOTS had a spike in problem notifications (although not Facebook and some others). Maybe this was a geographically local issue, perhaps UK only.

Unfortunately Zwift isn’t one of the services DownDetector monitors, but I think there must have been an Internet backbone problem in the UK affecting a lot of services, including BT, and this is why I lost my Zwift connection.

I eventually restarted my BT modem (remotely by Wi-fi), and although I wasn’t reconnected to Zwift immediately, it came back soon after.

The usual service resumed, with Zwifters Nearby list populated

Also, Companion then connected OK. It seems as if it not only needs to be on the same Wi-fi network to connect, but also that the Zwift game needs to be Internet connected (as it now was).

I had kept kept riding all this time (having photographed the screen a few times, without stopping the ride yet) and I went onto Zwift.com. I saw my warmup there, and also a ride (at 38.1kms) which for some reason had saved (but not on Strava!) even though I hadn’t stopped or saved the ride.

I had also decided, through all this, NOT to try to save the ride since then I might have lost it (no Internet) and also NOT then be prompted when starting Zwift again that I hadn’t saved a previous ride (this happens if for some reason your device closes down before a save of the game).

So seeing a 38.1km partial ride up on Zwift.com, though, and now that I wasn’t riding alone (ie the Internet link was re-established) I decided that rather than just turn off my Apple TV, hoping that I’d be prompted to save the ride properly when logging in next time, I would photograph the screen and attempt to save the ride normally and see what happened (I was a bit over 40kms at that point so would only lose a couple of kms at most as a 38.1km ride was already up there (somehow!)

The ride report just before saving – which worked!

I saved and closed as normal, and then looked at Zwift.com to see what was there – two rides, perhaps, or just the old 38.1kms.

What was there was the full 42kms I had now done. It also had loaded up to Strava.

The full activity has replaced the 38.1kms version which had been there before

So, conclusions?

  1. the Internet has had some kind of backbone blackout at about 11.40am for a lot of services including my ISP, BT. Maybe not for Zwift itself (servers in the US?)
  2. Zwift is now saving partial ride files for the Apple TV up at Zwift.com the way it does locally for laptops and mobile devices ON those devices (and maybe at Zwift.com?)
  3. Zwift.com only uploads to Strava once the ride is complete (presumably flagged by the rider’s final save of the game).
  4. Therefore, this is perhaps the reason that, in the past, if I have had a glitch at save time, and no ride is there on Strava, I’ve always (so far) been able to find it on Zwift.com. I had not realised before, but that file would have been an auto-saved file (every 10 minutes I think for other devices, on the device).
  5. So Apple TV is even better than I thought! Not only is the Apple TV virtually bullet proof itself, but when I MIGHT have a ride saving problem, the ATV isn’t all or nothing (as I had thought, because there is no easily accessible Documents/Zwift/Activities folder on the Apple TV) but in fact there is a partial ride file available (it seems) on Zwift.com, up to the point there is any loss of Internet connection.
  6. So – it’s best to keep the game alive until the Internet comes back, or when you can provoke it to come back. I lost other avatars (riding alone) well BEFORE the 38.1kms point (probably at 20-25kms) but I’m sure when the Internet came back The Apple TV sent its periodic ride file to Zwift.com at that point, not provoked by me.
  7. Patience is key!
  8. Just a bit worrying if leading a ride as beacon. It’s why it’s always good to have a backup buddy beacon riding with you.
  9. As I completed the 60 minute ride while still off the Internet, just as for a normal ride that finishes on a given lap or at a given distance, Zwift doesn’t record you as finishing the event if you aren’t on the Internet at the end, and so ZwiftPower doesn’t have an entry for you either, as it picks that up from Zwift.

The third 6Points Mallorca Zwift training ride

A surprisingly good ride today; having not ridden Richmond for quite a while, I was a little nervous beforehand that I might have forgotten the landmarks; but all was well!

I was also concerned that we had moved the start time back to its proper time of 11.40am UTC after the first two events; and also that Richmond is not liked by some Zwifters for some reason, and that this might have affected rider numbers. Again I need not have worried!

Zwift Companion end-of-Ride listing, 153 entrants

Actually, Richmond’s full UCI circuit suits the sprint and minirace structure we use – 2 marked sprints per lap (we only used one of them, twice, but could have used both) and then the closing minirace over the three hills that Zwift’s criterium racers like as a finish.

The group was good – particularly just before the minirace, they all withdrew from the fence so that I could bring it in to 2 seconds, to give a tight, fair start. No one was within 3 seconds of the fence at that point, great!! That means the finishing order is a true reflection of riders’ performance in the minirace. I did lose 9 riders to the fence in the first half of the event, but they had ignored repeated toggling of the fence off and on three times, to give them three times as much time to get back behind the fence, but they didn’t seem to want to play the team ball!

Fence at 2 secs, just before the start of the minirace, a fair start for 128 riders

All ride data at https://zwiftpower.com/events.php?zid=246258 for those registered with ZP. Zwift Companion shows that we had 153 booked to ride, 128 starters and 79 finishers, great numbers for only our third 6Points Mallorca event. I averaged 2.5w/kg, 190w, right on the money. And there I was, mid-pack!

Many nationalities, and some regulars – David Smith, Gerry Venditti…

And Zwift Companion shows the results for all 79 finishers…

The Points of 6Points Challenges – or – why I love 6Points cycling

Introduction

I was attracted to the 6Points back in 2018, when I was already committed to some mass participation events which, while challenging and demanding, are a completely different experience from 6Points.

I set aside 2019 for my first 6points entries, both for the Mallorca event in May, and also for the Ibiza and Formentera event in October, both of which had been held in 2018, with Mallorca the inaugural 6Points event in 2017.

I have organised my thoughts into 6 points(!) which highlight the essential elements of 6Points for me, and why I intend to participate in 6Points twice a year from now on. But first, get a flavour of the Mallorca 6Points from the official video:

Official 6Points Mallorca video, 2019

1) Charitable purposes

I have ridden a few, not many, Sportive events, and they had all been in the UK previously. I’ve done them mostly because friends have recommended them; some of them have elements of my “6 Points” of attraction here, but none of them cover them all.

It’s always good to know that an event has a specific charitable purpose, as the 6Points has, as have some other events. I have raised significant funds for Marie Curie myself doing the Prudential RideLondon 100 twice, and, for its size, 6Points parallels that charitable focus.

Prudential RideLondon 100, 2019 (top of Box Hill)

But I doubt whether many others events are as proportionately successful as 6Points in fundraising for their chosen charities, especially events at the same kind of scale. I was frankly amazed (not in a good way!) to see the Mallorca 312 organisation broadcasting their €10,000 charitable donation this year, which even though the 312 is a commercial event, and not primarily a fundraiser, is really disappointing given that 8,000 people were riding. See more about the 312 and how busy it is (at least early on, until we decided to focus on the 225kms version) in my video collage from the 2018 event with my neighbour and cycling buddy, Leslie:

Mallorca 312 in 2018, with Leslie

By contrast, 6Points have managed, both from entrant fundraising and from their very active sponsors, to raise over €65,000 for their chosen charities (of which Asdica* is a primary one) in just three years of activity.

From a financial standpoint, the 6Points purpose is PRIMARILY charitable, and very successful, and that is good to see.

2) Location

I have to own up and say that I have virtually given up road riding back in the UK where I spend most of my time.

On the other hand, I LOVE riding in Mallorca (and now Ibiza and Formentera too, thanks to 6Points) and have been coming to Mallorca for 40 years and more.

Most of my riding is on Zwift nowadays, but 6Points (around which I now plan my Balearic cycling) gives me the opportunity to ride in much more relative safety (from a traffic perspective (or lack of it!)), in far more reliable weather, over many more days per year, and in great company.

Mallorca and the other Balearic islands are well provisioned with beautiful countryside, great views, and a suitable café around every corner, it seems, very often near the top of the wonderful climbs that abound on the islands.

I do have some of these possibilities where I live in Scotland; good company with my club, Glasgow Green Cycle Club (GGCC); and the topography and views – the Trossachs are on my doorstep; but road quality, weather and traffic are far less bike friendly than Mallorca.

Two road falls in Scotland (2015 and 2016), both owing to road conditions (and my own lack of foresight(?)) have persuaded me that the high mileage I like to do is safer indoors for the pain and base miles, and with 6Points Mallorca for the pleasure!

I know that many others, who have been even less fortunate than me regarding traffic, pothole and weather related incidents, are ready to change (and some HAVE changed) their cycling regime regarding training, racing and pleasure cycling: turbo for training; road (and track) for racing only; and somewhere sunny like Mallorca for pleasure!

3) Company & camaraderie

Most serious bike riders join a Cycling Club, as I did, and when I started riding (in the early 1960s) I almost immediately joined Bruce Castle Cycling Club. It’s the shared ethos of cycling for fun, the mutual support in case of adverse events (mechanicals, biologicals, psychologicals etc!) and all sorts of collateral social interactions that help the enjoyment of cycling.

6Points is just like a Club in those respects, only more so. As with GGCC, with 6Points we ride in small groups of 10 or a dozen or so. The groups pretty much self-select in terms of pace, covering all abilities and preferences, from the usual “steady” at 14-16mph, through several levels to a faster pace at 20mph+. There is freedom to swap between groups (we don’t always feel the same every day!), and at the cafés and over dinner, plans can be made to make sure you are in the right group for the day, or part of a day.

Each riding group is supported by its own vehicle (see below).

Above all, and we are lucky as cyclists with this, 6Points succeeds in attracting people who share that mutual ethos and shared supportive outlook which makes sure that everyone has every chance to get the best possible experience out of their days with 6Points. Many riders are back for their second or third visit, so that any rider can rely on having great company and experienced support: emotionally, practically and socially.  

4) The 6Points Challenge

On the 6Points Mallorca, we ride between 100kms and 100 miles each day. I have done quite a few 100 mile rides (when I was younger, back in the 1960s, it didn’t seem such a big thing – or I was so ignorant I didn’t know enough to worry!) Here is my “rider view” video photo collage of the 2019 6Points Mallorca event, where you see its Clubrun nature

6Points Mallorca, May 2019

I have done a few Imperial Centuries in recent years with my Club GGCC, but I admit that before the first 6Points, I wondered how I would cope with the Mallorca format of 160kms, 115kms and 160 kms on three CONSECUTIVE days. But it’s a challenge, right?!

Well, it turns out that even at 72 then (73 now) I need not have been concerned as a regular rider (albeit mostly on Zwift at 60kms a day, 5 days a week (that’s my regime)).

I know Mallorca quite well from many previous holidays and cycling trips (we are lucky enough to have an apartment there) so much of the route wasn’t going to be a surprise.

The first day is what I call “the Little Daddy” after the Mallorca Cycle Shuttle term “Big Daddy” for the ride from Andratx to Port Pollensa along the Ma10 road (very smooth and safe!) taking in the climbs to/from Port Valdemossa and Sa Calobra.

The “Little Daddy” version, in my terminology, misses out the descents to Port Valdemossa and Sa Calobra (and therefore the climbs out!) but we DO ride west first from Santa Ponsa to Sant Elm (the West “Point” of the 6Points) before heading east via Andratx and the Ma10 to Port Pollensa via the big climb at Puig Major (the high “point” of the 6Points) and quite a few other hills on the Ma10 (such as Coll de Femenia), to the very welcome dinner at Tolo’s (a sponsor) and an overnight hotel stay, after the odd 160kms.

I’ve done that ride before a few times (from Andratx, anyway) and so forewarned was forearmed, and also I KNEW it was going to be enjoyable. I have to say that in 2019 the weather was unusually – erm – windy and a little damp, but hey, it’s the exception that proves the rule!

But the good thing about the 6Points Mallorca format is that the hardest climbing day is that first day, for which you have time to prepare; the second day (Tolo’s up to Cap Formentor, the North “point”) and back to Tolo’s for breakfast, and then down to Cala Millor for our overnight stop via the East “point” at Cala Radjada, is just 115kms and fairly flat by comparison – an “active recovery day” I would say!

Finally, the third day is the same distance as Day 1, but also relatively more flat, from Cala Millor, via Cap Ses Salines (the South “point”) back to Santa Ponsa via the north side of Palma and Calvia, finishing where we started, on the beach at Caló d’en Pellicer (the lowest altitude “point” of our 6Points ride).

This is definitely a challenge, but from personal experience I can attest that doing the 440kms circuit of Mallorca in 3 days with 6Points is FAR preferable to trying to do the 312 kms of Mallorca in one daylight day. I want time to smell the flowers (and the coffee), not just my handlebars and stem!

In those respects, the 6Points IS a Challenge, but also a delight – not just afterwards, as an achievement to look back on, but also, crucially, DURING the event!

5) Organisation & support

One element that sets the 6Points experience apart from a Club ride is the high level of backup, with a vehicle available to support each group with equipment, water, food and any kind of moral support required. See the support in action during our October 2019 6Points in Ibiza:

6Points Ibiza October 2019

Although the events are described as “unsupported”, and riders are encouraged to plan JUST as they would for ANY long ride each day, and to carry the usual items on their bikes for small emergencies, there IS that backup if bike or body should fail in any way.

I have been getting a flavour, having got to know the event better, of the huge amount of work undertaken by the Visser family, and friends and sponsors (such as Ticket, for example) prior to the event: route planning; hotels researched and booked; any travel required (for the Ibiza and Formentera event especially); support vehicles and volunteer drivers; baggage and equipment transport; sponsor identification and confirmation; other funding; entry and rider communications; and much more.

I can see that the reason the event has the “family and friends” touch and feel mentioned below is because that is exactly how it is organised; with close attention to detail from a small, consistent group of dedicated people, determined to make sure the event is fault-free for those they regard as their friends and family!

6) Touch and feel

I first heard of 6Points in early 2018 when I had already entered the Mallorca 312 that year. along with the Prudential RideLondon 100, which I have also ridden a couple of times. These are mass participation events, with 8,000 and 32,000 riders respectively.

As I said, the 6Points has very much the feel of a family and friends event, at a scale which is much more akin to a Cycling Club event, albeit over a few days.

Depending a little on which group you choose to ride with, frequent/sufficient café stops are part of the planning, and overnight, between good days of riding between 100kms and 100 miles, there are hotels and evening meal locations chosen to suit the needs of cyclists riding those kinds of distances.

Social interaction and discussion is highly encouraged, and lively!

The prime intention for the riders is that they should ENJOY the event. Some Sportives (as I know very well) turn into races for a proportion of the participants, which for mass events can create issues for fun riders.

At 6Points, with the Clubrun feel it has for each small riding group, each rider knows that those around her/him have the same, FUN objective. No-one is under pressure to keep up a pace – the groups, and especially the “steady” group are no-drop, and there is, as mentioned, great backup to keep everyone going.

Summary

I am a convert! I plan to do the 6Points events into the foreseeable future, both Spring and Autumn, with Mallorca the Spring focus, and, in 2020, with Menorca on the autumn calendar for the first time. Here is the Formentera 6Points from October 2019:

6Points Formentera October 2019

I have an extensive network of Zwift and “in-real-life (irl)” riders and friends, both locally and internationally, and I recommend wholeheartedly the 6Points experience to them all – and to you!

*Asdica – a Mallorcan charity benefiting disabled children. See lots more on the 6Points website at https://6pointschallenges.com/

The first Zwift 6Points Mallorca Sunday Training Ride

Every Sunday at 10.40am UTC we are staging a new series of Zwift 6Points Mallorca Training rides. This follows the great success of our Glasgow Green Cycle Club GGCC rides we have been running for two years.

The aim is to showcase 6Points worldwide, and in particular Mallorca, on the rapidly growing Zwift platform for all (open-minded!) cyclists who need, for one reason or another, embracing injury or illness, family or work commitments, weather (not everywhere has such wonderful weather as Mallorca!) predictability and efficiency of time and fitness outcomes, or simply personal preference.

Bryan Visser, founder of 6Points Challenges https://6pointschallenges.com, asked me to deliver on my suggestion of a regular Zwift presence, organising a weekly group ride, led by a “beacon” leader, embracing sprints and a closing mini race as my rides usually do.

The rides are over a variety of seven courses, in rotation, including one or more from all of the Zwift “worlds” – 3 courses from Watopia (a virtual world and the most developed of Zwift’s worlds); Richmond’s UCI race circuit; London, inspired by the Prudential RideLondon 100; Innsbruck UCI race circuit (the InnsbruckRing); and Yorkshire UCI circuit, the most recent of Zwift’s additions.

Yesterday’s ride was over 3 laps Watopia’s Jungle Circuit, and participation numbers exceeded even my own expectations, even knowing, as I do, that most ride bookings come in the last few hours before the ride. But this ride was brand new, and had only been in the Zwift schedule since the Tuesday before. It helps that I am known as an organiser of well-led group rides (the GGCC series, 3 rides, a race and a TT every week on Zwift) and I was able to rely on the support of close friends and backup leaders Steven Smith and David Smith (no relations, one based here is Glasgow, and the other from Erie, Pa in the US).

The numbers were extraordinary for our brand-new 6Points Mallorca ride:

120 booked to ride, of whom 9 were Zwift friends

Once the ride had started, we could see that the start line was pretty busy, and Steven was holding the fort, promising my imminent arrival!

We see at top right here 59 riders on the start line as I joined with 2:24 minutes to go

Since we had the Late Join facility enabled, that allows rides to join up to 1/2 hour later, after 30 minutes we could see that as many as 98 riders has started the ride at some point. In this image we can see that I (with the yellow beacon chevron over me) was “leading” from 41st position in a peloton of 98 who had started before the 30 minute Late Join cut-off.

I should know how to spell “booked”! I was thinking of SA vs. Wales maybe!

The full Zwift Companion results for the ride show 58 finishers altogether, and note that my own watts/kg was 2.5 for the ride, exactly as advertised; 2 to 3 w/kg at a 2.5w/kg average. One has to be careful, as leader beacon, because on flat terrain watts (are a better predictor of speed in the Zwift physics model, and my average was 186w. A lighter rider would have to generate MORE watts to keep up. Downhill heavier riders have even more advantage; lighter riders only get help uphill!

More screenshots from the ride show what a great job Zwift have made of the virtual world imagery for the Jungle Circuit ride. All of their worlds have very high quality game graphics, because Zwift, although a cycling resource, is in “reality” a video game with cyclists at the protagonists! In one of the images, note the red transparent “fence” that keeps riders within (in this case) 5 seconds of the leader beacon, thus enabling a good “blob” peloton – not a “snake” – and fair stats for sprints and the closing minirace to the ride. As you can see, I can choose 2 seconds (rather short in my view), and 10 seconds as well (too long; 5 seconds is my “goldilocks” setting). I turn it off during the sprints and the closing minirace, and after the sprints I choose 10 seconds, and then back to 5. Riders get 60 seconds, if beyond the fence, to slow down and return to the peloton. As you can see, 2 have been removed – “zapped” – by the fence. They can continue to ride, but aren’t formally in our group any longer and aren’t in the results, unless we are inside 30 minutes, in which case they can stop and re-join.

Setting up this ride for 6Points Mallorca, and leading the first ride, with its very high participation numbers, has been a pleasure and I look forward to growth of the series over the coming months, and its demonstration to the 6Points Mallorca sponsors and Mallorca authorities (who also support 6Points Challenges) that 6Points has world-wide reach, and can, and does attract tourism to Mallorca from all parts of the world. Nationalites of our Zwift riders yesterday spanned all hemispheres – Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific, as can be see from the nation flags on this ZwiftPower results list

ZwiftPower results for ZP registered riders