Mark “All Dread” Aldred serves up the pain in our Zwift stage race
This May in the absence of the Giro and the arguably more prestigious Surrey League May Stage Race, the inaugural KWCC Zwift Stage Race had it all. Denis Whelan claimed yellow on stage 1 and held it for so long, he had plenty wondering if he’d take a sensational overall victory. But he was put to the sword on an epic day on the Alpe and the final stage in London by Mark Aldred, who blew everyone away on the big climbs, and was joined on the podium by Seb Ashton and Dominic Wilson. Race director Tom Herbert tells the story of how the race panned out…
A flat and fast start on the Tempus Fugit course through the desert found everyone looking for the ‘perfect blob’. Denis Whelan found it, taking the stage win and Yellow Jersey, smashing out 4.6w/kg average for a time of 46.25 and in the process putting over a minute into everyone else. It was a tight stage with less than 2 minutes separating 3rd and 20th, and all still very much still to play for.
We stayed in Watopia, this time introducing a couple of power climbs into the mix on the Magnificent 8 course. The Sunday morning race saw a few Wheelers line up together in a sign of things to come, and although the race was blown apart over the lumps, Denis held on to the overall lead for a second stage – his advantage however being trimmed to a mere 39 seconds. Mark Aldred blasted round in 37.50 to take the stage win, shooting up the GC in the process into third behind Denis and Henrik Persson.
On day three we left Watopia for the first time and onto the Everything Bagel course in New York – a tour around all the routes on this world and including two very punchy and steep ascents of the same climb in different directions. Dominic Wilson took the stage win, the only rider in our field to go sub-50 minutes on a dramatic evening which included Seb Ashton jumping up to 2nd on the GC, Henrik Persson slipping down the rankings and Mark Aldred nearly taking a win in his race but losing time overall. But… Denis Whelan found himself racing at a very quick pace and having rolled over in the bunch not only retained the Yellow Jersey (socks), he extended his GC lead to more than a minute over the rest of the field.
With two stages left, the penultimate stage was all set for an epic Super Sunday showdown on the Alpe du Zwift.
A fast and furious start saw the bunch split from the gun – with Seb Ashton, Alice Lethbridge and others hitting the climb 30 seconds up. Aldred then got into his rhythm and left a small group containing Brendan Barnes, Tom Herbert and the maillot jaune of Denis Whelan, to chase the others down. Neil Grunshaw had a laptop mechanical on turn 6, but he followed up a day later with a sterling effort to position himself nicely on GC. Up at the front, Aldred distanced Russell Tebay and Dom Wilson to win the stage by nearly 2 minutes and put himself in Yellow with a comfortable gap on the GC standings. Denis suffered his way up the final part of the climb to keep himself 2nd, with Seb now up to 3rd.
So Stage 5 took us to London. A tour through the busy city streets, packed with fans, before a climb up Keith Hill and the culmination of the Zwift Stage Race. The race split immediately but the Wheelers were dominating the front group of around 15 riders, including all of the contenders. On the climb riders scattered as legs gave way and mini-battles erupted. Denis Whelan, after a storming tour, suffered heartbreak as Seb and Dom passed him to take the remaining spots on the podium behind Mark Aldred who also took the stage honours from Seb by the time the race reached the top. In the later race, Brendan took a fantastic win with a last KM burst to consolidate his position as winner of the Green Jersey competition.
So that’s that! Congratulations to Mark Aldred, winner of the GC, Alice Lethbridge, women’s winner, and Brendan Barnes, winner of the Green Jersey. It was great fun to organise, and to see the amount of chatter and involvement from across the club. Thanks everyone for taking part and although I can’t promise the same prizes, I am planning to do the same kind of thing for the next Zwift Tour event