Thinking about racing virtually? There is a lot to navigate just as there is when racing outdoors so it is important to have a grasp on the nuances of racing on Zwift before jumping into your first race. We have compiled our top tips for racing on Zwift. Before you get started racing make sure you have the equipment.
Here are tips to help you enjoy and be competitive in your next Zwift race.
Ride the correct category!
Racing is broken down into a couple of categories that are based on your power profile.
The categories are:
“A” which is FTP of 4.0+w/kg
“B” which is FTP of 3.2-3.9w/kg
“C” which is FTP of 2.5-3.1w/kg
“D” which is FTP of 1-2.4w/kg
Completing a fitness test like the 4DP power profile or the Half Monty on The Sufferfest app will provide you with the watts per kilogram (Wkg) range needed to accurately select your racing category. Remember, you might get your butt handed to you at first but as long as you commit yourself to try your best and find enjoyment in the battles throughout the race you’ll not only have fun… you’ll get stronger too! No one got fitter by sandbagging!
Learn the race routes!
With so many races on so many worlds, a little homework goes a long way to help you improve in a race on zwift. What may look like nothing more than a tiny little rise in the gradient could be the point all hell breaks loose and you get dropped, learn the nuance of the peloton and ensure you’re in a good position for when the racing really heats up. Learning is best done by racing the courses. Often, the races are held on a weekly basis so showing up for the same race or races each week is great because you learn the course, where on the course is your strength and weakness as well as you will start to see the same riders each week and learn who to watch out for. It is like turning up for your local weekly “Worlds” race but virtually.
Become a Power up Wizard.
A race is often won or lost with the deployment of a power-up at just the right time, but when is the right time? What power is best and what the heck is a power-up?
There are several types of power-ups:
Large Bonus: +250 experience points, or the equivalent of riding 12.5 kilometers.
Small bonus: +10 experience points, or the equivalent of riding .5 kilometers.
Lightweight (feather): This reduces your weight by 9.5kg for 15 seconds. Use on climbs, when weight matters the most.
Draft Boost (van): This increases the draft effect you are experiencing by 50% for 30 seconds. In a double draft event, this powerup will give you 3x the standard draft effect. Use at higher speeds (flats and descents) when you are already drafting off another rider (since this power-up only helps when you are drafting.)
Aero Boost (helmet): This makes you more aerodynamic (reduces your drag by 25%) for 15 seconds. Use at higher speeds (flats and descents), especially when no draft is available (although it is still useful when drafting.)
Burrito: This makes you undraftable for 10 seconds. Event-only, not available in a race. Use when attacking off the front so opponents have to work harder to follow you.
Cloaking (ghost): This makes you invisible to other riders for 10 seconds. Event-only, not available in a race. Use when you want to get away from one or more riders. Deploy then hammer, in hopes that you will create enough of a gap that your opponents can’t grab your wheel.
One thing is for sure… don’t save a power-up in the hope you can use it in the sprint at the end of a race if you’re just hanging onto the coattails of the front group! It is better to use that power up to get yourself back in the draft and near the front then save it just in case you have to sprint for 123rd place! Knowing your power-ups is vital as well so you can disregard the burrito and the ghost unless you’re running miscalibrated machinery and can attack from the peloton alone! The draft boost is underrated and is often misused having a draft boost means you need to be counterintuitive with how you use it… drop off a little (still within the draft) before deploying it because as soon as you’re out the front it becomes useless! If you consider yourself a “sprinter” rather than a “climber” the feather is your best friend! Use it to make getting up hills or chasing a potential breakaway on a climb much easier …and the aero should always be saved for that sprint at the end, that is unless you’re about to be shelled!
Train for it!
Racing on Zwift requires a completely different energy system from that of road racing or road riding. More akin to a crit than anything else Zwift racing requires long durations over your FTP with little to no rest… this means a specific eRacing workout plan could be just the thing you need! Sufferfest offers a structured eRacing workout plan to increase your ability to endure and suffer the efforts needed for success in a Zwift race!
Join a team!
Joining a team can transform your engagement and success in a zwift race. With teammates in a race, you can play to your advantages and get your teammates to soften up those riders around you who you see as the dangerous riders in the sprint… Alternatively, you can be the one chasing down breaks and gambling off the front yourself knowing back in the peloton your teammates are having an easy ride! Riding is fun, riding with your mates is better!
Above all enjoy your racing on Zwift…you can take it as seriously as you want too but always make sure you’re having fun along the way, there are leagues to enter to get that competitive spirit bubbling over as well as one-off races and with races happening almost every half hour during the day there’s always an event you can jump in to and race folk!
Chris Pritchard is an ex track sprint cyclist competing at two Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2014. He has been on Zwift since the platform’s inception in 2015 and has spent many hours honing his power-up skills to great effect winning over 20 Zwift races! Chris is also the host of the Chris Pritchard Cycling News Show on YouTube.