Top Tips for Successful Zwift Racing
Top Tips for Zwift Racing
Zwift racing has grasped the attention of many cyclists across the world. Our competitive urges have lead to a quest for another world of pain, suffering, and (Hopefully) stronger legs. Racing on Zwift is also bringing the world together to compete.
With numerous countries currently on lockdown due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and cyclists looking for other ways to focus their training in light of disrupted racing seasons, online cycling software platforms like Zwift are dramatically gaining in popularity.
The competitive cyclists amongst us have been watching the rise in eRacing bicycles and seeing it as an opportunity to focus all that hard work we've put into our fitness for racing.
Below are a selection of top tips for racing on Zwift to become an eRacing master.
Zwift Racing Categories
Categories are set per race by the organizer however it's generally acknowledged that for males the below are classifications. Some women races have the same categorization.
- A = 4.0 w/kg and above
- B = 3.2-3.9 w/kg
- C = 2.5-3.1 w/kg
- D = 2.4 w/kg and below
The values are based on your FTP. Functional Threshold Power is effectively the power you can sustain over a one hour period. Or approximated as 95% of the value from a 20-minute test.
As a personal example, I have a 20-minute test value from recent at 313 watts. This would equate to an FTP of 297 watts. I currently weigh 70k g and this would give me a watt per kilo measurement of 4.2. This puts me in the A race category against Pros from the world peloton and the up and coming eRacing specialists.
Zwift's racing categories don't currently mimic USA Cycling or British Cycling's racing bands and most active racers would likely find themselves in the A/ B Categories dependant on their FTP values.
Sign up to Zwiftpower.com
One of the most comprehensive resources for Zwift racing is the Zwiftpower website. It catalogs race results and rankings whilst setting a realistic race category for racers based on previous event results. They filter riders out of results that shouldn't be there ("Ringers" or "Sandbagging" as some know it) although there are means to manipulate your category by entering group rides.
Before signing up to Zwift Power you'll need to go into your individual settings to allow data access to the site as it's independent to Zwift.
The below information is calculated after a couple of endurance group rides and an 'A' Classification race at an average of 4.4 watts per kilo. As a result, I would be excluded from results for any event below B Classification.
Zwiftpower Rider Information
You'll Need a Heart Rate Monitor Too
One of the ways Zwift uses to test the level of stress you're putting your body through in a race is via heart rate monitor. Many races will stipulate you need an HRM to appear in official results.
There have been stories where people have used a road eBike attached to their trainer hence the need for heart-rate measurements. Yes, these riders were cheating themselves as much as anything as well as being disrespectful to the riders putting in maximum effort.
Wahoo's Tickr is a great heart rate monitor for when racing on Zwift
Download the Zwift Companion App for your Phone or Tablet
Head over to Google Play or your relevant Appstore and download the Zwift Companion App. It will help with a number of in-game aspects of racing. It will allow you to use your tablet or phone as a controller in general mode, offers a chat interface with other racers, and offers a comprehensive event listing alongside requirements to allow you to choose the right event for you.
You choose your races and appropriate category in the companion app.
Zwift Racing Tips- At the Start Prepare for a Sprint
Zwift races start hard and if you're racing in the A category they stay hard for a number of minutes. They're more like a cyclocross race where the first lap is often the hardest of a race as riders attempt to settle into a high placing before serious gaps open up. It's much harder to bridge those gaps further into a race when you're tired. This is one of the ways Zwift racing most differs from real-life road racing.
Be prepared by riding hard in the seconds before the starting klaxon goes off and aim to maintain a high wattage (Maybe 5-6 w/kg depending on your racing level) for a couple of minutes before settling into a more controlled workload around your FTP level.
Tips for Zwift Racing- Learn to Draft
Learn to Draft on Zwift- It's Not as Easy as Real-Life
Zwift is one of the few cycling platforms that have introduced drafting capabilities. It's nowhere like in real life wher you can save around 70% of the work to the guys in front of you however it will help you to save precious energy and subsequent wattage.
Sitting close to the front will allow you to react if the pace increases as well as giving you a view of your competition.
When you're in the draft your avatar will automatically sit up
Take care and look further than just the rider in front in case a gap does form to the next rider on the road as you will not receive an automatic notification to advise of this.
Learn about Zwift's Power-Ups for Racing
Some races will let you use Power-Ups, however, some races are pure and remove the computer-gaming element so you can focus on your race.
At the top of the screen look out for.
- Feather. Feather-light. This will make you lighter by 9.5 kilograms or 21 lbs for 15 seconds and is therefore great to use on a climb. To put into context how well this should work. A 70 kg rider riding at 4 w/kg up a climb would shoot up to climbing at 4.6 w/kg.
- A Truck- Drafting Bonus. This increases the draft effect you are experiencing by 50% for 30 seconds. Great if you're struggling in a group or want to ease your way to the front of a peloton to attack.
- Aerodynamic Helmet- Aerodynamic Boost. This increases your CdA to make you more aerodynamic for 15 seconds and therefore best used at high speeds.
- Burrito- Breakaway Burrito Boost. This Zwift power-up will make you undraftable for 10 seconds so ideal if you're in a break and want to despatch your breakaway companions
- Ghost- This invisibility cloak will mean that racers cannot see you for 10 seconds. Great for an attack.
An important tip for Zwift racing is that powerups don't refresh if they are not used. They then refresh once you go through a Sprint, KOM, or Finish Line.
Zwift Power-Ups for Racing
Course Knowledge is Key to Winning
As with real-world racing scenarios there are parts of the course that suit an attack. Tactics will often depend on the length of race as well as the terrain,
Save some efforts for climbs as these are where races tend to go ballistic. There are stories of people in C Category climbing at around 6 w/kg. Be prepared to go hard on the run-up to climbs to gain momentum.
If you race outdoors consider choosing races that are less than you're accustomed to on the roads to begin with and build up from there.
All The Kit You Need For The Virtual Startline
Your set-up is a crucial factor in competing on Zwift. You'll need adequate ventilation, hydration, and fuelling in longer races.
Below is a selection of key items you may require
- Laptop / Tablet charging cables (A flat battery could be a catastrophe)
- Fan/s for ventilation
- Windows open
- Large screen television for better visibility
- Bluetooth speaker or music system
- Multiple sports bottle with your favorite sports drink
- Trainer mat for the potential pile of sweat to protect the carpet
- Bike protectors to prevent corrosion of key parts like your headset
- Zwift Companion App set up on Phone or Tablet
Everyone will have their own pre-ride checklist. It's also worth considering where you're setting up your trainer. On occasion's an airy spot outside would be a consideration though on a minus temperature winter night it would not be a wise choice.
Choose the Right Tools For the Task-Get the Right Bike for Zwift Racing
Racing on Zwift isn't just about your legs and lungs. There are some strategic decisions you really need to make before you enter the race. A top tip for Zwift Racing is to ensure you have the right bike.
If you're doing a race on the dirt roads arond the Mayan Ruins a Gravel Bike or Mountain Bike is likely to be more suited that a road bike. Therefore pay attention to the race circuit and choose your weapon wisely.
Where possible upgrade your frame and equipment for on course gains. For many races with the exception of going up the Alp du Zwift the Tron Zwift Concept Z1 bike is the fastest bike available however for those of us that don't have the tenacity or mental strength to spend our time climbing 50,000 meters of vertical ascent we're left to work our way through the Levels and upgrade when suitable.
Do You Have Tips for Successful Racing on Zwift?
We'd love to know more from you in the comments below.