Zwift Racing tips and experiences

To help riders who are new to racing in Zwift or want to start racing in Zwift, let’s please share our own experiences and tips.

New racers: please feel free to ask questions!!

I will start by saying that Zwift races are not like racing bikes in real life. So training alone isn’t enough. It requires experience and learning how to race in that environment. With that in mind, the more you race in Zwift, the more you learn how to race there.

Good races to start are the Fearless Beginner Races and short crits/one lap races. Preferably in your category and women-only. I would not recommend iTTs or TTTs as a way to learn how to race in Zwift, unless those are the only events you plan on attending.

The mindset going into these is that they are “training races” where your sole goal is to gain experience, and not win. Learn race dynamics, drafting, and positioning.

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Thank you for starting this thread!! I have this thread bookmarked!!

Zwift races always start hard and fast. You need to start spinning up your power about 10-15 seconds before the gate drops and be at threshold and climbing to VO2 when the race starts. Then be prepared to push hard for the first couple of minutes as the lead pack forms. It will settle down to something more manageable eventually, but until it does you need to be prepared mentally and physically to go hard and not give up too soon.

When I first started zwift racing, this was one of the hardest things to get good at. I’d manage to hold on to the front group for a minute or so and then decide I could not keep up the pace, give up and drop off the back. So it became my goal each race to try and hang on at the start for just a little bit longer until I was finally able to do it. Even now I sometimes think, I can’t keep this pace much longer! But I also know no one else can either, and sure enough, within about 30 long seconds or so, things begin to settle down.

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Thanks for this reminder!! I have heard this but so far seem to lose my nerve when it is so crazy at first and just assume “I can’t do it”. Gonna work on having the mindset of “yes I CAN do it”!!!

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Totally agree @Stefanie! Even in group rides I tend to find it harder to stay with the front pack - I hadn’t thought about starting harder until our team captain reminded us to do that going into Stage 3. So I made sure to be spinning up at some decent watts before the banner drop and kept it up and was able to stay with the front group. It did settle down after a bit, but yes, it gets close to when you think ‘not sure i can keep this up!’ - i know this contributed to me being able to finish where I did on Sunday. I also tried to stay in the middle of the blob and that worked out really well for me. I was able not to get dropped and avoiding the need to do any significant catch ups and I didn’t take the front too much.

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Yup the fast and hard starts. I still remember my very first race where I basically was left in the dust in the pen and just “what happened!”

I did a lot of mix races in my category to start with and I think I learned a lot about how starts trying to follow the guys.

Zwift races = carb burners. In some crazy way they arent very different from my sport XCO (cross country olypic) with hard starts and hard racing from the get go to the end for about 1 hour.

A very common mistake is to burn too much energy by not drafting. Let say front is pushing 3.0 w/kg. Very many riders will push the same, or maybe 2.9 and be on the second row. In this case its actually possible to push less (i dont remember the numbers in detail but I think its around 20 % less) but still stay in the pack. You can see it in the results list, not uncommon that the winners has used less watts/ w/kg or energy winning because they were drafting smart. Practice makes perfect, so doing group rides or small races and really see how far you can pull the draft experience (how little effort you can di and still hang on) is my advice :slight_smile:

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Excellent points above. It’s very true about the drafting, and in my experience being second row is the best position for taking advantage of the draft and being able to react and follow any attacks.

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I thought this was an interesting blog post about the capabilities of top ranked zwifters :slight_smile:

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@Silje great post. Results are interesting but not surprising, considering their training and racing goals. Looks like they used the Critical Power (CP) protocol to determine their power curve and capacity above aerobic and anaerobic threshold and VO2 Max. I know they claim that the VO2 tests are within 3% of a Lab result, but I am skeptical that a 2.5 min all-out effort will be that close. A VO2 Max of above 90 is BIG and very few people have that. Lab testing is the Gold Standard and the only precise test for VO2 Max. On the other hand, a CP test is actually quite accurate when compared to other power tests for determining “threshold”.

The main takeaway here aside from the technical stuff is that these Zwift racers produce more intense efforts (threshold and above-threshold), relatively speaking, and as such use more glycogen. That makes sense because the races are sorter and more intense. Pros that participate in long and multi-day long events rely more on endurance and use more fat as fuel. Although, remember, we all use both fat and glycogen, just in various degrees and the pros on the road deplete their glycogen just as much- but they rely and use more fat from lower intensities. Note that they compare the racers with Pro-Continental Teams and not World Tour Teams.

Lastly, they call the study a “Metabolic Profile”, but a true metabolic profile can only be achieved in the Lab, with several protocols in place, including fasting.

Here is a good article explaining how to calculate Critical Power:

I will do a separate post on this, as I think it’s very interesting and I like CP more than using FTP. I will also share my power curve as an example. I have a bigger capacity above Critical Power, but I don’t believe I have a high VO2 Max (I never got tested).

Here is a more technical article:

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Exciting!

I have done my lab vo2 max a few years ago. it wasnt very good, and it was before working with you so my training was mainly sweetspot/threshold intervals. I think I scored 51 (i never remember the letters you put after the number) I think my training induced asthma has been holding me back to really do short and hard intervals but it turns out it doesnt provoke attacks, attacks happens when my HR is very elevated for a long time (like 30 mins +)

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Not being a very scientific person I fint it hard to understand the concepts of critical power… especially the last link I just cant read… I need carbs now. Time to eat.

You don’t need to, that’s what I am here for! To understand all this stuff and translate into training plans!! LOL

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Abosultely amazing!!! I love that our training plans have such sound and proven scientific foundations!!! And that we have someone so knowledgable to guide us with her diabolical training plans!! :rofl: Thanks Coach!!

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