Racing on Zwift is hands-down the most challenging and fun thing you can do indoors on a bike. It is a heart-pumping, leg-burning experience which can be a little daunting if you haven’t done it before… so here are some key tips to get you started.
Finding a Race
Head over to the Zwift calendar or use the mobile app to see a list of upcoming races.
Once you’ve chosen a race, read the race description. It should contain everything you need to know about that particular race’s rules, route, etc.
Since different races have different rules, routes, rider categories, etc it is important to read the race details completely so you can plan your race and follow the rules.
Choosing Your Rider Category
Just like real-life racing, most Zwift races break riders up into categories based on fitness level. Different races use different categorization schemes, but most currently use this:
A: 4.0 w/kg FTP or higher
B: 3.2 w/kg to 4.0 w/kg FTP
C: 2.5 w/kg to 3.2 w/kg FTP
D: Under 2.5 w/kg FTP
Note: if you don’t know what “FTP” is referring to check out What is FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and why does it matter on Zwift? If you don’t know your FTP, check out How can I measure my FTP?
Some races have no categories at all, while others base their categorization off of other criteria such as your best segment time on Strava. Again–read the instructions and this will be made clear.
Still unsure of your category? Take the high road and place yourself in the tougher category for your first race. Respect fellow racers: it’s better to get your butt kicked by stronger riders than to place yourself in an easy category and blow away the field. You can always gracefully drop to an easier category next race if you discover that’s where you belong.
Joining a Race
Joining the race is just like joining any other group ride on Zwift, although most races request that you add the race abbreviation and your category to your profile’s last name so racers are easily visible in the rider list. For example: my name for a recent race was “Eric Schlange ZTR (B)”.
Other than that, it’s as easy as firing up Zwift and clicking to join the event. See “Joining a group ride or race in Zwift” for more details.
While most races are using the zlogger to track rider times, they also require that you save your ride to Strava (you do use Strava, right?). This allows ZwiftPower.com to pull your segment times and other race data. (Note: make sure your Strava activity is not marked “private,” otherwise ZwiftPower cannot see your ride data.)
Race instructions will tell you how to format your title when saving your race–typically you need to add the race tag and your category to the ride title, just like you did for your profile in the game. For example: I add “ZTR (B)” to my Strava ride title when I do the ZTR race.
Viewing Results at ZwiftPower.com
Head over to ZwiftPower.com to see how you placed against fellow racers. Most races will show results immediately after the race, with a more finalized list available a few hours later after Strava scans are complete.
You should also register on ZwiftPower.com and link up your Strava account so you can take advantage of the additional features (like team names) offered by the site.
Strategy & Tips
Much could be written about race strategy, but here are a few important tips specific to Zwift racing:
- Be ready for a fast start: the first 3-5 minutes of most Zwift races are crazy, with riders pushing hard to establish breaks. Be warmed up before the race, and be ready to dig deep to avoid being dropped right away from the faster groups.
- Stay in the draft: The draft effect in Zwift is strong, and you won’t be able to come close to winning unless you take advantage of it for most of the race. Just like the real world, drafting lets you conserve energy so you’ve got something left in the tank when it’s time to break away. Learn more here >
- Know your course and plan your breakaway: Different races are different lengths, on different routes. Get familiar with the route so you can properly pace yourself and break away from your group at just the right time if you’ve got legs left.
- Be prepared: Since you don’t have to travel anywhere to race on Zwift it’s easy to approach it casually and forget important things like having enough water, bringing a towel, turning on the fan, etc. If you have to stop riding to fix something you forgot, you won’t win. So make sure you’re prepared before the race starts! Check out this Pre-Ride Checklist.
- Upgrade your ride: as you hit higher levels and achievements in Zwift you unlock faster bikes and wheels. Use them, because the time difference between the “basic” and fastest Zwift setups in a 1-hour race is over 60 seconds! See Test Lap Data for hard numbers on bike/wheel speeds, or the 5 fastest bikes in Zwift, and how to get them if you just want to know which bike to use.
- Use power ups strategically: if the race allows their use, power ups give you a slight edge when used smartly. Read the guide to power ups in Zwift >
- Always use the ride tag: your fellow racers need to know who they’re competing against, so place that race tag (eg, KISS (B)) after your last name to make it clear. Using the tag also helps get the word out about the race to non-racers on course.
- Be kind to race organizers and leaders: the good folks organizing and leading these races are just volunteers. If you must complain, please be respectful and don’t do it via group messaging in the middle of the race.