Over the last few months, Zwift has become the number 1 platform to keep us together while training and racing indoors. Being in lockdown means that our method of racing has changed, but the excitement and the adrenaline are still there. For the majority of us, the Zwift platform has brought a whole new perspective to the sport, which means that we all need to adapt to this new style of racing. Even the strongest outdoor cyclist can lose many minutes if they are not used to the different strategies utilised in Virtual Racing.
Because a lot of triathlon club Melbourne athletes are new to Zwift over the last 6 months, Davey Black have have come up with some tips for you to be Zwift-ready for your next race so you can race smart and get the best result.
Get your system ready
In Virtual Racing, every second counts, having to stop for something like turning on your fan or grabbing your bottle will end up with you losing time.
- Zwift installed and up-to-date.
- Companion App on your phone or tablet.
- Strong wifi connection.
- Smart Trainer up and running and connected.
- Bike in good working order.
- Tires pumped up to recommended pressure.
- Nutrition for long races.
- One (or many) towels.
Enter the correct category
This is part of knowing yourself as an athlete. Most races are divided into A, B, C and D grade categories, each of them based on an individuals power to weight ratio. Getting into the wrong category will end up with you blowing yourself just to keep up with the group ahead of you for a couple of minutes or having it “too easy.”
There are many ways of knowing what your power to weight ratio is through Training Peaks or ZwiftPower, but if you are unsure, ask your coach you’ll know which category suits you best.
Know the type of race you are entering
Is drafting enabled? Is it on Road bikes or on TT bikes? How fast is each category? These are the questions you need to know when getting ready for your virtual race as the rules around each can drastically change the type of strategy you are expected to bring with you.
Feel free to ask your coach or message the race organiser if you have any doubt on this.
Know the course in advance
Every Zwift course will offer different challenges, and getting to know where they are will give you a big advantage over other riders.
If you have the chance, try doing an easy ride on the course the days prior to the race, give yourself plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the hills, the sprints, the KOMs and if there is any power up throughout the course.
Knowing the course in advance will help you know when to push hard and when to pull back, saving you energy and letting you moderate your race better.
Start strong in races where drafting is enabled
Usually the first couple of seconds are very frenetic, every athlete starts with full power to get the best position. A stronger start will mean that you will end up in a better group and in the long run you will have a better position.
When the race starts, you’ll have to put out a huge number of watts to stay with the front of the pack. Don’t worry though, as this usually lasts at most for 1 minute. After that, everyone gets comfortable in their group and you can get back to your planned speed.
As in real life, drafting someone will save energy (usually up to 30%), so it is in your best interests to find a strong, but suitable group.
The amount of people burning themselves out for not doing a proper warm up is much higher than what you might imagine. A good warm up (at least 20 minutes prior to the race) will be extremely good for you to be ready for racing.
Having a proper warm up not only will allow you to push hard when needed but will also prevent injuries.
Know your group. Know the numbers.
In Zwift Races, the watts you put out are not as important as the w/kg coming from the riders around you.
When riding in a group, check the numbers on the right corner of your screen, make sure to analyse how much power everyone is really putting into the race and plan ahead.
Sometimes it is good to know how far is the group ahead and behind you. If you are in a group where most cyclists are pushing at 3 w/kg and you are pushing at 4 w/kg with no intention of catching someone ahead of you, you are wasting energy and only helping the other riders around you.
Listen to your heart
Make sure your heart monitor is on. In the adrenaline of the race we might not feel it, but our heart is working hard and if we don’t pay attention to it, we might end up putting an incredibly high amount of watts in the first couple of kilometres only to end up suffering the last couple of them.
There is nothing on Zwift Racing as frustrating as blowing your legs or lungs out and having to finish the race on your own much later than what you were expecting.
Power ups are the spicy aspect of virtual racing. They give you a bit of an unexpected advantage (or disadvantage if you don’t know how to use them). Knowing when and where to use them can make the difference between a 1st and a 20th position in a matter of seconds.
As with any other video game, the best advice is to get on Zwift and learn when to use them for greatest efficiency. Follow the link for a full description of power ups.
If you have any question, doubt or want to clear anything, feel free to contact Coach Steve or Coach Nestor.
Enjoy your ride and Ride on!!