I’m not going to argue in favour of Zwift racing, I’ll save that for another post. 🙂
But to be clear, even when I give the argument it’s not going to be the kind of argument that seeks to persuade those who know that they don’t like racing.
Short version though: It’s a great way of tracking your individual performance and improvement, and in the case of bike racing it’s as much about co-operation and teamwork as it is about competition. There’s also a pretty big element of strategy in some kinds of bike races.
My argument in favour of racing is a bit like my discussion of caring about speed.
“Let’s just take it as given that some of us do care about speed, that it’s an aesthetic thing that doesn’t need an explanation, like preferring chocolate ice cream to vanilla ice cream. You can say what you like about chocolate but that doesn’t give reasons for the vanilla ice cream lover to switch.
That said, lots of us do care about speed and keep caring about speed as we age. From that point of view, this is mostly good news. Training still works, you can keep your speed, and slowing down isn’t a physiological necessity. Yay! There are bad news bits. Getting in that much training and the right kind of training becomes a lot more complicated. You don’t just have to care, you have to REALLY CARE. And there’s the rub.
I’m going to blog later about what I like about racing and speed. My pitch for chocolate ice cream as it were. I want to be clear what it is I’m doing when I do that. I’m describing what I get out of it, and what you might like about it too, but there aren’t reasons or arguments. It’s totally okay not to care and like what you like.”
OK, back on track, to the main point of this post. If you want to race on Zwift, first, get yourself over to ZwiftPower and register.
What’s ZwiftPower? “Put simply, ZwiftPower is a community-driven website that complements the Zwift app. It lets Zwift racers and race organisers track results and check out all the details of the races they’ve participated in, as well as monitoring and analysing their data.”
Read more about it here.
It’s the official results site for all Zwift races. You need to be on ZwiftPower to be actually in the race. Otherwise, with some rare exceptions, you’re just along for the ride.
Based on your performance and FTP ZwiftPower will assign you a category for racing. It also tracks your power in a range of different timed categories which let you know if you’re a good all rounder, a sprinter, or best at long endurance efforts.
It’s not the most intuitive website around but there’s lots of information about teams, races, performance, and results.
Second, start by trying out some individual time trials. It’s just you and your bike against the clock. There’s no drafting and no interaction with other bikes.
Here’s Zwift’s explanation:
“A time trial is a race between you and the clock. It’s the “Race of Truth.” No drafting, no teammates, no tactical games – just you and your bike, trying to cover a certain distance in the fastest time you can. They work a little differently than other races on Zwift. When you sign up for a TT event, you’ll get an individual start time (equal to or after the event’s start time). Make sure to log in and join the event before that time, and your avatar will line up on one of the conveyor belts in the starting pen. These belts will move riders up and release them in staggered starts. Start pedaling before the countdown hits zero. When it’s time for your row to leave the pen, your avatar will speed up to 20 miles per hour for a rolling start. Cross the line and it’s go time!”
Some races automatically put you on a time trial bike but if not go to your garage in Zwift and select the time trial bike.
Time trials are a great intro to racing and they’re a great way to mark progress over time.
My fave is La Bicicletta Toronto Supper TT, Wednesday at 630 pm ET. Often it’s on Fuego Flats, 15 km, which I also love.
Third, having done some ITTs check out out your FTP and go back and see what category ZwiftPower says you are and then go out and do some short, road races, where you can draft with other people and work together to reach the line.
The nicest group on Zwift, the HERD, has a dedicated beginners series.
There’s also the Fearless Beginners Race – Women’s Only.
My club, TFC, also has a beginners’ category in our Friday night series. It’s usually shorter and flatter than the main race but it’s unforgiving in terms of power and categories. You get DQed if you go over the watts per kilo for D. It’s not so useful if you’re a speedy beginner!
Fourth, okay you’re on ZwiftPower and you’re doing some ITTs and some beginner races, what’s next? I love team time trials. I also love racing with a club and the camraderie that comes with that. You can try out a bunch of Zwift bike clubs, check out their vibe, and their regular racing schedule and commitment. At TFC we run a Monday night and a Friday night race as well as taking part in the WTRL team time trial series. Sarah is a member of ZSUN and you can read about her team members here.
Do you race on Zwift? What’s your ‘getting started’ advice?