1. 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 Zwift Companion 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 race’s rules, route, etc.

Since different races have different rules and routes it is important to read the race details completely so you can do your best and not get disqualified.

Choosing Your Category

Just like real-life racing, most Zwift races organize riders into categories based on fitness level. Different races use different categorization schemes, but most use this one:

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

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.

stravaSaving Your Ride

While most races are using the zlogger to track rider times, they also require that you save your ride to Strava. 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.)

Viewing Results at ZwiftPower.com

Head over to ZwiftPower.com to see how you placed against fellow racers. Most races will show provisional results immediately after the event, with finalized results available a few hours later once Strava scans are complete and the race organizer finalizes the results.

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. In fact, many races are now requiring ZwiftPower registration if you want to be included in the final results.

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, time your start so you’re pushing big watts when the timer hits 0, and be ready to dig deep to avoid being dropped right away from the faster groups.
  • Stay out of the wind: 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: if you have to stop riding to fix something you forgot, you’ve lost. 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 them, power-ups give you a slight edge when used smartly. Read the guide to power ups in Zwift >

Etiquette

  • Use the ride tag if requested: 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 if the race rules request it. 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 these races are just volunteers, so please treat them respectfully.

Want More?

Read my “5 Advanced Zwift Racing Tips” and “Get an edge with these advanced Zwift racing tips” posts.