Whether by accident or design, Zwifters who “sandbag” in races cause the community a whole heap of angst. And whilst complaint posts about Zwifters racing in categories below their abilities have been a constant low hum since beta, the influx of new riders has seen a fresh peak in these kind of grouses.
Now, not before time according to some, we are going to see HQ act. Starting soon, there will be a four-pronged approach to persuading Zwifters to enter the race category, (A, B, C or D) which best matches their power in w/kg.
The initiative, revealed by senior game team member Jordan Rapp on Episode 81 of the Zwiftcast, will be rolled out gradually and will start with selected events.
A Bit of Backstory
It is important to note that not all sandbaggers are trying to cheat their fellow Zwifters in races. Many will enter the “wrong” category because they’re not clear on the detail of each category; because their set-ups are less than perfect or maybe even because English is not their first language.
But it’s also a reasonable assumption that, regrettably, some Zwifters get a kick out of “winning” a race unfairly.
In February Zwift CEO Eric Min, suggested that “ghosting” riders was the solution. This would have seen riders who exceeded some kind of power trigger point vanish and become invisible, although they would have finished the race.
Now that approach has changed.
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The Trigger Point
Jordan is still going to devise a trigger point that will prompt action. It will be a secret blend of both 1-minute and 5-minute power. Each of the B, C, and D categories will obviously have a different trigger point. Zwift holds this data on each racer and that’s what will be used a source.
The trigger point will be biased more toward 5-minute power as Jordan explains: ”5-minute power is a really good proxy for FTP. It’s pretty clear from 5-minute power the difference between an A or a B or a C and a D.” And the trigger point will stay secret so that racers don’t manipulate their performances to remain in a lower category. “People staying nought point zero zero one under the limit is not really what it’s meant for.”
When riders select a race category at signup, their 1-minute and 5-minute power will be used to decide if Zwift pops up a warning indicating that they risk being flagged. At least initially, Zwift will not prevent the actual signup. But they will present a warning.
If the trigger is hit during the race three things will happen:
- The Zwifter will get a new green “cone of shame”.
- They’ll be given a message suggesting they move up a category, indicated by an arrow.
- The racer’s power will be throttled, slowing them down but not bringing them to a standstill. As Jordan says: ”If you want to race in the Ds, that’s fine, we’ll just make you a D racer.”
Racers will, however, stay in the race and they will remain in the results.
Keeping It Light
The trigger points will remain under constant review and Jordan expects them to change as he gets feedback from the racing community – feedback he really wants to hear.
The approach is described as “light touch” with Jordan adding: ”I don’t want to whack these people with a huge hammer for something that might have been truly accidental.”
The rollout will be gradual, starting with selected events and even Jordan is not certain exactly when it will begin. The code has already been included in the game. The betting is that rollout will start once HQ has got ahead of dealing with the increased workload of the huge influx of new Zwifters and once all events have been synchronised as time-zones have changed across the
Will It Work?
I think this stands a chance of working well. Nobody likes getting slowed down and this makes the power throttling a powerful tool. Combined with an element of mild public approbation with a new green cone of shame, Zwifters racing in the “wrong” category will not be left in any doubt.
You can hear the full interview with Jordan in Episode 81 of the Zwiftcast.
What do you think of HQ’s plans to reduce sandbagging in races? Share below!