This morning I used my test account to hop into a ZHQ Beta Crit City race as a D rider. Zwift has begun using these races to test their still-beta anti-sandbagging controls, and I wanted to see them in action!
My plan: click around and watch riders until the green cones started flying. See how much the green cone affects their speeds, and see if I can get a green cone myself. Then see what the final results look like after riders have been coned.
Before we begin, I want to make a couple things clear:
- Zwift’s anti-sandbagging controls are in early beta. They’re testing the feature in ZHW Beta Races currently, but the feature is being fine-tuned. The final product will certainly be more polished and precise than what we’re currently seeing.
- My test account ride was done in such a way as to not interfere with the actual race in any significant way.
Here’s a quick video I cobbled together so you can see portions of the race live:
Starting Up: the Out of Category Alert
I signed up for the event from within the game itself, and when I clicked to join the event the following popup appeared:
This alert is better than nothing. But it’s also far from ideal! This won’t change signup behavior much, if at all, because there’s no way for me to easily join the correct category from this popup. I would have to exit the game and restart, or use the Companion app to change my category signup, in order to make the swap. Nobody will do that. Or at least, almost nobody.
Instead, I should see a popup when I click to sign up, and that popup should drive me toward joining the category I should be in. Something like this (excuse my terrible UI design, it was a quick job):
Some would say that Zwift shouldn’t even allow riders to join a too-low category. I’d be OK with that, but I also understand Zwift’s position of not wanting to be too heavy-handed in this first iteration.
The Green Cone of Shame
Once the race began, everything was “normal” for the first ~4 minutes or so. Then the green cones began to fly! The first cones were given to two riders in the group of three off the front. Perfect! Zwift race sandbagging legend Bath Salts was one of these riders, and I was happy to see him (or her?) coned.
Cones began to pop up in the main peloton behind the leaders as well. Eventually there were probably 10 coned riders in a field of 95 – but it was hard to keep track because the riders were scattered all over the course. Here you can see what the cone looks like – it floats over the rider’s head, and shows up in the rider list as well.
What does the green cone look like from a rider’s perspective? I pushed my one-minute power up to 500 watts and got the cone in short order – here’s what popped up:
The message says “We’ve ratcheted back your power a bit”, but my wattage readout didn’t change at the top-right. My w/kg number in the rider list was hidden, which seems odd to me. Is Zwift actually reducing my power? Or are they just artificially slowing me down? The answer is unclear.
What about Throttling?
My rider definitely slowed after receiving the Green Cone of Shame, but it wasn’t an extreme slowdown. I would estimate it knocked ~5kph off of my speed at 300 watts (4 w/kg). But that’s just a guesstimate.
The riders who were off the front and received the cone were able to stay away from the much larger chasing group, despite being coned and slowed. My conclusion here, based on this one limited test, is that the cone isn’t slowing people down quite enough. They shouldn’t be able to stay off the front, or even hang with the front pack, after getting coned. There needs to be more of a performance penalty.
Lastly, I wanted to check the race results screen. Would coned riders not be included in the list? Would they show up as being coned? Unfortunately, neither of those is currently the case. Coned riders show up just like other riders in the rankings (several of the riders in this screenshot were coned, but you can’t tell be looking at it):
The rider who “won” this particular race (R. Foucault) certainly must have exceeded the triggers for the Green Cone. But he was never coned. Was he running an outdated version of Zwift, or was there some other issue?
Again, I want to stress that this is an early beta of Zwift’s anti-sandbagging features. It feels a bit unfair to even write about the features in their current state, but at the same time, the racing community is wondering what the feature looks like, how it works, and what the current state of implementation is.
I think there’s a lot of promise here – it just needs some fine-tuning. And that’s exactly what beta testing is for! So keep up the good work, HQ. We’re all rooting for you!
Have you tried one of the beta races yet? Seen any green cones? Been coned yourself? Share your experience below!