An effective team time trial requires a lot of coordination and focus. A directeur sportif (DS) helps take care of the coordination so a team’s riders can focus on the race!
Is this something you’d like to do? Paul Fitzpatrick fills the role of DS for the Socks4Watts eRacing team in their Zwift team time trials. He’s put together an instructional video to help others fill DS responsibilities for their own teams.
How to DS a Zwift Team Time Trial
What does a DS do?
A directeur sportif helps direct a team before and during a race, giving them information they need to prepare and perform. The DS helps make decisions about team strategy and tactics, and they often offer encouragement. In Zwift races, a DS usually communicates through Discord or another voice chatting service.
A DS may take on responsibilities like:
- Knowing the team’s start time and managing the countdown
- Telling riders how long they should be on the front and how hard to push
- Calling each rider to pull through and drop back
- Altering turn power and duration for riders as needed
- Encouraging and motivating riders
- And more
The job of a DS will depend partly on the rules and format of the race, whether it’s part of WTRL or the ZRL or another event.
Tips for a DS
When directing a team, you’ll want to be able to see and hear them. Make sure you’re in the same world as your racers and you have followed all of the team members. Once the race has started, use “Fan View” in the Companion App to locate one of the team’s riders (read more about watching other Zwift racers here). Also, make sure everyone is logged in to your chosen communication service so they can hear you.
The DS comes up with a plan for how hard racers will work and when, including the turns racers will take and their order. This can range from broad to specific – and Paul gets really specific in this video!
First, he refers to Zwift Insider’s 4-rider drafting speed tests and our look at how rider weight impacts speed. Using those, he has created a Zwift TTT Calculator spreadsheet that helps work out each racer’s target power in each position.
A good DS also will know the day’s race course well and inform the team about it. Paul advises noting flat sections, undulating sections where splits could happen, longer climbs, and recovery opportunities on descents.
During the race
While the race is on, the DS will need to make some quick decisions, like whether the riders’ turns need to change, whether to close a split or keep going, or whether to push harder or back off. These decisions are much easier to make and call out when you’re not on the limit in a race effort!
Finally, to show how this all comes together, Paul shares footage from a TTT race that he DS’ed for the Socks4Watts Aero Unicorns team. For more detailed explanations and instructions, watch the full video above.
Have you ever been a DS for a TTT event? Share your tips below! Got questions? Share those as well!
Wow, Thanks for the write up. Hopefully people will find it useful. 🤓😀
Great post and excellent video/spreadsheet from Paul!
We have a DS for our ZRL team, it’s very helpful for the TTT, Jeremy sends us all the routes, course details, formation, how long on the front and then calls the turns etc.
Really useful for sure.
How is Target Power defined for a given event / course?
Antonio, the target power is based on the capbility of the riders, not the course. For the flat I would suggest around 115-120% of the main bulk of your team, as you will be asking them to do intervals at this power. Longer turns for those where the number is closer to FTP, shorter (or not at all) for those over 120%. Hope that helps
Is there a good formula for calculating length of turn in relation to % of FTP? I’ve been staring at your spreadsheet for an hour with no luck but I’m sure there’s an easy way to do it!
Hi Dan, There isn’t really a formula for this, and you would likely find it will change during the race anyway. However, if you look at something like TrainerRoad, when doing Vo2 max efforts, a typical intervals at 120% might be 2 or even 3 mins. This is VERY hard and is usally followed by a few mins at 50%. I therefore use 120% as a good basis for the bulk, but am only asking for around 30-60s efforts. You could go higher for a short race, but would likely go a bit lower for a race over 60mins.
What do you mean “of the main bulk of the team”?
Average? the FTP most riders have?
we have 270,259,255,253,252,235, 228
avg would be 250 so, for the TTT of RGV (24km flat) we could aim at 280W. But then the guy at 228 would be pulling at 123% of his FTP
Hi Simone, Yes you are exactly right. I am I would say 280W is about perfect, in fact I would potentially go a bit higher, push for 285-290. It would mean that 228 guy is at 125% of his FTP, but you might only ask him to do this for 30s and possibly even skip a turn or two for him, when 270 guy could be doing 60-90s at only 105% of FTP. Everyone is contributing at a power that is higher than them all churning, but the work is divided up. Another option might be to ask 235 and… Read more »
Oh wow. This makes me want to DS instead of riding but can I take the pressure? 🙂 Very informative, thank you.
Let me know if you do Heather!
Great video. I love doing this for my team and believe that we had really great results in the ZRL because of our good performance in the TTT. You are right though it is super hard to ride and do this, I was always riding so often I was at the back or skipped a turn to concentrate on telling others what to do (it’s pretty hard to talk and put in a big effort!). Going to check out the spreadsheets as we never got that scientific! We always aimed for a kph that we knew we could sustain as… Read more »
Hi Paul – The table in the spreadsheet which is riders by position in line – how do you work that out? I did a sort by FTP on the by FTP chart but wasn’t sure if it was supposed to do something or if I needed to do something on the “by position in line” table. thx
Thanks for the question. In truth the order probably doesn’t matter too much. IRL TTT tend to sprinkle the stronger (more watts) riders through the group and sandwich the less strong inside the line. Not really an issue in Zwift, but I followed that logic anyway with riders in order of power 1,6,2,5,3,4 for a 6 person TTT. The reason I left 7&8 at the end kind of contradicts myself above, but just means if you using the doc for a 6 person ZRL team, rather than the 8 person WTRL race, you just end up with empty lines at… Read more »
You don’t need to do anything after that, the order is all laid out for you, and you can decide a target power based on the numbers you generate in the first set of tables (the colourful one) . I see the logic on using a speed based target, to make sure that the person on the front doesn’t shoot off. All I would say is that speed is a result of power and terrain, whereas power is an absolute, so does not mean somone is constantly trying to ‘chase’ a speed. Plus how do you know beforehand that the… Read more »
Thanks! I have set up for our team for ZRL this week and I used it when I led a training session last week. It’s really useful and as we have a spread of 3 strong riders (heavier) but its a mainly flat course and I know that we (the 3 strong riders) can push well above FTP for short periods what it has highlighted is that in order to stay together we really need to protect our newest team members and not put them on the front at all. If the 3 of us take turns at around 110-115… Read more »
Fantastic to hear Laura, hope it goes well! Let me know
Thanks for that – really helpful for a newbie like myself. Great insight into the workings of a TTT as well
Brilliant write up and so useful. The spreadsheet is awesome. However has raised a question around teams with a big watts gap despite similar W/kg. Our biggest hitter has a threshold of around 375 watts (but is 85kg). We then have 5 riders all around 300-305 (all around 75kg) and 2 with 285 (but both 65kg). Is it better on a flat course to simply go on biggest watts. So get our big guy to ride 370 on the front and try and hold it (even at 370 our next rider is still way over threshold so we would rotate… Read more »
Hi Andy, Simple answer is that on the flat, raw watts win over w/kg. You in theory could have your 375W guy doing 95% of FTP at 356W and your 300-305 group would be also at 95% in his draft at 280ish. If you have any of them on the front, even doing 120% for a minute…quite hard.. this is 360W, so only just matching your top guy. I would suggest you agree that your top guy does long turns at 350-360 and also use him to close gaps, whilst you use the 300 pack in short turns each to… Read more »
I’ve done rider-DS and team car DS duties a few times now and I have to say, it’s a great way of getting involved with racing. You do mention them, but I have two observations from limited experience. First, an extra duty. Keeping an eye on the front and back of team to look out for gaps. When the riders are full-gas, they might not notice they’re gapping, either in front or behind them. It’s a great time to give a bit of encouragement to hang on, get that draft benefit. Second, you use FTP in Watts above and that’s… Read more »
Good points Stephen and thanks. Though I would say that the point of all the research is that w/kg is not the best way to manage a team on the flat. I instead agree a raw watts figure on the front that many of the team can achieve for greater or lesser periods of time. Much easier for someone to see their watts and know they are doing what they should be on the front. Weight only really becomes an issue on inclines, and I do say it is good to move w/kg at these points. Whatever works for you… Read more »
Read more and I’m totally sold. Especially having been yelled at by a weaker team member who got shortchanged on my use of w/kg in a more recent ride 🙂
Next time, I’m going to use the spreadsheet and see where it gets us.
For a team with disparate power numbers is it better to pick a w/kg number and calculate everyone’s power based on that rather than picking a power number for the group? We were trying to back into a consistent effort across the group and thought that might be a valid way to do it.
It isn’t really because again, on the flat, a w/kg number is not consistent and you may be selling yourself short. If you have big disparities, then either one rider is likely having to operate way above threshold to hit the w/kg number or one may be way below. If you say 4w/kg on the front, then how does this take into account the best that each rider can offer in raw power. I think the Zwift Community obsession with Watts/kg is quite detrimental to fast times. If you have a rider who can do 300w at threshold, but another… Read more »
Great Article and Thanks for sharing your Spreadsheet! One question regarding the “Riders Position in Line”, it doesn’t seem to be calculated according to the values, is this table created by your knowledge of the team? thanks in advance
Hi. I have had this question asked before actually. The order is less of an issue really in Zwift, but in real life teams, the ‘weaker’ riders tend to be sandwiched between stronger riders along the line, rather than leaving them at the back. The order i chose, once you sort them by FTP allows for this with an order of 1,6,2,5,3,4…the reason I put 7 and 8 on the bottom is a bit of a cheat for two reasons…1) It means if you doing a ZRL TTT with only 6, you don’t have blank spaces in the middle and… Read more »