No matter how you look at it, grabbing the green sprint leader jersey in Zwift is going to require some strong power numbers. If you’ve got the power, but still struggle to grab that jersey, there’s a good chance you are making one or more common mistakes.
Only two Zwifters of each gender can wear the green sprint leader’s jersey at any given time on any given course. While they’re very exclusive, the sprint jerseys are also the easiest of the leader’s jerseys to grab since they require the shortest efforts.
If you want to nab a green jersey but just can’t seem to make it happen, here are five tips to help you get in the green. Note: I’ve sorted these tips in order from “most honorable” to “quite pathetic.”
#1: Start Fast
Apart from wattage, your entry speed into the sprint section is the biggest factor determining your finish time. Many would-be sprinters lose the sprint before it even starts by delaying their effort until they cross the start line! A lack of familiarity with the course is one reason for this, but perhaps it’s also because they’re thinking of sprinting indoors like they do outdoors, where everyone starts sprinting near a certain spot, and the only real goal is to beat those around you. But this is Zwift, and we’re going for the shortest time on a particular section of road: so you need to enter it at or near top speed!
I find if I start building speed 30 seconds before the start line I’m typically in a good spot to take the jersey. Of course, the trick here is knowing where the sprint starts.
#2: Use the Draft
Drafting allows you to achieve higher speeds at the same wattage, so if you can find a way to draft off one or more fast-moving riders going into or during the sprint, your time will improve.
I notice the biggest time benefit from drafting when I’m in a group ride with at least several other sprinters. The best place to be is toward the back of the sprinter group, so you can use each rider’s draft as you sprint through the pack. (Logically, if all you do is stay in one rider’s draft during the entire sprint, the rider in front of you may win the sprint instead!)
You may be riding with a friend who is willing to give you a lead out for the sprint. This takes practice to execute well, but if your leadout’s pace is such that you can push yourself hard and stay on their wheel before the sprint and through most of the actual segment, they can let off their power with 5 seconds to go and you can fly through the finish for the win.
#3: Use a Power Up
The aero helmet is far and away the most useful power up for sprinters, because it makes you more aerodynamic (reduces your CdA by 25%) for 30 seconds. The only trick here is timing: try to trigger is before you begin your sprint (boosting your entry speed) but wait long enough so the power up doesn’t run out until the last second or two of your effort.
The draft boost (van) is also a useful power up for sprinters, but trickier to use because it only works when you are drafting another rider. The draft boost power up increases the draft effect you are experiencing by 50% for 30 seconds. The challenge here is to get yourself into a position where you have several fairly strong sprinters ahead of you so you can trigger the power up then sprint through your “leadouts,” benefiting from the draft of each rider as you fly past and leave them crying.
#4: Go Against the Flow
On Watopia and London the “reverse sprints” are much less traveled than the forward ones. Hit the sprint sections in the reverse direction and you stand a much better chance of wearing green.
Not sure how to find or ride the reverse sprint? Just ride the forward sprint, pedal for a few hundred meters after you’re finished, then flip a u-turn (down arrow or Zwift Companion button). You’re now heading into the reverse sprint!
#5: The World Less Traveled
Truly desperate to wear that sprint jersey? Use the world hack to place yourself on a different course than the vast majority of Zwifters are riding. Yes, it’s a rather pathetic win: but some days that little boost is a welcome one.
Here’s how to do it right. “H.K. Heuristics” hits the segment with good speed, triggers his aero boost beforehand, and holds high power throughout.
And here’s how not to do it (sorry, Chris). Pritchard is a super strong and experienced rider but his execution of this particular sprint is all wrong: starting too late, no power up, no drafting. Even with his power numbers, there’s no way he’s taking green when he starts his sprint at the line!