No matter what, grabbing a green sprint leader jersey in Zwift is going to require some high wattage. If you’ve got the power, but still struggle to grab that jersey, there’s a good chance you could take it by making a few small improvements.
The good news is, I lead the Pacific Sprintapalooza: a ride is aimed at helping Zwifters improve their sprints. After witnessing many thousands of sprints from riders on all Zwift’s courses, I’ve got a few pointers that may be especially helpful to new Zwifters. Five tips to help you go green!
Note: I’ve sorted these pointers in order from “most honorable” to “most 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 15-20 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. And that just comes with learning the course.
#2: Use the Draft
The biggest force slowing you down in a Zwift sprint is (virtual) air resistance. Drafting reduces air resistance so you can achieve higher speeds at the same wattage. Find a way to draft off one or more fast-moving riders and your sprint times will improve dramatically!
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 start your sprint is near the back of the sprinter group, so you can use each rider’s draft as you sprint through the pack.
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 lead-out’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 15 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.
The feather is also a helpful powerup for sprinters, especially if the sprint is uphill. Since it reduces your weight by 9kg for 15 seconds, you’ll move faster uphill and on the flats, and accelerate faster as well.
#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.
Got More Sprint Tips?
Share them below in the comments!