How to Race on Zwift (Setup, Strategy, and More)

How to Race on Zwift (Setup, Strategy, and More)Score 100%Score 100%

Racing on Zwift is absolutely the most thrilling and challenging thing you can do on a bike trainer. If you’ve never tried it, you owe it to yourself to give it a go, no matter your abilities!

While Zwift racing is heart-pumping, leg-burning fun, getting set up properly can be a bit confusing. The reason for this is simple enough: racing was largely brought into Zwift through the grassroots efforts of the community. While ZwiftHQ has added many race-friendly features over time, getting set up to race properly on Zwift is still not an intuitive “one-click” task.

But we’re here to help. Here’s a guide covering essential tips to begin racing on Zwift.

Getting Set Up

Step 1: Share Your Data with ZwiftPower and Strava

The vast majority of Zwift races use the community-driven ZwiftPower site to generate final race results. You must opt-in to share your ride data with ZwiftPower to be included in official race results. This is a very important startup step many Zwifters miss!

Log into your account at my.zwift.com, click My Profile>Connections, and click to enable sharing with ZwiftPower.

While you’re on the connections page, double-check to make sure you’ve connected your Zwift account to Strava, as this is helpful if ride organizers need to verify your numbers.

Step 2: Create and Validate Your ZwiftPower Account

Visit ZwiftPower and create an account. Log in then click “Connect” and follow the instructions closely to validate your Zwift account and connect it to ZwiftPower (you will need to know your ZwiftID).

After entering the correct ZwiftID you will need to verify account ownership by adding a 4-digit code to your Zwift surname (easy to do via Companion app), then waiting a minute before clicking “Connect my account” on ZwiftPower.

Once your account is connected, you’re all set!

Step 3: Get a Heart Rate Monitor

Wahoo TICKR

Most races require you to transmit heart rate data, as this helps organizers spot cheaters. If you don’t already own a heart rate monitor, we highly recommend the Wahoo Tickr line due to its durability and connectivity.

Before Your Race

Find a Race

Head over to Zwift’s calendar or use the Companion app to see a list of upcoming races. Pro tip: some community-developed tools have more powerful event filtering capabilities than Zwift’s own calendar.

Once you’ve chosen a race, read the race description. It should contain everything you need to know about that race’s rules, route, etc. Reading the race details completely will help you perform well and not get disqualified.

Choose Your Category

Just like real-life racing, most Zwift races organize riders into categories so more people have a shot at the “podium.” Different races use different categorization schemes, but most use this:

A: 4.0 w/kg FTP or higher
B: 3.2 w/kg to 4.0 w/kg FTP
C: 2.5 w/kg to 3.2 w/kg FTP
D: Under 2.5 w/kg FTP

If you don’t know what “FTP” is referring to check out What is FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and why does it matter on Zwift? If you don’t know your FTP, check out How can I measure my FTP?

Some races have no categories at all, while others base their categorization on other criteria. This should be made clear in the event description.

Join the Race

Joining most races is just like joining any other group ride on Zwift: simply join the event in game and go! But be sure to read the event description as some races may have a different registration process or other rules you must follow in order to show up in the final results.

After Your Race

Save Your Ride

Save your ride in Zwift, which will keep the data on Zwift’s systems and send it to Strava as well. This allows ZwiftPower to pull your segment times and other race data.

View Results at ZwiftPower.com

Head over to ZwiftPower.com to see how you placed against fellow racers. Races will show provisional results immediately after the event, and these are usually the final results as well.

For some races, organizers may go through and manually alter the provisional results, so you may need to check back a few hours after your event for the final results.

Strategic Tips

Much could be written about race strategy, but here are a few important tips specific to Zwift racing:

  • Expect a fast start: the first few minutes of most Zwift races are tough, with riders pushing hard to break off weaker riders and establish a selection. Be warmed up before the race, time your start so you’re pushing big watts when the clock hits 0, and be ready to dig deep to avoid being dropped right away from the faster groups. It should settle down after a minute or two.
  • Stay out of the wind: the draft effect in Zwift is strong, and you won’t come close to winning unless you take advantage of it for most of the race. Just like the real world, drafting lets you conserve energy so you’ve got something left in the tank when you need it. Learn more here >
  • Know your course and plan your attacks: different races are different lengths on different routes. Get familiar with the route so you can properly pace yourself and attack your group at just the right times if you’ve still got legs.
  • Be prepared: if you have to stop riding to grab water or turn on the fan, you’ve lost. Make sure you’re prepared before the race starts! Check out this Pre-Ride Checklist.
  • Upgrade your ride: as you hit higher levels and achievements in Zwift you unlock faster bikes and wheels. Use them, because the time difference between the “basic” and fastest Zwift setups in a 1-hour race is over 60 seconds! See our fastest frames and wheels guides for simple lists of the fastest equipment.
  • Use powerups strategically: powerups give you a slight edge when used smartly, and most races include powerups. Read the guide to powerups in Zwift >

Want More?

Read our “5 Intermediate Zwift Racing Tips” and “Get an edge with these advanced Zwift racing tips” posts. Zwift Insider holds the web’s largest archive of Zwift racing-related posts, so search this site for any questions you may have!

Questions or Comments?

Share below!

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About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Simon
Simon
7 months ago

An additional tip would be to check if different categories have different start times. This will often shape the dynamics of the race, especially for those in cat C and D

Russ
Russ
7 months ago

Might be worth mentioning that category abuse in Zwift is high. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t do as well as you thought you would. Most racers in the lower categories should be racing 1 or 2 categories above.

Mick Such
Mick Such
7 months ago

It’s a shame that zwift uses wkg to organise race groups.
It would be nicer if it was likr a race licence… You gets points for the first 15 places descending. Then you progress up levels with the more points you get.
As you progress, your wkg would also technically n realistically match your race category obtained by the points. 🤔😁

MHolden
MHolden (@holdenadventures)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mick Such

Zwift Power helps with this too. I didn’t realize this. I didn’t feel like I had the legs one day and thought I would just ride a little slower in a category lower. DQed – whoops. lesson learned.

MHolden
MHolden (@holdenadventures)
7 months ago
Reply to  Mick Such

also, no matter what, people will always try to cheat. 🙁

lydia
lydia
7 months ago

Hi! I had forgoten to do the first step and now i dont appear at the clasification. Is there any option in order to solve it? thanks!

Rick B
Rick B
7 months ago

Another great way to find races is to check zwift power. It allows you to sort by world, terrain, distance and TT. Can also see who else is registered. Whether it be some friends you regular compete with or a pen of sandbaggers.

David
David
7 months ago

Hi. Enjoying your site, very helpful for someone new to Zwift. I have one question I can’t find the answer to however.

I’ve read it’s a good idea for a race to get a power up and take it to the line. Can you explain how ? For example I got one warming up then entered the race and the power up was not still available , so assume it must be got on the start line somehow ?

Thanks in advance !

David
David
7 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Aha, I like that answer. Would be daft to be able to do that. Thanks !

Patrick L. Fowler
Patrick L. Fowler
7 months ago

I can’t seem to find out where all the sprint zone are, please help.

Markcosma
Markcosma
7 months ago

Can I race if have a non smart trainer with my power tap?

Rob Watkinson
Rob Watkinson
6 months ago
Reply to  Markcosma

Yeah you can. I have a powertap rear wheel (hub) with an elite qubo fluid . Its not missed a beat yet.

Travis Johnson
Travis Johnson
6 months ago

What are the ‘prizes’ (hacks) if you’re in front at the beginning of a race? How does a racer complete a 9.8 mile race in under 10 minutes? Check out the results from the Crit City Race @Justin:38am PDT, Category D. Top three finished in under 10 minutes.

Iain Webb
Iain Webb
6 months ago

Do you need a power meter to get power readings?

Madison Dubois
Madison Dubois (@thedevilwearsprada)
6 months ago

If you change your challenge and choose another challenge,will you get all the points you already have towards the new challenge?.

Richatrd
Richatrd
5 months ago

When in a race, do the different colours of the dots (that represent other riders) mean anything, category-wise? If I’m competing as a ‘C’, can I determine which other riders are also ‘C’ by using the minimap? Sometimes the dots are red, sometimes there’s a little place marker above them ..? I haven’t found anywhere online that tells me what each of them might mean?

diego rodriguez
diego rodriguez
5 months ago

Hi Eric – is it possible to participate in a race on a only-view mode with your friends?

GuyR
GuyR
3 months ago

Would like to know how to start, do I start in CAT D and see where I get to? Then they say will get disqualified if higher power. I’ve connected up Zwiftpower and states I’m CAT C – but then I entered a race and ended up last! At that point I just stopped racing and carried on with group rides.

Joe Killian
Joe Killian (@joe-konasubway)
3 months ago

I started in cat D and as I got a little better moved to cat C. At 63 yo and 81 kg’s and an FTP of 210, unlikely i’ll be moving up anytime soon. And there is no way I’m going to beat another 60 something that’s 50 or 60 kgs, but i keep trying! Do you know if they they have races that are age group ones, everyone starts together but you’re color coded for your age group. I look at zwift power and try to do the columns but haven’t found a way to sort on age and… Read more »

Kev McEwen
Kev McEwen
22 days ago
Reply to  Joe Killian

ZHR and BRT do Masters races which are age ranked. Do a search on Zwifthacks for these events.

James
James
3 months ago

Get a big fan and use it on full blast mode when racing. I also have a big monitor set up. It allows you a better overall view.

KAte
KAte
2 months ago

Do I have to keep the Zwift Power ID number in my screen name once I’m connected?

Selena
Selena (@selena)
2 months ago
Reply to  KAte

Not once you’re all connected no, you can remove it.

Steve
Steve
30 days ago

Hello,
Have a question regarding the statistics on my ZwiftPower profile. I’ve been using it for quite a while now and the wkg and watts for time intervals keep dropping over time significantly. Can’t imagine I’m getting weaker or am I? Am I missing something in my profile that is not allowing the stats to be calculated properly? Appreciate any input…cheers

Chris Mingo
Chris Mingo
15 days ago

My zwift setup is a BKOOL pro smart trainer, a stages 105 power meter crank arm which is connected through the companion app. When I have been racing for some reason my power just blanks out. My settings in the game are on 50%, in my pairing my power source is off my stages power meter and in controllable I am linked to my BKOOL. What am I doing wrong for racing? Should I ride the controllable from the stages? Obviously I don’t feel the elevation then. Can you help?

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