Anyone who has given me a “Ride On” using the Companion App may have noticed from my avatar that I’m more of a jersey hunter than a badge hunter. Not the jersey/kits you can collect from events or using unlock codes, but those that can be temporarily earned for various routes, climbs, and sprints in each world. Route badges can be collected just once, but the Leaderboard jerseys can be made into a personal challenge every ride.
Racing on Zwift has never appealed to me. Among other things, there’s having to schedule around when it begins, including getting warmed up, the tactic seems to make it more like a bunched time trial, and there’s the much-discussed cheating that may or may not be prevalent. Besides, I’m right on the border between two categories – so Leaderboard jerseys are the way I get motivated and push myself.
With that experience, I’ve discovered a few things along the way to improve my chances during each outing. Some are well known and others possibly not quite so obvious. Let’s jump in!
The way the Leaderboards work, you’re competing against riders who have ridden the segment during the preceding 60 minutes. There’s no controlling this, so if a pro-level Zwifter rode it five minutes before your effort, you’ll be out of luck. And until a recent update, that individual’s best time was locked in until it timed out 60 minutes later (or they exited Zwift).
Bug, or Feature?
As it currently works, riders can also “self-eliminate” themselves by riding a slower time on a subsequent try, even if their best effort remains within the 60 minutes. For instance, the sprint Leaderboard lists Rider A at 10.00 seconds (with the Green Jersey), Rider B at 10.20, and Rider C at 10.30. If Rider A re-rides the sprint and now finishes in a time of 10.50 seconds, that erases the 10.00 effort and Rider B now has the Green Jersey. (Previously, Rider A would remain on the Leaderboard and stay in Green with the 10.00 effort until someone rides faster, the 60‑minute mark, or exiting.) Personally, I don’t care for this revision as it makes earning combined jerseys more difficult, despite already putting in the effort to achieve a segment.
What should be obvious is that the more riders who are Zwifting, the harder it probably will be to earn a jersey. The odds that several riders among 10,000 Zwifters will be faster than you is higher than if only 1000 are Zwifting. But there’s no guarantee that riding with fewer on the course will make it easier to be atop a Leaderboard. It only takes one!
So that’s what motivates me – can I outride, outsprint, or outclimb those who rode the segment the previous hour before me, and can I keep the jersey in the hour afterward?
Generally, there is at least one route, one sprint, and one King of the Mountain (KOM) in each world. Exceptions are Paris, with no KOM, and France with no route (although the Marina Sprint earns an Orange jersey rather than the usual Green one.)
Most segments also have a reverse direction Leaderboard. If earned, you always have to be riding in the appropriate direction to wear the jersey (if not, it’ll still show up next to your name and if you do a U-turn it’ll pop back on). Segments with no reverse equivalent are certain unidirectional KOMs including Alp de Zwift, Ven-Top, and the Volcano climb.
By my count, there are over 70 individual Leaderboard jerseys (Watopia = 16; London = 10; Yorkshire = 8; Innsbruck = 6; France = 10; Paris = 4; NYC = 6; Richmond** = 10; Maruki Islands* = 9). To make things more challenging, standard route, sprint, and climb jerseys can be combined: Orange-Green, Orange-KOM, Green-KOM, or all three.
Designated routes (forward and reverse) that can win the combined Route-Sprint-Mountain are: Watopia Hilly Route, Yorkshire World’s course, Innsbruck World’s course, and Richmond World’s course. For the others, you have to do some manual turning. The London Loop has the route and KOM, but the sprints are over at the Classique segment. France has to be a combination of the Marina Sprint (for Orange) and the various other sprints and KOMs. NYC’s Perimeter Loop has the route and sprint, but not the KOM. Makuri Islands* needs more work, and there’s no KOM for Paris.
* Makuri Islands is buggy. Over the course of the various updates, combined jerseys still are not possible, the Flatland Loop Leaderboard wasn’t seen (initially it was labeled Countryside Tour), the auto-turning took you off route, and the Orange Jersey wasn’t available. Some issues have been fixed, but as of this writing, if you’re wearing a jersey, it won’t show up as an icon next to your name. That is until you go off route. Then the jersey you’re wearing disappears and the jersey icon shows up – for both directions!
** Richmond’s dual KOM and Sprint segments are somewhat confusing, and I still haven’t figured out the logic – for instance, being the fastest of both sprint Leaderboards gets you the Green, but atop just the Broad St. won’t (it has a blue, not green-colored, Leaderboard). But you’ll still show a Green jersey icon next to your name for Broad St. It’s similar for KOM.
Besides taking into account the total number of active Zwifters in a world, some jerseys generally see less competition than others. And of course, winning one will always depend on one’s own fitness, fast-twitch vs slow-twitch muscles, etc.
In my experience Watopia’s Jungle Loop (either direction and with a unique jersey) and reverse Hilly Loop (Orange) tend to have minimal activity. Sometimes only a few, or even no one, has ridden them over the previous hour despite 1000s riding in Watopia.
For sprints, Fuego Flats (unique jersey), and either direction of both France’s Marina (Orange) and Makuri Islands’ Village (Green) seem to be the least competitive. I find Fuego Flats odd, given that it usually has 100s who have done it at any given time, but the percentage who sprint it seems relatively low.
KOMs always seem to have a lot of fast efforts. But try reverse Titans Grove, Hilly Loop, London’s Keith Hill, or Richmond’s KOMs. For the combined jersey, if your climbing ability is best, try reverse Hilly Loop. If it’s sprinting, then the forward Hilly Loop. Otherwise Richmond World’s reverse.
On the flip side, some jerseys are much, much harder to get. I’ve found the most elusive are generally the KOMs, and I suspect that is because Zwifters looking to do a recovery or easy-paced effort, won’t be riding up mountains. People riding the big climbs tend to put out big watts.
In particular, Alpe du Zwift, Ven-Top, and Volcano see a lot of good competition. And the first two are not just a few-minute effort!
- Pick times when there are few Zwifters in the world. There are occasions when there can be 2000 or fewer in Watopia, and under 1000 in the other worlds.
- Check to see what events are happening around the time you’re planning to ride. If there’s a race that includes the Volcano Climb, then best to pick a different jersey to attempt to win.
- Be flexible. If you’re doing the London Loop, but see few Zwifters heading up Leith Hill, turn and give that a go. Heading up Volcano KOM but see your estimated time won’t even make the top 15? Do a U-turn and try something else.
- Scope out the segment:
- When does the KOM reach the maximum gradient? Do your legs tend to get wobbly near the end? If you have the feather powerup, know when the best time to use it is.
- Where does the sprint actually start? DO NOT start your sprint (or even KOM climb or route effort) as you cross the starting line. If you do, you’ve just thrown away valuable time as you ramp up to speed. A hundredth of second can make a difference (I recently won the Marina Sprint jersey by 0.01 sec; my wife came in second in the Hilly Loop sprint with the exact same time showing as 1st place). Always cross the start at speed.
- Another good example is the reverse Hilly Loop sprint. There’s a rolling hill just beforehand, where you should be able to build up your speed to over 50kph (31mph) as you come down the backside just before the start on the bridge. Got a feather powerup? There’s a rise just before the start that can sap your speed – so yes, a feather can help on a sprint. Got an aero powerup? It lasts for more (15 seconds) than it might take you to finish the sprint – so use it before the start.
- Another example is Richmond’s reverse Broad St sprint. It’s a whopping 4/100th of a mile – about 70 meters. So about five seconds of sprinting. And the starting line is immediately after a blind corner. You should be at full speed as you’re turning the corner, before you can even see the starting line.
- A KOM example is Titans Grove. The end is not marked by the typical overhead arch, but by rock cairns on either side. In the reverse KOM, there’s a similarly-sized rock a few meters before the cairn. I once made the mistake of thinking that was the end and eased off, losing out on the KOM jersey by 10ths of a second.
- When trying for multiple jerseys that are not on the same route, pre-plan your turns so you know where you’ll head next. The longer it takes you to get there, the more time someone else has to take away the jersey you’ve already won. NYC (KOM) and London (sprint), in particular are key, since the path to get to the separate segment is not obvious.
- The Volcano Circuit (either direction) has a Leaderboard, but not an associated jersey (it used to, but that jersey was stolen and used for the Volcano KOM)
- Ride the right setup. For the Jungle Loop and parts of Makuri Islands, a gravel or mountain bike. For (most) KOMs something lightweight, etc. There are other articles on Zwift Insider that go into the details on this, like this one.
- Don’t ease up at the end when you see you’ll get the jersey. You’ll have to defend it, and those after you will be able to focus on besting your time. Make them work for it.
- Keep an eye out for short-timers. When riders on the Leaderboard are 5 minutes from reaching their 60-minute deadline, a little countdown timer appears next to their name. I’ve been motivated to push harder, knowing that 1st place will soon shift to the slower 2nd place rider. That may come into play on a KOM or route effort.
- Let powerups decide. Before a recent update, I knew that I would always collect the aero, feather, and van powerups in that order. That was perfect for the reverse Hilly Loop, as the sprint comes first, then the KOM, and then finish is downtown were there tends to be a higher concentration of riders. Now I sometimes choose my ride based on which powerup I get first.
- By the way, the unique jerseys don’t combine with other jerseys (e.g. there’s no combined Green sprint and Epic KOM jersey). And from what I’ve experienced, any Leaderboard jersey you’re currently wearing will not be replaced with a subsequent win. So if you really want to be wearing the Fuego Flats jersey you just scored, but you’ve already won the Hilly Loop jersey, you’ll be out of luck until the Orange jersey times off of you or someone takes it from you.
- Give yourself a DNF. If you’ve found yourself on a segment that you don’t want to risk “self-elimination” with a slower time thanks to Zwift’s odd new leaderboard logic, do a couple of U-turns. That will purge your attempt, while letting you continue on your way.
- Hack into off-calendar worlds. I think this is a “foul” and have never done it and never would, but there’s the world hack to ride outside of the calendar. You probably would have few others on the course to compete against.
- Don’t get discouraged. I’ve been delayed in getting atop the Leaderboards many times when a zPower rider is in first, 25% or so faster than anyone else. I’ve also been on pace to get a jersey, only to have A Anquetil come fast from behind, with others in tow. They’ll time out eventually or exit just like everyone else.
That’s my life these days on Zwift – chasing jerseys, waiting for Makuri Islands to get fixed, and trying to combine those jerseys that I haven’t already. I probably shouldn’t have written this, as I may have just decreased my chances. But hey, that will just make any we do win that much more enjoyable. Good luck!
Questions or Comments?