Welcome to another post in our series aimed at helping you avoid n00b powerup mistakes in Zwift races.
Powerups add a fun element of randomness and strategy to Zwift racing. While some purists deride their use, most racers welcome their addition to an indoor racing experience which can feel a bit oversimplified since it has fewer variables than outdoor riding.
Experienced Zwift racers understand how powerups work, but we see them used incorrectly over and over again. Hopefully this series can help.
The Breakaway Burrito: How It Works
As the name lightly suggests, the Breakaway Burrito is the only powerup that affects those around you. All the other powerups directly affect the speed of your own avatar by making you more aero, lighter, etc… but the Burrito is only felt by those nearby.
When the Burrito powerup is activated, riders within 2.5m of you will receive zero draft benefit, forcing them to work harder to maintain speed. This powerup lasts for 10 seconds.
While it was originally intended to help riders break away solo (hence the name), it is more often used in packs nowadays, to inflict a little extra pain on your competition.
How It’s Misused
The most obvious misuse of the Burrito would be if you’re riding solo. Using it in this scenario is the same as throwing it away, since there is no one nearby whose draft you can disable.
But there are many, many other ways the Burrito can be used poorly!
Suicide by Burrito
One common mistake we’ve seen repeatedly in Crit City races happens when you are sitting toward the middle or back of the pack and deploy the Burrito on a difficult section. Remember, this disables the draft for all riders within 2.5m, including riders ahead of you. This can easily cause a gap to form 1-2 bikes ahead of you (since those riders have lost the draft), while the stronger riders near the front of the group are still enjoying a draft and ride away from your draftless pack!
We’ve seen many Burrito owners dropped by their own Burritos in this way.
Now, don’t misunderstand: deploying a Burrito mid-pack isn’t a bad tactic. In fact, it’s probably the best use of the Burrito. But you have to be aware of the risk you run, and watch closely for gaps to open just ahead. If that begins to happen, you’ll have to ramp up your own power and grab a wheel of the front group that is riding away from your draftless, cursing compatriots.
Mutually Assured Destruction
A derivative of the “suicide by burrito” occurs when multiple nearby riders deploy the Burrito at the same time. This is often seen on Crit City, usually at the start of a climb or just after the start/finish banner. One rider will deploy a Burrito, then a nearby rider deploys theirs, hoping to give the original aggressor a taste of their own medicine.
Meanwhile, all the unaffected riders up ahead are pulling away from the Burrito battle behind.
This just reinforces the idea that, if you’re going to deploy a Burrito mid-pack, you need to be prepared to put in extra work in order to hang with the front of your group. Because it can get real ugly, real quick.
It’s important to remember that the Burrito hurts everyone around you – and that includes your teammates. Don’t be “that guy” who activates a Burrito next to a struggling team member!
I had this happen in the ZRL Season 2 playoffs just a couple weeks ago. “B. Owens” was riding for a separate DIRT team, so technically not on my ZRL team – but we DIRT generally try to help each other out. He activated the Burrito during the first and fastest sprint of the race, as the strongest riders in the pack where pushing off the front. It caused a gap to open, and I had to burn a match to avoid getting dropped. Note: this is a good example of “Suicide by Burrito” as well. Watch it below – I’ve cued the video to just a few seconds before the Burrito is dropped:
How do you do it right? Communicate with teammates via Discord or other team comms. Here’s an example from a recent intra-squad DIRT race that included my ZRL Hellhounds team. I’ve cued it to the spot where teammate Alex warns us that he’s got a Burrito and we need to move toward the front so he can activate it, hurting those nearby but not his teammates. Then he tells us when he’s activating it a bit later. Nicely done!
If you’re in a Cat & Mouse (Handicap) race and still riding with just your category, deploying the Burrito is seen as bad form, since it hurts the team you’re working with.
The same feelings may apply if you’re in a small group working together, perhaps in a breakaway. Deploying a Burrito in this situation signals that you’re not interested in working with the other riders in your group.
Burrito On the Front
Sometimes riders move to the very front of the pack in order to deploy their Burrito. But this is just a waste of energy.
If you are pushing extra watts in the wind at the front of your group just so you can activate your Burrito, rethink your strategy. Instead of sitting in the wind, drop behind the front rider(s) and activate your Burrito from there. It’ll make those same front riders work extra hard, but you’ll still have the benefit of a draft.
Sometimes riders are just off the front of a group with the Burrito because they were attempting an attack/breakaway. But if you don’t have the legs to get more than a second or two off the front with your Burrito, you’re wasting energy. Better to use it in the pack and make your opponents hurt a bit.
Will You Be Eating That?
There’s a good reason why Zwift added the ability to dump a powerup around the same time they added the Burrito. This is surely the most-commonly trashed Powerup, because smart racers know it can be dangerous to deploy.
Sitting mid-pack and don’t want to risk creating a gap? Perhaps you’ve got riders you’re working with nearby? Binning the Burrito may very well be your best choice. Shane shows us how to do it:
Questions or Comments?