Regular readers of Zwift Insider may have noticed that I’ve been paying more attention to ZwiftPower ranking points lately. Chasing rankings hasn’t been something I’ve ever really done, but it’s proving to be an interesting endeavor. Plus, it pushes me to race harder events where I’m forced to race smarter.
Racer harder. Race smarter. The slogan on Zwift Insider’s in-game kit, hopefully arriving in February’s release. But we’ll talk more about that when it happens…
Today’s event wasn’t especially remarkable in how it unfolded or ended, although my podium result was decent. The more interesting part of this event was how the points shook out in the end! But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Warmup: Learning to Ride Again
My normal pre-race routine got a bit jumbled up today, because I needed to tear apart the Pain Lab in order to prep for some equipment tests/reviews I’d been putting off. So I took the trainer off the rocker plate, shoved Boone’s KICKR Bike out of the way, and hopped into an easy ride to see how things would feel in a static (no rocker plate) setup.
While spinning my legs I chewed two pieces of caffeine gum. And I paid close attention to how my body felt with this “rigid” setup. It’s such a radically different feel from a good rocker plate setup, especially out of the saddle! Seated, my bike had a slight side to side rocking motion that intensified as the watts increased. If my KICKR had been on a hard concrete floor the movement would have been much less, but I was on a mat on top of foam gym squares on top of laminate flooring (which has foam backing). So a bit of sponginess, even if it’s a far cry from a rocker plate.
Riding hard out of the saddle with a rigid setup is just… tough! I felt like I was trying to learn how to ride a bike again, because my body wanted to move the “natural” way (lean the body to the right while the bike leans left you’re pushing the pedals down on the right, then do the opposite for your left pedal stroke.)
When you’re used to riding indoors on a static setup, and you’ve worked to hone your technique, you can execute a really strong sprint using particular form (see Shane Miller do it here). But that would take some work. For today, I would need to stay seated in my hard efforts.
Then it was time to get off the bike, slap some PR lotion on the legs, adjust my setup around more so the fan did its job and my video recording worked… and head to the start pens.
Since I’m on a bit of a points chasing kick, I visited ZwiftPower, clicked my event, and clicked to sort the B signups by ranking. I was ranked 2nd overall, with a few strong riders just behind me.
That meant there wasn’t much chance of me finishing “in the points” today, especially considering my awkward-feeling rigid setup. But I’d give it a go and see how things shook out. 12 laps of Crit City’s Bell Lap. Let’s race!
This wasn’t a particularly remarkable race in terms of dynamics or big moves. There were a few noteworthy things, though:
- Rob Maz (EVO) was the rider I was watching the closest, because he was the only rider I’d seen in the signup list ranked above me. (Also, his bright pink kit made him easy to spot!) He put in a lot of hard attacks and pushed the front of the pack several times during the race.
- Kevin Horsley (WLC) was another strong rider I was watching. Ranked just below me, but he definitely rode stronger than I did in this event, putting in more attacks than anyone else. Super effort.
- My legs definitely didn’t feel fresh. So after chasing Maz’s first attack and noticing how the legs responded, I switched to conservation mode.
- The pack of 66 was whittled down to about 30 by the time we hit the final lap.
I’d received an aero powerup with 4 laps to go. Nobody went hard on the final lap’s twisty climb section, or on the descent. It seemed everyone was a bit tired and waiting for someone else to make the first jump.
With 400m to go, I saw Horsley sprinting through the pack with a draft powerup. Go time! If I could grab his wheel then use my aero powerup, hopefully we could distance most of the pack.
A few other riders had the same idea, so it became a 4-man sprint with Horsley, Maz, Thomas Japp (DZR), and myself. I was seated, putting in one of those high-cadence sprints I’ve been working on (around 120rpm), and my bike was moving back and forth a lot more than it should have on a rigid setup (apologies to my seat stays).
Glancing at the screen, I saw a 5th rider zoom through our pack of 4 just meters from line. Where did he come from?!
I couldn’t tell what place I’d finished – somewhere between 2nd and 5th. It was close! The results screen popped up, showing me in 2nd:
Watch Race Recording
How to Win a Sprint
Luckily I’d recorded the race, because I wanted to see how winner Magnus Andersson (TeamUV) executed his sprint. Turns out he waited a bit longer than the “front 4”, but his sprint power was massive – 10 seconds at 1102W (15.2 w/kg)! He also sprinted through the front ~10 riders, benefiting from their draft. And used an aero powerup to boot.
Looking at the critical power curves on ZwiftPower, it’s actually pretty laughable how much stronger Andersson’s sprint was than mine. Here’s the chart in pure watts. Keep in mind Andersson also weighs 10kg less than I do:
Quite possibly the most perfectly-executed sprint I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen quite a few. Chapeau, sir.
Crunching the Ranking Numbers
I returned to ZwiftPower after a shower to look at how the points shook out. Andersson hadn’t even been on my radar since he signed up at the last minute, but his rank of 129.82 was sure to boost the numbers. And I had beaten Maz, who was ranked ahead of me (156.87), so I figured I would get at least a bit of a points boost.
Looking at the ZwiftPower results, I saw I had earned 5.91 points. Nice! That would put me at a ranking of 176.71. But I also saw that the 3rd and 4th place finishers weren’t in the results. Clicking on “Unfiltered” I saw Maz had been removed from the results for no heartrate, while 4th place Japp was removed because he needs to race in the A’s.
After pulling out my trust spreadsheet and copy-pasting some numbers, I calculated that even though Maz and Japp were DQ’d, their numbers were still used to compute the race quality and points per place figures (if you don’t know how those work, read How ZwiftPower Calculates Rider Rankings). They didn’t earn a result for themselves, but their rankings contributed to the results everyone else earned.
And that’s a good thing. Because it helped me earn some points!
But here’s the bummer: 3rd place on ZwiftPower (Jukka Karjalainen [Continental-Focus]) was only given 5th place ranking points. So even though Maz and Japp (who finished 3rd and 4th) were removed from the results, they still “took” their points, even though those points won’t be added to their rankings since they were disqualified.
One other note on rankings: I’ve been talking about the wisdom of racing up a category lately, so out of curiosity I looked at the A results for this race. And guess what? If I had finished 2nd in the A race, I would have earned slightly fewer points due to a combination of a smaller A field and fewer high-ranked riders in that race. That’s something you don’t see every day!
In both the A and B races, if I had finished 3rd I wouldn’t have earned any points. That’s how close this was.
I learned some interesting details about how ZwiftPower handles ranking points and disqualified riders. And I learned that racing up a cat may not always give you a better points result.
But mostly, this was a humbling reminder that I’m far outclassed by some of the top riders in the B category. And let’s not even talk about those superhuman A’s…