Important update: WTRL sent the following email on race day, January 24th:
On behalf of WTRL & Zwift, we regret to inform you that the much anticipated Segment Battle Point element of ZRL has been placed on hold and will not feature in Round 3. We know many people, including ourselves, were looking forward to this new element. The project has run into a number of unforeseen issues over recent days and the ZRL organizing team do not feel confident that it can be launched successfully at this time.
We greatly apologize for any disappointment this may cause you. Zwift Racing League will continue with the original formats and once we feel that everything is working optimally and accurately with SBP’s, we will look to run some test races later in the spring/summer.
In the meantime, we wish you success for the remainder of the Zwift Racing League Season.
WTRL, organizers of Zwift Racing League, have just announced the details of “Segment Battle Points” (SBP) – a new way to score in ZRL races. Since ZRL is by far the largest racing league in Zwift, and this is the first time the league’s scoring structure has been modified significantly, this is big news in the Zwift racing world.
I chatted with Martin at ZRL to make sure I understood the SBP concept completely, and to get his take on why SBP are a good addition to ZRL. Looking to understand all things SBP? Let’s dive in!
How Segment Battle Points Work
Here’s what WTRL says on their scoring page:
Starting in Round 3 of the 20022/23 season, all riders will score Segment Battle Points. The idea is to place several races within a race and will create plenty of points battles amongst groups of riders. You’ll need your wits about you to figure out who your rivals are to beat them.
- Every member of a team will receive a number 1 to 12.
- As racers signup for each points race, this numerical order will be converted to 1 to 6. (example: team members 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 11 sign up, they become 1,2,3,4,5,6 respectively for the race.
- This number correlates directly to the group of riders you will be battling for SBP points against.
- Group 1: Rider #1 from each team
- Group 2: Rider #2 from each team
- Group 3: Rider #3 from each team
- Group 4: Rider #4 from each team
- Group 5: Rider #5 from each team
- Group 6: Rider #6 from each team
- SBP points are awarded on the order of First Across the Line at each nominated segment within each group and are determined by the number of teams in the division:
- 16 teams in the division 1st = 16 points, 2nd = 15, 3rd = 14 etc with 16th winning 1 point per designated segment.
- 10 teams in the division 1st = 10 points, 2nd = 9 points, down to 1 point for 10th per designated segment.
- Where a team fields fewer than 6 racers, the team will not be able to compete for points available in those groups where they have no representation. I.e. a squad of 4 would not be able to win points in groups 5 & 6.
- A pre-race list of all signed-up rider groups for each division will be available here.
The explanation above raised some questions for me, so I chatted with Martin for clarification. Here are more details, in FAQ style.
How will the riders be assigned numbers 1-6?
WTRL will assign members of each team a number from 1-12 based on their own algorithms. Presumably (though WTRL isn’t saying this) rider #1 will be the strongest on your team, and #12 the weakest. No teammates will have the same number.
When your 6 team members sign up for a particular race, WTRL will assign them a number based on their ranking – basically numbering your race team 1-6, from strongest to weakest.
The takeaway here is that riders and team managers have no control over who gets placed into which number group. That is handled by WTRL’s algorithms, with the intention of creating 6 competitive SBP groups between the teams in the division.
How will I know who I’m up against?
WTRL will publish a list of all signed-up rider groups on their website. Of course, teams could always wait to sign up riders, or swap riders at the last minute. But my guess is most teams will have most of their riders signed up well ahead of time.
This will allow you to see which group you’re assigned to, and see the names of the other riders in your group. Those riders are your SBP competition for the race!
How are SBP scored if we go through the same segment more than once?
SBP are scored every time you go through a segment. So if you’re racing 6 laps of Lutece Express, that means 6 times through the Lutece Sprint where SBP will be earned.
In a division with 16 teams, a single rider who takes 1st place on all 6 segments would earn 6*16=96 SBP for the race.
Note: it’s possible that only certain segments will award SBP, although Martin thinks for ZRL Round 3 all segments that award FAL will also award SBP. If this changes it will be reflected on the race schedule.
SBP will certainly affect the way ZRL points races unfold. A few examples:
- No easy segments: you’ll be competing against your group on every sprint and KOM segment, so sitting up and conserving for the finish will cost you points.
- Fewer “FTS Slackers”: related to #1, SBP will cause riders to think twice before dropping from the front group to spin easy and only attack certain segments for FTS, since doing so will surely cost them in SBP.
- To bridge or not to bridge? If the pack breaks up into groups, you’ll want to know what groups contain your SBP competitors. Are they up ahead? You may want to push to bridge. Are they behind? Go to the front and keep the pace high so your group stays away and you grab easy SBP on upcoming segments! To the smart go the spoils. This adds a fresh element of strategy and intelligence to ZRL races, making a splendid use case for Sauce for Zwift‘s “Marked Athletes” feature.
- Rewarding well-balanced teams: with every team member competing for SBP against riders near their abilities we should see fewer race wins from “top-heavy” teams and more wins going to teams where all riders perform well in the SBP competition. This rewards well-rounded teams and makes it harder for teams with just 1-2 strong riders to take the overall win.
- More focus on segments: SBP will serve to further reduce the importance of finishing position, while increasing the importance of your performance on segments. For example: in race 1 of round 9, a team of six could theoretically score a maximum of 1110 points… and 432 of those points (38.9%) would be from SBP! (This assumes 12 teams in the division. SBP will decrease if there are fewer teams.)
Race 1 (Chain Chomper) Points Distribution
This chart shows the maximum points a team of 6 could earn in the race.
Of the points above, I think the first four are positives. But WTRL+Zwift may need to tweak SBP based on the last item, because races with a high number of segments and/or a high number of teams will end up with SBP making up the majority of race points, which is probably not the intention. It may be that WTRL will need to restrict SBP to certain segments in some races (including race #4 of this round, which features 8 segment attempts).
The Visibility Challenge
One challenge facing the implementation of SBP is the difficulty of seeing your competition in game. With no in-game indicators showing who is in my SBP group, how will I know how to ride strategically against them?
Sure, we can keep it simple: stay in the front group, and push hard on every segment. But even this strategy is flawed, because I can’t easily see which (if any) of my SBP competitors are also in the group. And what happens when I get dropped from the front group? How do I know which groups contain my SBP competitors?
There are some hacks racers will undoubtedly use. ZwiftPower’s live view lets you highlight multiple riders, then shows their location in the race, refreshing every 30 seconds. Sauce for Zwift lets you mark riders, then shows a near real-time view of their timings on course.
Those solutions may have to work for now, but in the future it would be nice to have better visibility in game. What if your group members were highlighted green in the rider list, like Meetup members? Or what if your group members showed up with numbered bibs or something else to make their avatars stand out?
There are lots of things that could be rolled out to improve the SBP experience in game, but for this round it looks like we’ll be experimenting with a basic version of SBP that rewards those who do some homework and implement hacks for improved battlefield visibility.
Wrapping It Up
In the end, I’m always a supporter of experimentation and innovation in the Zwift racing space. So I applaud WTRL for rolling out this change, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. Game on!
What do you think of ZRL’s new Segment Battle Points? Share below!