WattsUP – How to Make a Solo Breakaway Stick

WattsUP – How to Make a Solo Breakaway Stick

We’re back into racing again with Zwift Racing League Season 2, and with 10,000+ people competing this is by far the biggest eRacing event on the planet. 

The team component of this league, alongside the growing use of Discord, has led to the emergence of serious team tactics.  Some work, some don’t, and for anyone who watches my commentary of the APAC Region you’ll know I love a good whiteboard analysis. 

Now I’m taking my whiteboard virtual, releasing videos showcasing great (and not so great) tactics from the week of racing.  This week I talk about how to execute a good solo breakaway in Zwift, a feat not for the faint-hearted.

Watch the Video

Basically, there are 3 keys to making a solo breakaway stick:

Pick a Strategic Point

The best places in a race to attempt a breakaway are either where you will take your competitors by surprise or where the terrain suits your strengths

An example of a surprise attack could be on a flat piece of road but around a hairpin turn.  Zwift physics slightly slows the pack around a hairpin and if you up your watts through that portion you can get a jump on the field once you’re back on the straights. 

An obvious example of a strength attack would be if you are a light rider and you break away on a climb.  Beware with this strategy that you will need to keep the watts high once you crest the climb and start going downhill.  Another great spot is right after a sprint segment where everyone lays off the gas.  Push your powerup closer to the end of the segment and use the momentum to gas by your competitors as they ease up.

Push Watts Very High When You Make the Attack

As you can see in the video both attacks are about 3-4watts/kg higher than those in the pack.  For example, you would want to attack at 8watts/kg when the pack is going 4-5watts/kg. 

Save an aero, feather, or burrito powerup for any planned attack. This will give you an extra boost to get riders out of your draft and enable you to quickly create a 7+ second gap.

The Magical 15 Seconds

The video highlights a solo breakaway that worked and one that didn’t, with the key difference being the time gap the rider was able to get on the bunch chasing behind.  From commentating on, racing in, and watching a ton of zwift races, I believe the magic number is 15 seconds.  As long as you maintain watts that are just higher than the pack, and you have 15 seconds, you should be able to stay away.  The probability of this is a lot higher the smaller the chase pack is behind you.

Share Your Thoughts

If your team has pulled off something amazing in a race, or you’ve seen something tactically great, shoot me a message or comment below and I’ll do some analysis on why and how it worked.

About The Author

Anna Russell

Anna is a commentator and producer for Zwift Community Live, racer for Saris the Pros Closet, triathlon and cycling coach, and mum of 2 boys. Passionate about eRacing and sharing her love of the sport.

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Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Interesting video, Would you say the terrain is a factor also? As on the climb video does the pack have the same draft benefits as on the flat? Thanks

Rogerio Costa
Rogerio Costa
1 month ago

I learned to have an efficient sprint after my best 5min of maximum power. This works to separate the horses from the ponies in the strong arrivals and makes the sprint race more favorable to me.

Gil_SantaMaria
Gil_SantaMaria
1 month ago

One of the features that one and I don’t like in Zwift racing is the existence of Dubledraft. This makes a breackway more difficult

Andrew Hunter
Andrew Hunter
1 month ago

Agree with the surprise element. If you can be smart with your energy and powerups, a good push after a sprint or mini kom (e.g. aquaduct), can catch racers unaware and short of energy to respond.

Another one is for races with short laps. Use the lapped traffic to your advantage to ‘hide’ the snap away from the bunch.

M4rk0
M4rk0
1 month ago

Anna, do you think WTRL will publish week 1 results before the season ends?

B. Key [DIRT]
B. Key [DIRT]
1 month ago

The bunch with noone actively “pulling” catches a solo breakaway with just about half the W/kg…

Mark M
Mark M
1 month ago
Reply to  B. Key [DIRT]

I’m fine with zwift not being a hyper-realistic cycling simulator. But if you’re going to get things wrong at least make it better. Zwift racing is both wrong and worse compared to real life racing.

Mark M
Mark M
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark M

To be clear. I 100% agree with your comment…

Hermanni
Hermanni
1 month ago
Reply to  B. Key [DIRT]

Yup. A group where everyone does a certain W/kg (i.e. nobody in front pulling) goes _way_ faster than a lone rider or two doing the same W/kg. It’s a shame for racing, but probably makes sense for group rides – the mechanics of changing who’s at the front are pretty difficult when the only way to control is one input that has like 3 seconds of input lag.

S Peda
S Peda
1 month ago

Zwift has gotten so boring and no improvements are made whatsoever (realism (sticky draft, getting caught after a breakaway by a group where nobody is pulling, too high aero penalties for tall people, not showing W/kg for competitie in a race, etc.), cheating, new roads, improved user interface (options what you want to see in your screen). I’ve paused my account, haven’t been active for 1.5 months and, surprisingly, don’t miss it at all. Running outside is way more fun. Seriously considering quiting with Zwift completely; might not be worth it. Why pay $200 a year to a company who… Read more »

calayanrail
calayanrail (@calayanrail)
1 month ago

I think solo breakaways only work in A races. In lower categories, even the break is successful, no one is significantly stronger than the rest of the pack to hold it. On flat a pack can ride at 42km/h at 3.5w/kg, you probably need 4.2 to 4.5W/kg to maintain this speed solo.

Stuart Lynne
Stuart Lynne (@sl)
1 month ago

Attacking from the bottom of short climbs can work well. Your additional power overcomes gravity at a linear scale compared to exponential when attacking on the flat and overcoming air resistance.

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