Who’s the world’s best Zwift racer today? There’s only one ranking system Zwifters go to for the answer, and that’s the ZwiftPower Individual Rider Rankings.
This will be news to some of you who didn’t know that every race on Zwift is actually a multilevel competition. Of course, there is the obvious “first across the line” ranking. But ZwiftPower also awards ranking points to all race finishers, and those points are used to rank Zwifters against one another.
So there are at least two competitions going on in every Zwift race. (And in a more complex race series like ZRL, every race is actually several competitions. But we won’t dig into that today.)
This post explains how ZwiftPower’s ranking points are calculated, both in simple terms and in minute mathematical detail. A follow-up post will focus on boosting your ZwiftPower ranking. Let’s dive in!
The Basics of ZwiftPower Rankings
The ZwiftPower rider rankings are calculated using the same formula as USA Cycling’s ranking system. (We were going to link to a nice explainer on USA Cycling’s website, but their website is broken and in fact quite terrible, so that can’t happen.) Here are the key things to understand about the system:
- Rankings are set between 0 and 600 points: everyone begins at 600
- Lower Scores are Better: a rider ranked at 100 is “ahead” or “stronger” than a rider ranked at 200
- Best 5 Races in Past 90 Days: every race you finish earns a result (group rides and TTT’s do not count). But only your best 5 results in the past 3 months are used to calculate your current rider score. Notably, this means that a bad result doesn’t hurt your score. It just doesn’t help it!
- Not Category-Based: ranking points are separate from ZwiftPower categories (A/B/C/D). Points tell you how you rank against the full universe of Zwift racers, while categories divide racers into competitive groups. It’s very possible for a B (or even a C) to outrank an A rider.
- Improving Your Ranking: in general, to improve your ranking you must beat riders currently ranked stronger than yourself. This isn’t exactly how it works, but conceptually this is the idea.
- Only for ZwiftPower Users: if you aren’t signed up/opted in to ZwiftPower, your result isn’t part of the points calculation, and you aren’t earning any points.
Seeing Your Results on ZwiftPower
Your race result will not show up immediately on ZwiftPower after you finish the race. We aren’t sure what triggers the calculation, but our guess is it has to do with organizers finalizing the results. In our experience, results always show up by the next day, but sometimes show up within an hour or two.
When viewing your ZwiftPower Profile, the far-right column (titled “Result”) tells you your points result for each race.
Additionally, the “Race Ranking” section of your profile tells you your current rank. Click the “Info” box to see how you rank against others in your category, age group, weight group, team, and country. It will also show the top 5 scores which your current rank is based upon.
How Race Results are Calculated
Every race you finish produces a points result. How is that result calculated? Put on your thinking caps, kids. We’ll try to keep it simple, but it’s a somewhat complex formula!
Your result is calculated using the following formula:
Rank Points = Race Quality + ((Finishing Position – 1) * Points Per Place)
So your result is based on three variables: Race Quality, your Finishing Position, and Points Per Place. Finishing Position is obvious enough, but what are “Race Quality” and “Points Per Place”? Glad you asked!
“Race Quality” refers to the strength of your competition. Think about it: if you entered a race against 100 WorldTour pros and won first, that should boost your ranking more than if you won a race against 100 rookie racers, right?
The formula for Race Quality is:
Race Quality = (Average of the best 5 riders finishing in the top 10 places) x (0.9)
Easy enough to understand. So when a race finishes, we can look at the top 10 to calculate the Race Quality. Suppose a race ends, and the top 10 looks like this:
Race Results Example
|Racer||Place||Ranking Before Event|
Race quality would be based on the 5 highest-ranked finishers in that list, which would be:
- Racer B (200)
- Racer D (220)
- Racer A (250)
- Racer H (280)
- Racer G (300)
Plug those into the equation and you get:
Race Quality = ((200+220+250+280+300) / 5) * 0.9 = 225
Note: there is an exception to the Race Quality equation. If the average of all of the riders who finish the race is lower than that of the average of the best 5 in the top 10 then the Race Quality is calculated using the total race average points instead of the average of the best 5 in the top 10. This is a very rare occurrence on Zwift due to fairly large and diverse field sizes.
Points Per Place
Points Per Place refers to how many points each successive finishing place is worth. Obviously, finishing first should earn more points than finishing second, and so on. But this formula also takes into account the total number of finishers (field size), because finishing 10th in a field of 20 riders shouldn’t be worth as much as finishing 10th in a field of 100.
Points Per Place is calculated like this:
Points Per Place = ((Average Ranking of Finishers – Race Quality) * 2) / (Finishers – 1)
Using the example of the 10 racers from above, Points Per Place would be:
Points Per Place = ((337 – 225) * 2) / (10 – 1) = 24.88
Note: a small field adjustment exists on ZwiftPower. If there are between 5 and 9 riders who finish, ZwiftPower still uses the top 5 for quality, but uses all riders for average.
Now that we know our Race Quality and Points Per Place figures, we can calculate the resulting points earned by any racer:
Rank Points = Race Quality + ((Finishing Position – 1) * Points Per Place)
We know Race Quality in our example is 225, and Points Per Place is 24.88. So the 1st place finisher’s rank points would be:
225 + ((1-1) * 24.88) = 225
Yes, 1st place always earns the “Race Quality” number as their score. But 2nd place would earn:
225 + ((2-1) * 24.88) = 249.88
Key Ranking Factors
Now that we know precisely how ZwiftPower points are calculated, we can see which factors are most important if we’re looking to improve our ranking. (We’ll be publishing a post all about boosting your ZwiftPower ranking soon, but this is just a teaser.)
Using our race example above, imagine if that list of 10 finishers was just the top 10, but there were 90 additional finishers. This doesn’t change our Race Quality number at all (it’s still based on the same top 5 ranked finishers in the top 10). But it drastically reduces our Points Per Place number:
Points Per Place with 10 Finishers = ((337 – 225) * 2) / (10 – 1) = 24.88
Points Per Place with 100 Finishers = ((337 – 225) * 2) / (100 – 1) = 2.26
This doesn’t change things for 1st place, but it changes things for everyone else! Consider the result the 10th place rider would earn in both scenarios:
10th Place with 10 Finishers = 225 + ((10-1) * 24.88) = 448.92
10th Place with 100 Finishers = 225 + ((10-1) * 2.26) = 245.34
Remember, the lower number is better. In this case, it’s a massive difference of 200 points, even if the top 10 finishers were the same!
Having some super-strong racers finish in the top 10 will improve your Race Quality rating, which in turn can give you higher points, especially if you finish near the top. Consider the effect if Rider A in our original example was rated at 100 instead of 250:
Original Race Quality = ((200+220+250+280+300) / 5) * 0.9 = 225
Race Quality with Super Strong Finisher = ((200+220+100+280+300) / 5) * 0.9 = 198
This doesn’t drastically alter the Points Per Place number:
Original Points Per Place = ((337 – 225) * 2) / (10 – 1) = 24.88
Points Per Place with Super Strong Finisher = ((322 – 198) * 2) / (10 – 1) = 27.56
But it does alter how many points 1st place earns (remember, their result equals the Race Quality rating).
If you got 2nd place in the original race, you would have earned a result of 249.88. But if you got 2nd place with the super-strong 100-rated rider finishing in the top 10, your result is now 225.56.
At the start of this post we said “to improve your ranking you must beat riders currently ranked stronger than yourself.” While this isn’t always the case (there are situations where you could improve your score without beating riders ranked above you) in the vast majority of situations, the statement holds true.
Therefore, if you’re looking to improve your ranking, you need to enter races against higher-ranked riders. If you’re the top-ranked rider in your race, chances are very good that winning 1st place won’t boost your ranking at all.
This is just another danger of Racing Within Your Zwift Category which strong riders must consider.
And this is why top-ranked racers will often pull out of a race before the end… because if they finish against a weaker field, they’re essentially boosting the scores of their competitors, without boosting their own score. Unsporting? Many would say so. But it happens.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully you now understand how ZwiftPower’s rider rankings work. And if you do, congrats – that means you can easily grasp how ZwiftPower’s team rankings work!
Watch this space for a follow-up post focusing on strategies for boosting your rider ranking.
Questions or Comments
Something you don’t understand? A nuance we missed? Comment below.