Zwift Tri Series
How (not) to win races on Zwift
How do you prepare for something if you don’t know exactly what it is? Yes I know what to expect in a 40k bike race, but on Zwift?
I had no idea…
The first race - without a plan
That is exactly how the first race went. I just had no idea. Neither how many watts I can actually push for how long, nor how to approach such a Zwift race tactically.
At the same time I had no overview where I was in the field. After the race I was ranked, but even that didn’t help me to rate my performance, because I didn’t have any benchmark. For me it was all very confusing.
Race strategy - experience makes faster
From the second race on the ladies got a separate start from the men. That was great, because that way I finally had an overview.
And a plan. Because with every race I did, I was able to estimate my capacity a little better and make more realistic assumptions about how many watts I can hold up for how long. Of course, plans never work out and the races were so hard in the first few minutes that I couldn’t even think about how I wanted to go about it.
But it got better from week to week. I started to understand how this Zwift race works, how to save watts and when you have to go for it. It started to be really fun.
Also the competition became bigger and more competitive, more teams and riders signed up for the series. It’s quite amusing and motivating when you ride virtually with/against exactly the same cyclists as in the cyclocross season or on the road last summer.
Sprint for the finish line - timing is everything
At race four I finally managed to make it to the finish line in the leading group, but only to fail completely in the sprint.
Everyone just rode away from me. Unlike on the road, you can’t tell by the people’ behaviour that the sprint is about to start. No nervous glances, no shifting, no delay in speed. It just gets faster and faster and suddenly much faster. I was either too late or my legs just failed.
The two most important findings of my sprint failures so far:
- start to sprint way earlier
- use the draft effect
So just follow at full gas when someone picks up the pace. Even if your head intuitively says that at 750m before the finish-line is much too early. In race seven the plan finally (almost) worked out. I crossed the finish line at the same time as the winner.
I almost fell off my bike. That was the hardest sprint I’ve ever done. Or maybe the only one I ever really rode properly. I never knew I could do that. After the first pain and breathlessness was over, I could look at the screen again. My Avatar stood at the side of the road as if nothing had happened and just waited to ride on. Can’t she notice how I feel?!?
Die Daten - zählt wirklich nur W/kg?
With every race I was able to go a bit deeper. The effort felt maximum every time, but still I had the feeling that I was able to work harder because of the habituation and experience. As if my body was saying “we survived it last time, let’s try 1% more this time”. Maybe this is the infamous “racing form”. Only the last one, I just had a bad day.
Here you can see how this looks like in watts for me ( first race at the bottom).
The weight is really my weight. I love data and hate unfairness; it’s basically just a number. I think if we were more open about it and finally say goodbye to “lighter is better”, it would be good for all of us.
Because no, it is not only power to weight that matters. Not only in real road racing, but also on Zwift, you can ride energy-saving, take advantage of the draft, let it roll downhill and really push hard when it pays off.
Of course, you won’t be able to finish at the front of any race with very little power, whether absolute or relative. Who can ride at a high power for a long time, will probably not be last. But there is more to cycling than just W/kg, even at Zwift, although in a different way than on the road.
At least I had a lot of fun, was motivated by the new challenge and learned a lot. Because now it is getting serious!
German Triathlon Bundesliga
On Sunday the first official race of the 1st and 2nd German Triathlon Bundesliga starts. I can”t wait.
Tune in or join us the Zwift race yourself, because the race is open to everyone.