It took me two years to build up the courage to enter a race in Zwift but I finally did it. Here is a report of how it went and a few things that I learned the hard way.
Before The Race
1) Determine your FTP in w/kg
FTP is an acronym for Functional Threshold Power. If you don’t know your threshold, do an FTP test ride in Zwift. This is important because it is used to determine which category you should race in. The categories are A, B, C and D with A being the fastest. Each category has a recommended threshold range. You’ll notice that the values are in w/kg (power to weight ratio) but your FTP is in watts (power). Simply divide your FTP by your weight for the w/kg value. For example, my FTP is currently 262 watts and my current weight is 148lbs. 148lbs equates to 67.1317kg. Thus, my power/weight ratio is 262w/67kg = 3.9027 w/kg.
2) Make sure your weight in Zwift is updated and accurate
Entering a lower value will falsely increase your w/kg used by Zwift to calculate your speed. In short, it is cheating.
3) Create a on ZwiftPower.com
Create a free account and connect it to your Zwift and Strava accounts
Zwift’s racing features are minimal but, fortunately, the website ZwiftPower.com stepped up to provide the missing functionality and then some. It is free and it is thee hub for all-things-racing in Zwift.
4) Wear a heart-rate sensor
These can be used to detect cheaters who enter bogus weight values. Without a HR monitor, your results may not be considered valid.
5) Have a power meter in your trainer or bike
The two greatest factors used by Zwift to determine your speed are the power you are generating and your weight. If you don’t have a power meter, Zwift uses other factors to calculate a ‘zPower’ value. Because of the inaccuracy of zPower, your results may not be considered valid.
The map that day on Zwft was New York and the race I selected was titled “WBR 1 Lap Lady Liberty Hilly Race”. It seemed like a short distance would be best for my first race and this one was listed at 7.7 miles. Although my FTP puts me well into the B category, I was super nervous so I decided to sandbag it and selected C.
I was sent to the starting area with the other racers. A countdown clock was counting down. One very crucial tip about the countdown is that as it approaches 0, everyone starts cranking out super high wattage so when the race starts, they shoot out of the gate as fast as possible. If you do not do the same, you will be dropped within seconds. The front group was gone in no time so I fell back to a group that consisted primarily of Cat B and C riders. The pace was fierce. This was a hilly course and the group disintegrated on the first hill. I made a break away and ended up riding solo almost the entire race. My HR was pegging 180 bpm in no time and a couple guys were slowly gaining on me until we hit the next big climb where I was able to pull away again.
The race was intense and I basically just held on for dear life. Several times during the race I thought to myself that I can not hold this amount of power for the full race. Soon, we were a mile from the finish. I only had to hold on for a few more minutes although a small group of three or four were now close behind and gaining. Within feet of the finish, they managed to overtake me.
The leaderboard popped up at the finish and it listed me as 2nd place in the C category. When I logged into ZwiftPower to check my results however, ZP detected that I was sandbagging and automatically bumped me up to Cat B so instead of finishing 2nd out of 20 in Cat C, my result was 10th out of 11 in Cat B. I was glad because the B result is more satisfying.
Racing is going to open up a whole new level of fun for me in Zwift.
ZwiftPower Results : https://zwiftpower.com/events.php?zid=104501