Zwift How-To: Preparing for Your First Race or Group Ride

January 5th 2018

Group rides and races are a great way to switch up your training on Zwift. But, they are a lot different than riding alone or doing a workout. Zwift adds a variety of aspects to your ride to make it feel more like riding outside. Then there is the social aspect, races and group rides are a great way to meet people and share some camaraderie.

Finding Group Rides and Races

Joining a Zwift race or group ride is easy. Open the Zwift Mobile Link app for a full list of opportunities, and the ability to register in advance. Or explore our events page. Read the event details about the race or group ride. You can also find the events in game from the start screen. They are listed in the top right corner.
Upcoming Events

Picking Your Category

Group rides and races are organized by rider category (see below). The categories are based on fitness levels as measured by watts per kilogram (w/kg) and your functional threshold power (FTP). The “A” group rides are fastest, while “D” riders battle at more modest speeds. Pro tip: some group rides and races start different categories at slightly different times.
W/kg

Here are a few great first rides and races to check out: ODZ Coffee Ride, Aussie Hump Day Ride (AHDR), TGIF Group Ride, WBR races, Zwift sponsored races (you’ll see the Zwift logo), and KISS races.

Get Warmed Up Before the Event

Make sure you give yourself a good 15 minutes before the group ride or race begins to get warmed up. Most rides and races go hard out of the gate, so there won’t be a warmup once the event starts. This is also a good time to make sure all your connections — heart rate monitor, cadence, and trainer — are working properly and that your trainer is calibrated correctly. We notify you in game when your event is about to start, so don’t worry about losing track of time while warming up.

Make sure your water bottles are full, sports nutrition is within reach (at least for longer rides — most Zwifters don’t eat during events that are shorter than an hour), and a dry towel is handy. Don’t forget about your fan!

Group Ride and Race Starts

Just like in real life, everyone is excited and fresh at the start of the event. Be ready to pedal hard from the get-go. You may even have to produce watts above your category level for a bit as the pack settles in. This initial burst usually only lasts for the first mile or so, as Zwifters begin to find riders at similar levels to work with.

One last thing to know about group rides and races are the effects of drafting and your avatar’s weight. To better mimic the real world, take full advantage of drafting. Simply put, if you are on someone’s wheel, you can put out less power and still stay with them. This essentially allows you to ‘rest’ while someone else does the work. It’s a good tactic to use, but don’t expect someone to let you sit on their wheel for an entire race, they will expect you to pull too once you catch your breath. For more info on how to draft check out this article from Zwift Insider.

Weight impacts your ability to go up hills. You will see Zwifters put out massive watts on hills, but get passed by lesser efforts. This is because lighter riders ascend easier than heavier riders and need less power to do so. Keep this in mind as you try to catch someone going up the Watopia mountain. Zwift Insider did a nice test on weight. You can find that full breakdown here.

Now that the event is underway, there are a few differences to point out between group rides and races.

The point of a group ride is to ride as one group taking full advantage of the benefits of riding in a pack or peloton. Stronger riders will be at the front pulling the group. While the weaker riders stay close behind utilizing the draft.

The ride leader has a yellow beacon over them and will be sending out messages to encourage people in the back to catch up, and riders off the front to slow down. It’s best to stick as close to the ride leader as possible to get the best benefits of the pack.

Ride LeaderIf you do fall off the back, be on the lookout for the ride sweeper, they have a red icon above them and it's their role to help you get back into the pack. There will always be a group leader, but there is not always a group sweeper.

Ride Sweeper

During races, everyone is out for themselves, so don’t expect Zwifters to let off the gas to keep the peloton together. People will be sprinting off the front and racers will be getting dropped throughout the race. Settle into a group that is at a similar level as you, and be prepared to work. They are trying to beat you, so fight them off and save a little for the sprint at the finish. Most racers start to pick up the watts with about 500m to go, so watch people’s w/kg, and when you see someone’s spike, get moving if you want to be in contention for the win!

Two last pieces of advice, have fun and share a Ride On! or three. Sure, it’s going to hurt along the way, but all that pain is just weakness leaving your body. The fitness gains and post-event endorphin avalanche is well worth it. We know you will get hooked.