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How To

Zwift How-To: Starting Your First Race

on February 06, 2019

Races can be a ton of fun, but no one likes to get dropped at the starting line. Here’s how to make sure your first Zwift race takes off smoothly.

Picking Your Race Category

Races are usually organized into categories, with the "A" group riding fastest while "D" riders compete at more modest speeds. If you aren't sure how a race is categorized, read the event description.

To learn more about choosing your race category, read "Zwift How-To: Choose Your Cycling Race Category".

When the race starts, you may see riders from categories outside your own. If you can keep up with stronger riders, go for it! But the real achievement is winning your category.

Finding and Selecting an Event

Let's find a race! There are few ways to do this.

On Zwift Companion

Log in to Zwift Companion and go to the Events tab. Use the filters at the top to sort by your category and type of event. From there, scroll down the list until you find an event you want to join. Tap on the event to see more details and to select your race  category. Tapping the “+” icon on the right side of the screen reserves a spot and sets a reminder. This is great for events a few days away.

In Game

If you are already logged into Zwift, today’s events are listed on the course selection screen in the top right corner. You can scroll through every event and find the one you want to join. Select the event and your category and then hit join. Zwift will notify before the race starts, so you’re welcome to free ride before then.

On Zwift.com

All the events happening on Zwift can be found on Zwift.com/events. You can sort by sport, intensity, and start time. To get more details, click the event and read more details about the race. From there you can click the + sign to sign up for the event.

Here are a few great first races to check out: Zwift sponsored races (you’ll see the Zwift logo), KISS, and EVR races. You may also want to look into the handicap race format.

Warm Up Before the Event

Give yourself at least 15 minutes before the race begins to get warmed up. 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. We notify you in-game when your event is about to start and bring you right to the starting line, so don’t worry about missing out while warming up.

Make sure your water bottles are full, sports nutrition is within reach (at least for longer races—most Zwifters don’t eat during events shorter than an hour), and a dry towel is handy. And fire up the fan. With those watts, you’re going to need it.

Okay! Time to go!

The Race Starts

Just like outdoors, everyone is excited with fresh legs at the start. 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 find riders at similar levels to work with. After a few minutes, groups begin to form.

To conserve energy so you have it when it counts, take full advantage of drafting. Here’s the idea: when you are on someone’s wheel, you can put out less power and still stay with them. This allows you to ‘rest’ while someone else does the hard 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 Drafting on Zwift.

We also use rider weight to replicate real-world physics, and this impacts your ability to go up hills. You will see Zwifters put out massive watts on hills, but get passed by riders putting out fewer watts because lighter riders ascend easier than heavier riders. Keep this in mind as you try to chase someone going up the Watopia mountain. If you are not a lightweight rider, use your weight to your advantage on the downhills.

During races, everyone is out for themselves, so don’t expect Zwifters to let off the gas to keep the peloton together. People will sprint off the front and racers will get dropped throughout the race. Settle into a group riding at a similar pace 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 typically spike up the watts with about 500m to go, so watch people’s w/kg, and when you see someone begin to hammer it home, attack if you want to be in contention for the win!

Two last pieces of advice? Have fun and share a Ride On! or two. The fitness gains and post-event endorphin avalanche is well worth it.  We know you will get hooked.