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Tactics and Tricks for Racing on Zwift

By Jiri Kaloc

Racing on Zwift is very different from most typical outdoor races. It’s probably closer to time trials but you still have to consider power-ups and specific mechanisms Zwift uses for drafting and riding in groups. If you understand how these things work, you can be ready with a very good strategy for your Zwift race of choice.

Get an industrial-sized fan

First things first, get a bigger fan! Just like having the latest bike will help you go faster outdoors, a heavy-duty fan in your indoor setup will allow you to push harder on Zwift. The lack of airflow makes even a cool room feel like a sauna when riding hard. The better you’ll be at keeping cool, the more power you’ll be able to generate. To test how good your fan is, turn it on the highest setting and stand in front of it for 30 seconds. If you get cold, it’s good enough. The pros often use more than one fan.

Be ready early

For you, the race starts minutes before the official start time. That’s because you are lined up based on when you log in and join the event. Try to get to the start 10-15 minutes beforehand to get the front spots.

Anticipate a sprint start

Zwift racing always has killer starts. You should be warmed-up and ready out of the saddle sprinting with 2-3 seconds to go before the start. Hold that effort for at least the first 10 seconds of the race and don’t get too comfortable after. Expect to settle into a hard tempo right after to keep up with the virtual peloton.

Use climbs to your advantage

Zwift gives you the drafting benefit on most climbs. You can use that to your benefit and conserve energy. The pace usually settles at the top of climbs because they tend to be short and steep, let others lead. If you’re at the top in front, use this time to recover. If you’re chasing, you can keep the power on over the top of climbs and get back into the pack as the leaders slow down.

Know how to attack

If you’re planning to start a breakaway, it’s best to signal to the game that you want to move forward with a short burst of very high effort. That will separate you from the group. Follow that up with a steady high pace to prevent you from sticking to the riders around you. If you’re attacking in a smaller group, it can be useful to drop back to break the bond and then proceed to blaze past the whole group.

It’s all about the finish

Most Zwift races are decided in the finish. The key is to know when to hit it full gas and how to use the group as a slingshot.

  • Anticipate where the push begins – most finishes have a recognizable lead-in. Often it’s a small hill or rise in the final kilometres. Be ready for the attacks around that area.
  • Consider how tired you are – estimate how many seconds you can hold your maximum sprint power. Use that to decide whether to push earlier or as late as possible.
  • Don’t forget about your competitors – if you know some of the riders in front, maybe you can guess their strategy.

The UCI Esports World Championships are close

Zwift is hosting the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championship. It’s the best opportunity to learn from the best. Racers will be riding on a custom “2022 Cycling Esports World Championship Route” which consists of 2,5 laps of the Knickerbocker route. In total, riders will cover 54,9 km and 944 m of climbing. The race finishes at the top of the New York KOM which is a 1,4 km climb with an average gradient of 6,1%. Don’t miss it!