Winning my first Zwift(power) race

I started on Zwift on 15 Jan 2020, yes I was a late adopter, but as I mentioned in my last post – having to cycle indoors only became a ‘need’ once we moved to Ireland. For the most part I had just ridden recreationally before that, and raced a few MTB races (of which I won one) back in South Africa and, for a period of time, about ten years ago, I did some ‘reasonably’ serious training with a friend.

Zwift though quickly brought out the competitive side and I found myself wanting to see how well I could do if I started putting in some effort. As I’m sure anyone who has raced on Zwift knows though – “anyone” on Zwift can join a race – there is no monitoring or enforcing of category limits on the Zwift platform itself (it’s just suggested/recommended), so you can find yourself trying to compete with people way above your FTP – which does not exactly make for fun racing.

In order to solve some of this – most races are run, and the results filtered through Zwiftpower where they remove people who either did not belong in the race category in the first place, or clearly exceeded the w/kg limits of the race category. So soon after getting started on Zwift I signed up with Zwiftpower and started doing a few races to see how I did relative to people who were actually supposed to in the category I was racing in.

Until yesterday I’d done 11 races on Zwift, with my best placing being 2nd, and two 3rd places – so not too bad – a 36% ‘podium’ success rate in fact. However, with my C almost B rating I did find myself wondering if I would be able to win a race in the C category before having to start racing in the B category.

So, on Friday (yesterday), I signed up for a Newbury Velo Crit race – 12 laps – and figured I’d give winning it a go. The race had 12 entrants – so not the hugest field, so perhaps things were already in my favour! None the less, the race started fast (as with any Zwift race) but as per with the race I did earlier in the week, I found myself in the main bunch right from the start and feeling pretty comfortable. I’m not sure what has made the biggest difference recently to my ‘racing’ but I think ultimately it’s just the combination of all the things I’m currently doing: high intensity races, more regular rides/training and some longer endurance rides. I felt comfortable throughout the race and was really enjoying almost being able to take it a little easy at times in the ‘blob’ and not have to do too much work for a change!

Sadly, I did not have a power-up to use in the final sprint (and actually for the last 4 laps in a row if I remember correctly!), and ended up getting overtaken by two people as we headed into the last 200m who both were making use of aero power-ups. I gave it everything I had and hit 956w in the sprint (an all time high) and closed the gap down to 0.5s as I crossed the finish line in 3rd. I was gutted. I really wanted to win on Zwift itself, but knowing some people race in the wrong categories I headed over to Zwiftpower to check the results, and…I had won!

In the end, only 3 of the original 12 entrants in the race were categorised on Zwiftpower which again makes you question the ‘honesty’ system Zwift themselves are using and it does make the win feel a bit less than if I’d taken it against a bigger group that included more riders – but for now as they say a win is a win and I’ll take it. Onwards and upwards!