Category Enforcement - anyone else getting annoyed by this?

Sorry if this has been covered in previous posts, but I have a real issue with the new category enforcement. As a very lightweight, low end Cat B rider, I previously alternated between choosing to race Cat B or Cat C, depending on how energetic I was feeling (I don’t want to collapse in a heap for the rest of the day after every race!), how much training I had done over the previous few months and whether the race was flat or hilly. Even when riding C I have never won a race and only placed on the podium when there were low rider numbers, so I have never felt like a flier. Since the introduction of the new category enforcement this option is no longer available and if I want to race, my lowest choice is to race B. On a flat race, this invariably means riding all but the first 1/3 of the course on my own, which is pretty boring and completely negates any reason to race in the first place. As a result, I’ve found myself joining the virtual pace rides as the only enjoyable alternative (other than the occasional suitable group ride), and these get old pretty quickly. I think category enforcement looked good on paper, but for me it has done nothing except take away from a previously enjoyable Zwift experience.

I’m in the same boat. The real issue is that the categories are based around W/Kg or put another way, how good you are at climbing.

At the very limit, every Zwift race (except those in Cat A) is really a time trial with the winner being the heaviest rider with the max allowable W/Kg for the cat as they’ll always have the most power. There’s a bit of drafting when riders are closely matched but at the limit the bigger guy will always win.

Unless the cats are chosen by something other than pure W/Kg that won’t ever change.

In previous discussions of this, some people want to move the cats to race points and others are really happy with the status quo, (…I wonder why? :wink: ).

Not sure that anything has gone further than that.

Your current options are:

  1. Accept it and know you’ll never win and probably be at the back on your own.
  2. Sandbag i.e. cheat - no fun for anyone else and pretty hollow.
  3. Become a Cat A rider where there’s no limits on lighter riders - if only that was an option! :smiley:
  4. Get really heavy so that you can race the same in a lower cat like the big guys do - see point 2; hollow.
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The issue is that you are a low end B rider, so ’ riding all but the first 1/3 of the course on my own, which is pretty boring’ is exactly the experience you can expect.

You changed this experience in the past by sandbagging, which is not allowed in CE races.

The solution is not to allow sandbagging again - it is to allow for variable boundaries set by race organisers so sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the nail.

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Yeah - not really sandbagging if I ride as hard as I can on a flat course in the category below and finish in the middle of the pack. Its also not a problem when riders from all categories are visible to each other, as the “selected” category has no meaning then and I can just ride with whatever bunch best fits my ability. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to know when this is going to be the case when selecting a race.

I’ve raced over 350 times on Zwift and have absolutely no interest in where I place - I just find the dynamics of a Zwift race to be much more enjoyable than any of the other ride options, so long as I can select a group of riders who I can realistically compete with each time.

I agree - maybe this is the incentive I need to just get fit again!

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Whilst I appreciate your point, racing in a lower category than yours is, by definition, sandbagging.

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The basic problem is that power-based categories for racing are a crap idea and will never work well. Tinkering with the details may make the system marginally better or worse for some riders, but the concept is still completely wrong from the outset. There’s just no reason to think it will ever turn into something decent, however much tinkering people do.

There’s just no valid reason to make people always race in fields where they are totally outclassed, if they are not too strong for the class below (as the OP claims for themselves, I haven’t checked). Saying “people at your level of ability are supposed to ride at the back, every race, all the time, for ever and ever” is just silly. What’s the point of such a system? Who is it serving?

Maybe zwift will work this out and do something about it eventually, but I’m not holding my breath.

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I think that even with a ranking system the OP would be placed in B. Looking at the Zwift ranking he is ranked higher than me and I would say I am a B.

Not that I think ZP ranking is that good but that was all I had to compare.

image

In defense of the OP, the “elephant in the room” in comparing your stats with his are your relative raw watts (212W vs 322W).

I would guess that in the vast majority of Zwift races he’s simply out-gunned by virtue of his low power output.

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This is exactly what I think should be tackled. Ranking based pens for sure long term, variable pens short term. Consistently being at the bottom of a category sucks. All agreed.

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Don’t get me wrong - I’m happy to have B as a recommended category and have almost always chosen to race B. I’d just like the option to self select a lower category when I know I’m not going to be up to the task. (Like today - 3 weeks post COVID and as hard as I could - 2.9 w/kg at 185w on a flat course and Zwift doesn’t let me choose anything below a B!)

most people will be totally outclassed no matter how you define the pens. you can probably decide to some extent who gets shafted and why with custom pens but it won’t change that

I’ve been racing at the bottom of A for a couple years. Often not fun, for sure, but that’s how it is. That said, I still feel it’s a race because we are all on the course and I’m constantly watching the other groups ahead and behind.

I’ve posted on this a few times. The answer… train specifically and try harder. Everyone has a weakness they can work on.

Zwift will not be changing the current W/KG system or they would have done so by now. My theory is the weight based system makes racing accessible to more people… i.e. it’s a business model of sorts.

I’m still learning about racing dynamics/drafting. Seems a fine line between sandbagging vs standard racing tactics (where you sit in a peloton much of the time).

Yes that is true, in flat races I should win but anything with a climb the OP should win. Also remember on flats the OP can draft so there is some power saving (±25%) or 30% in a group but on a climb I get no/zero help

I would say if you are not up to the task then don’t race. Racing is hard, I limit my racing to once or twice a week because I can’t race at my max performance more often.

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Sure but the crucial point that I specifically made is that there’s no good reason to make this the same set of people every single race, permanently. At best, such a system is thoughtlessly and lazily designed, but I could be ruder.

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I think that’s only true if you’re both climbing at the same raw wattage. If you’re both riding at the same W/kg value the heavier rider will generally be faster, despite his greater CdA, because of his higher wattage.

On Zwift, lighter riders will go faster on flats and climbs than heavier riders if both are putting out the same wattage.

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I would say that a competent and decent racing ecosystem should cope with the riders who want to take part, not treat them as an unwelcome and undeserving nuisance if they don’t fit the parameters that the racing ecosystem is designed for.

This common misconception is not true, there are no races where the OP’s slightly elevated W/kg figure would beat the performance of a heavier C close to the top end of their category. Don’t forget the weight of the bike!

Eg a 50kg rider with 8kg bike needs to put out 4.3W/kg to match a 100kg rider with 8kg bike doing 4W/kg up a sufficiently steep hill that air resistance can be ignored. That is really quite a large increment to pull out of thin air, when their W/kg is nominally limited to the same threshold. The absolute watts threshold helps in some of the most extreme cases but the OP is just over that.

(It’s even worse if they are fast enough that air resistance is non-negligible, as this also affects the lighter rider proportionally worse than the heavier one)

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Totally agree with this.

There are a lot of good reasons why lightweight riders gripe about heavier riders dominating a lot of cat C and D races. Very few Zwift races contain significant climbs (like the Alpe or Radio tower), where being light might actually be an advantage, and most can be described as flat or rolling.

Do a search for this Zwift Insider article from March 19, 2020 entitled, “Speed Tests: Steady w/kg Across Various Body Weights”.

I’m sure it will open a lot of peoples’ eyes regarding weight and speed on Zwift.
Quoting Eric’s conclusions (sorry, it’s a bit long), " On the other hand, if we look at Zwift’s standard w/kg-based race categories in light of the data above, it’s not hard to conclude that lighter riders face a significant disadvantage in flat races . Yes, you won’t find many heavy riders able to hold 5w/kg to win A races, but you will find plenty of heavier riders who can hold 3.1w/kg, meaning they could race as a C and really put the hurt on lighter riders. (In a flat race, a 100kg rider at 3w/kg will travel over 3kph faster than a 60kg rider holding 3w/kg.)

This is why many flat C races are won by racers weighing 90-100kg. Check out the category C results of this recent race, for example.

So what’s a lightweight D, C, or B racer to do? Skip the flat races. Enter events with significant climbs, where speed differences between weights are much smaller! If you’re able to hang with the heavier riders on the flats, then punch it up the climbs at a higher w/kg than the heavy riders can sustain, you can create the winning selection.

Longer-term, we’d like to see results-based categorization take the place of w/kg-based categories. But until that happens, lighter riders will need to race smart on the flats, attack on the climbs, and perhaps lobby for more climbing races".

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I don’t know about that. From what I see is you don’t need all that power if you are light.
Look at:

3R Volcano Climb Race - 1 Lap (22.4km/14mi 204m)


#2 is 22kg lighter and had 60w less to beat #5 with over a minute.

But the point I wanted to make is that even with a Ranking system (looking at ZP ranking) the OP would be racing against me in B.

I guess it’s because points races aren’t steady-state efforts.

Look at the differences in the relative variability indices. Maybe these riders would be in different cats using the CE system?