Combine race fields with low enrollment numbers

It has been almost impossible to find races this year with reasonable numbers in the A category. I think that A’s should get rolled in with the B’s when enrollment numbers are really low. Personally I think anything less than 10 should get rolled into B, but at the minimum, anything less than 5 absolutely should. If I wanted to do races with really low enrollment numbers, I can do that for free on other platforms.

But won’t that disadvantage the genuine B’s or would you add a weight handicap to the 'sail as to balance them out with the B’s, I mean aren’t the fields split for a reason?

Just to make things clear I’m not a racer

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Not thinking this would be welcomed by the lower Cat.

FWIW this is what a lot of women have had to deal with for years–small fields at races and so the race directors fold them in with the men’s field. U23 women in with the elites for a lot of races too, on the womens’ side. They don’t quite like that happening either, for the most part. And that’s somewhat of the opposite direction–what’s likely to be a slower field tossed into a faster field. Would be worse the other way around.

I know if I’m signed up for a race in C and there’s suddenly 7 or 8 B’s dropped into the race, I’ll probably just leave and go free ride.

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I think matchmaking is the solution for this. Throw away the categories and calculate the best power boundaries for the people who sign up. (Or whatever the ranking system is - doesn’t have to be power.) Create more or less starting pens as needed. Mix it up a bit.


Take this weekend’s Zwift Insider Epic Race PRL, ~176Km and ~2900m climbing without googling, randomly choosing the 1330 GMT event…

Wouldn’t it be better to at least combine into two pens, A/B and C/D to increase the odds of five pen finishers registered on zwiftpower (to allocate ranking points there and at )?

Sure, better ways of allocating pens could happen, but combining is something admins can do themselves without ZwiftHQ re-writing racing rules.

This is the way to do it. And if we get the racing score it seems like it would be possible. Set target maximum pen size (maybe 25 or 50) and add a pen each time it goes over. Then lock the race with 30s to go and shuffle riders into groups of similar ability.

I like matchmaking, but I don’t think it’s going to solve this problem entirely on its own. It would still be possible for the total number of similarly powered contenders to be too low to provide a good field. People don’t sign up for races in conveniently evenly distributed clusters of strength and ability. You could still end up with too few folks in some pens to make it a quality race. You might have to do matchmaking and add bots to make up minimum number of riders if you wanted to avoid small pens or pens with too wide a spread in ability. People have mixed feelings about bots in races though. For what it’s worth, they reportedly work well on other platforms.

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What is the point of 5 As being tossed in with 20 Bs? It will still just be a race among the As. Only difference is the Bs don’t get to make their own race and instead it’s a game of clinging onto the wheels to fight for 6th, and the worst A rider gets to feel better about themselves.


We asked for dynamic pen assignments way back before pen enforcement was a thing.

There is other platforms that does that and racing is 100x better, some days you are the nail and some the hammer and some you just hang in the middle.

Is there a hybrid possible option available? When low attendance, As and Bs start together, but can see each other, and their results are still allocated to their cat.

Not sure this is necessarily true. Take a past event and look at the time results. The times for top 4-5 Bs is within about 30 seconds of the A podiums (over an hour long race). If As and Bs had started together, who know what results would have looked like?

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I completely agree. It’s not like A and B are distinct populations. There’s overlap in ability, especially on a given course, which may favor one ability over another.

I’d much rather be in a field of generally better riders than to be racing solo. In the latter case, the result won’t even count on ZwiftPower anyway.

Actually, I was on RGT for 2 years until it shut down, and there there were no categories generally, and it was fine. You just rode with riders at close to your level, and the rankings reflected how well you did overall. It’s the same situation in Tour de Zwift, where you pick a course, and all rider categories are mixed on that course.

So if there’s numbers to support distinct fields – fine. But if not, it makes for better racing to group riders together.

Better racing for everyone? I would feel the same regarding your example–if I’m in a field with 1 or 2 people, being kicked up to the next field would likely be preferable. But if I’m in a decent-sized lower cat field, would it make for better racing to have 2 or 3 higher cat racers dropped into the race?

The issue isn’t equivalent from both directions.

There aren’t w/kg cats IRL, but something similar would be age cats. If there’s one 12 year old who shows up to the race, they might appreciate being put up into a race with the older/bigger/faster kids. But if there’s a full field of 12 year olds, would they appreciate 2 or 3 bigger and older kids being put in their race? And to be clear this happens sometimes. But my question is whether everyone involved really agrees that it was ‘better’ to do it that way?

There’s also something people find to be important about crossing finish lines and winning races. The pro women’s peloton is dealing with this right now, wrt U23 riders. The UCI has forced U23 women to race the same race as the elites. That means that U23 ‘winners’ of their race don’t get to cross the finish line first, hands in the air, recognized for winning. The whole dynamic of their race changes. And everyone there agrees that it’s not unimportant.

You’re presupposing that eg. the A and B cat riders, while riding together and able to see each other, can’t win their respective Cat when they cross the finish line. Merge small fields together, but keep the Cats for results. Would be more ideal though if Cat labels could appear in the Nearby Riders table so you can tell who is in which cat.

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No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that winning Cat B while coming in second on the road is not the same thing as winning Cat B while crossing the line first. That’s one of the reasons the women’s peloton is pushing the UCI to give the U23s their own race.

What if the U23s were their own cat? It’s not like the white jersey competition in the TdF is its own separate race. But that would require age-group classifications – which Zwift has the data for, but doesn’t have a nice way of presenting results. Then you’d probably want over 70 cats and Masters-cats, etc… more and more ways for someone to win. I guess that makes those winners feel better. But is goal to have a better race for everyone, or just for the single person who might have won in a race setup with a different framework?

The difficult thing is setting up the race so A grade against genuine B grade won’t end up in B grade being demolished. I say “genuine” B grade because there are always some folk who should really be one category higher.

Remember that changes were made to allow breaks to succeed - to slow down big groups.

IRL, I’ve had to conduct races with A and B together because of just 4 A graders. The power ability of A alone really is at another level compared to B grade.

We had to do convoluted systems like starting A 1 lap later than B.

The U23 are their own cat. And the UCI makes them race in the same race as the over 23 pros. So the U23 winner is unlikely to be the person who crosses the line first. And people think that this is important.

Someone could try for a slippery slope argument where the desire for cat winners to cross the line first leads to every person racing in their own category just so everyone feels good. But that’s a slippery slope, it’s not a good objection. The idea is that when there are cats–cats established for other reasons–each cat racing their own race is valuable. It may not be the only valuable thing, but it’s valuable. The claim isn’t ‘everyone should be able to feel good’. The claim is ‘winners of races should cross the finish line first.’

To be clear, in the women’s peloton it’s not the winners of the U23 cat who are objecting to being folded into the over 23 cat. It’s all the U23 riders–winners and last place riders. And the over 23 riders who see what the U23 riders have to do and think it sucks for them too. The goal is a better race for all of them, not just for a single person.

Getting away from age, thought I’d look up an actual example of what I was talking about, and it seems there are some race events already established in this manner.

Take a look at this example. All cats started together and could see each other. By finish times, you’ll notice the B winner would have taken bronze in A, and the top 3 placers in C would have been in the middle of the B field. On paper, this looks like it was more interesting, than if the cats had been separated at the start and invisible to one another and with quite smaller fields.

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To be clear I’m not saying that nobody would enjoy that kind of racing. And I’d guess also that during the race, the U23 women aren’t spending each moment cursing how horrible it is :slight_smile: It definitely changes race dynamics, which is likely to be ‘interesting’ to some and ‘annoying’ to others :slight_smile:

I’m just trying to raise the viewpoint that for many people there is value in the winner of a race crossing the finish line first. It’s not the only consideration, but it should be a consideration.