Despondent after my first race

(Oliver Higbee (B) [WKG]) #1

After completing my first training plan (Beginner FTP builder) and retesting my FTP (now 2.3W/kg) I was really excited about getting into racing on Zwift.

Having just completed my first race [PRS (D)] this excitement has turned into despair. I managed to just about keep up for the first 10minutes, but as soon as we hit the first climb, pretty much everyone took off never to be seen again, leaving me to ‘race’ alone. On the results screen, the top 5 all finished with over 3W/kg, with me coming home 2nd last. In zpower, only 8 of the starting 25 finished without DQ.

Are all races going to be like this or will I actually get to race with others?




(C oach Paul Ozier) #2

Hi Olly,

Races on Zwift start off pretty darn fast. It is the first 3 to 5 minutes that usually are the hardest. A good warm up that prepares you for the intensity is a help (must). 

How long have you been riding and training? 

We all started somewhere. It takes time to get stronger and faster. Your first race you held with them for 10 minutes. Next time it may be 15 minutes, then 20…keep setting yourself realistic targets based on your experience and fitness. Riding more and more, jumping into some races, all will help you gain speed, fitness and more time hanging with the group.

There are a lot of training plans on Zwift. There are a lot of workouts aimed at FTP, but also focus on VO2 workouts. VO2 efforts are much harder, but shorter and repeated with less rest between efforts. This will help with your recovery between hard efforts, and also increase your abilities to handle the power spikes that are typical while riding/racing in a group.

Keep at it. You will see improvement with time. It is a tough sport, but you will get to a point where it is hard, but doable and fun.

(Duane Gran [Vision]) #3

Racing is in some way a despondent thing because there are many who lose and only a few who win, but you find the victories in the journey.  Talk with people who race and most will tell about experiences of getting dropped and gradually building the fitness and ability to read the race in order to hang on and even animate the results.  Your first experience is pretty common but keep coming back at it because the races can also be a lot of fun.

(Oliver Higbee (B) [WKG]) #4

Thanks for the positive responses guys!

I’ve been training on Zwift since November, after multiple ankle fractures has left me unable to continue playing football. I’m hoping racing in Zwift and eventually crits will fill that competitive void. 

It wasn’t the finishing low in the standings that put me down, it was the amount of DQs.

@P.Ozier:   Its funny you should say that because I’m starting a custom workout called ‘VO2 Max Booster Program’ next week.



(Klem Klemperer! Z TAZ B) #5

Don’t worry Oliver. Without seeing the results, I’d guess that the DQs were most probably people entering the Cat D race who were obviously NOT Cat D, just trying to “sandbag” their way to a “win” or just didn’t know what Cat to enter (I’ll admit to entering too low a Cat on my first race).

Just keep at it. I prefer the E races where everyone starts together. I finish way down the results table but find it better than when each Cat is released at a different time.

Pro Tip: All races start HARD! Think almost sprint level hard! Be prepared to hammer off the line and hold well above your FTP for the first few minutes, then things settle down slightly to just being uncomfortably hard. It’s worth trying to stick with a group during this time.


Just echoing the sentiment.

Be thankful that your first racing experience was on zwift and not in real life. It’s heartbreaking to train all off-season and then go to your first race and be dropped so fast that you’re embarrassed to come back to the start finish line (for the record I did, a humbling experience)

Go to any race, virtual or otherwise and you will have to contend with stuff like that. At virtually every cross race I did this year then entire cat 4/5 field was lapped by an pro triathlete just getting into cross. But thanks to USA Cycling and it’s convoluted system without the necessary upgrade points he had to race the cat 4/5 race. He’s a really nice guy and hated competing on such an unfair playing field.

On my first Zwift race I got dropped in a hearbeat, did not realize that all they guys who took off got disqualified so I dropped down a level for my next race, only to get DQ’d myself. So I bumped back up, and for the next race let the guys take off, and raced my own race. More often then not I end up in a (small) group that are legitimate and it’s a good race. Some days I keep up, some days I get dropped. All part of it.

Keep at it. Racing hurts. It’ hurts physically and dealing with the disappointment hurts mentally. Training… truly training is very hard. But if you keep at it, when you see results, it’s worth it.

Last year IRL I managed to podium for the first time during an off-road triathlon. It made every disappointment I had ever experienced worth it. And every set back and heart breaking moment I had made standing on the podium that much better.

(Zee Kryder) #7

I would add, watch a few races on zwiftcommunitylive or some older ones on youtube.

Start with flat courses if you get dropped on climbs.

Some races do not count zpower. (Kiss races for ex.) 

Don’t try to stay with the lead A cat riders. You will probably get spent in a very short time. Look for your own cat.


(Matt von Wahlde 7403) #8

Stick with it! You will improve!!

Don’t read the internet. Ride your bike. Listen to your body and find a way to go to that dark, dark, place of pain and love  it…


(Mike Platt (WBR) C) #9

yeah i’m new to this too, i have found if you don’t hammer out of the gate you get dropped and can’t benefit from drafting in a group, so it might seem counter intuitive to blow your wad out of the gate but it is worth it.

(Jesse Kelly - #10

Oliver I was fortunate to have watched a video someone posted on how to race in Zwift. They described it as much more like a Cross or MTB race in real life where riders explode out the gate fighting for the line into the trail. So I happened one day to have done a work out a when I saw a race was about to start.  For a laugh I jumped in and went like a banshee! It sure helped that I was completely warmed up! As I hoped I was with the front surge but another group still got out in front. Things backed off within a min and another surge happened and we caught the riders that got away. Next thing I knew I was in the lead. :slight_smile:    I found this all pretty thrilling because in over a decade of MTB racing I’ve always been pretty much dead last off the line. 

As thrilling as it all was, a few words of caution about what you’re seeing. Well, more of a diatribe actually!

I’m a very experienced racer and raced on tour around the US. And I’m also a coach. However I’ve never used a trainer until the last year, and over all my career I’ve been very wary of the numbers people tout, especially with “watts”. Meanwhile I have a friend who’s represented the US in rowing and virtually all his training revolves around watts. I know how valuable the data can be, but I’d still caution you about it. 

We have a Wattbike at the local gym; a very sophisticated trainer designed in part by British Cycling and meant to be one of the most accurate trainers available. It was not ideal conditions but I finally did my first FTP test. It came out to 272watts. That’s a decent number, but it’s nowhere near the numbers my fellow racers post up. Being that I’m significantly larger than most of my comp and knowing the caliber I’m competing at, I was expecting to see an FTP of more like 350watts. 

So this Wattbike? Was it calibrated right? I didn’t have a fan; did that make a difference? The fit wasn’t perfect like my real bike; did that make a difference? Really there are endless variables. I will get on the same bike a day later and see higher numbers. IT could be anything; was I overtrained? Did I have a cup of coffee? A good breakfast?  

I’d say for the most part machines tend to be accurate at least to themselves, so staying with the same trainer is a good idea.  Since my FTP test I have gotten Zwift. I’ve tried it with two machines by Tacx; one their bottom level smart trainer, the other an upper midrange trainer with a built in motor to simulate DH.  First of all the numbers I’m seeing on Zwift are much higher than the Wattbikes (and higher too than the Stages cycling bikes which are also meant to be dead accurate). Not only that, but the numbers I’m seeing on the higher end machine are even higher still. I’ve been doing a lot of training now on a trainer, and there is an art to taking an FTP test, so no doubt I’ve improved.  I have not actually done a full FTP test on the high end machine, sure if I did it’d be over 400 watts.  This machine is published as being within 5% accuracy. 

So we’re talking possibly a 100+watt differene between ‘accurate’ machines! 

I think in my case the Wattbike rewards a perfect rounded pedal stroke, which I don’t have. The trainers though, with virtual flywheels, especially the one with the motor, rewards my real life pedaling style which tends to be very lugging and more of a thump thump thump then a continuous spin. They may all be accurate in the watts they read, for all I know…, but continuous motor feels more like the road, in that I may punch out 400 watts for 10 seconds, but then I’ll subtly drift it back for a few seconds, and then carry on at 400 watts. The wattbike would drop quickly in it’s power readings; whereas the trainer does not. And nor do you really drop in real life (at least not much).  It’s why stava will estimate I’ve averaged 450 watts up a climb when I just haven’t. 

I’m returning the higher end machine. It feels great but it just doesn’t seem as consistent in the erg mode as the cheaper trainer. It also ramps too much at lower speeds and doesn’t simulate how it’d feel in the real world which is one of the reasons I wanted more resistance. 

The problem with the cheaper machine for me is it doesn’t have enough resistance for sprint efforts or continuous efforts over 400 watts. I’m not there often though so I’m happy to stay with this machine for now as it works great for erg workouts and feels pretty darn good.   

I know Zwift is less than accurate with everyone out there, but it’s still great training and good fun, with whoever you’re riding with. I’ve been thrilled with the experience. 

I’m sure you’ve all done this, but when just looking for a good spin about I like finding a Zwift rider and just trying to stay with them, no matter their speed. Sometimes you’re overshooting and sometimes you drop too much, and you’re trying to pay attention to which direction they might take or whether they upped their effort…    Sometimes I find someone doing strong efforts in workout mode and I just try to follow along :) 


(Mark Kidd (C)) #11

Change your weight to 50Kg, use zPower and unscrew the resistance to your tyre. Makes keeping up much easier.



(Paul Allen) #12


For the most part zPower is excluded from the results of races. You can also cheat with smart trainers, so singling out zPower is off-base.