Group Ride Drafting Dynamics

Are you a watt holder, a pop and dropper, or a tail grabber?

Assuming you are riding on Zwift in a group ride peloton prescribed to move at 2 w/kg on a flat road do you in general:

A. Maintain the prescribed ~2 w/kg and randomly float from the front to the back to the front to the back of the peloton with Zwifts natural group drafting dynamic.

B. Hang on the front half of the group and pop 3 w/kg every 10 seconds or so and coast at 1.5 w/kg the rest of the time staying within 10 meters of the group ride leader.

C. Hold 1.7w/kg at the back of the peloton and ramp when required.

I’m a B. Unless I’m in a Sub2 group ride I generally feel more comfortable a few meters ahead of the ride leader.

I also think it’s more efficient to pop and drop watts in the front of a peloton on Zwift. I’ve read a bunch about how the peloton draft dynamics in Zwift don’t represent real life well but I’d say this is just a learning curve in the game to those that think so. With a few pops now and then I can draft at ~.7 w/kg less than the rider in front of me for days.

There is also a lot of talk about group rides that may be exceeding the prescribed w/kg. To this I would say are you A, B, or C’ing. It makes a huge difference.

While I occasionally look, it does not affect how I ride. Like an outdoor group ride, you are either with the group, off the front, or out the back. Ride within the group. Minimize gaps. Stay as smooth as possible. Again, this is the same as when outdoors. The Zwift draft dynamics are a bit different than outdoors, but after a few rides you should be able to save anywhere from 0.5-1.0W/kg while in the draft.

As for the ride leader, the point is to stay in the same group as the ride leader. I have yet to ever see a ride where the ride leader was always leading from the front. They typically move about w/in the group. You may be in front of or behind the ride leader. This is not a problem. The problems occur when the front of the group is going faster than they are supposed to and either split the group or force the whole group to go faster than planned. Don’t be that guy :wink:

I stay in the front of the group that contains the beacon.
Early in the ride, that is the front group but as I see gaps form behind me, I start to drop off the pace and join the next group back until I see the Beacon.
I just keep an eye on the overview map.
When riding in London, I like to sprint the sprint segments and there, I get way in front but I just coast afterwards and let the group catch up.
You can be in last place of a group ride and still have the green jersey. No need to blow up the group.
And, no need to scold riders in the group just because they choose to sprint a sprint segment.

Sprint segment or not, I have never understood why some people get so angry about the flyers. While not misplaced, I find it quite amusing that they can get so upset.

OK so I’m more critical of my zwift theories than anyone else and I had a good opportunity today to test my pop and drop theory as being the most efficient in a group ride. The Ride leader of this 90 minute group ride was the same weight as me and only 2cm in height difference. It’s good to compare to a group ride leader because they maintain consistent watts and everyone follows the leader.

Here’s my G graph, I did the pop and drop for the duration of this ride and maintained a 20 meter distance to the ride leader. I tried to be as pop and droppy as possible.

And here are the results, group ride leader on top, and me on the bottom of the pic.

According to the results I saved 11 watts avg’d over 90 minutes (7 watts NP). Is it worth it? I have no idea.

Next test when it presents itself, I’m going to try a more fluid approach, not so much stabby power, but more smooth transitions.

Zwift efficiency will be mine.