Handicaps as an alternative to race category

There’s been some discussion in the past about Race categories and how someone could cheat the system by either weight doping and/or entering the incorrect category. Could giving each rider a handicap be a possible solution ?
It might work something along the lines of:
Each rider is given a handicap based on their best times in previous races. This would then translate into Zwift applying a drag factor to the rider during his next race eg
Handicaps range 1- 50 (say) - lower handicap indicate faster rider, so a rider with a handicap of 1 would have a high drag factor applied when racing and a rider with a handicap of 50 would have a very low (or -ve) drag factor applied.
This would remove the ability to weight dope and would mean that every rider could compete competitively with all abilities in every race.

What about sandbagging? Say I ride a few races well below my capacity so the system things I need a low handicap.

Then I ride the next race at full gas and blitz the field.

True - but you’d only be able to do that once :slight_smile:

Would I though? I could sandbag for a few races, then ride one to win, then sandbag again, then win another. If the system worked out handicaps over a longer set of data, then I’d have more “bad results” than wins, and my handicap would stay low. It couldn’t adjust too quickly just because I had one good race, because it’d be far too volatile.

There’s no real benefit in doing so as I’d “only be cheating myself” as the saying goes, but the same’s true of weight dopers.

It would work similar to golf handicaps whereby its easy to get a lower handicap - just shoot a really low round and your handicap is adjusted immediately, but hard to get your handicap increased as you need lots of bad rounds to get your handicap increased. One good race is representative of your ability and it would take many ‘bad’ races to then alter your handicap downwards.
I don’t see why it couldn’t adjust quickly and being volitile shouldn’t present a problem as it would all be automatically calculated by zwift.
The benefits are that it would be harder to cheat and also all riders could compete competitively in the same race.

I don’t play golf so have no idea about that, but I guess an ability to spike with a relatively slow decay might work.

But that said I don’t think it’s the right way to go. To me, it seems like you’re trying to level the playing field and make it so that “anyone can win a race”. But we know that the reality is some people are fitter, stronger and faster than others. Why shouldn’t they just be able to ride and win races?

You’d also have the more challenging problem of what exactly the impact of a handicap should be. You’ve suggested it would increase the drag on someone; but by how much? And does that number itself have to be adjusted for different ride weights? Or different sexes? Or the route of a given race?

Fair point. However I now seldom enter ‘scratch’ races as I know I’m going to get shelled very quickly and am likely to be cycling on my own for much of the race. Perhaps there could be both ‘scratch’ and ‘Handicap’ races with this supplementing (not replacing) the ‘Hare and Hounds’ race.
I’m not sure what the exact maths behind applying the drag factor would be but I’m sure zwift could come up with something which could work, based primarily on your times in races. You could also have a handicap for ‘Flat’ races and a different handicap for ‘Hilly’ races. As zwift has all our data it could work it all out seamlessly.

I’m not so sure of that! The Zwift drafting algorithm seems rather whacky at times anyway, without trying to apply individual adjustments on top of that.

But I understand where you’re coming from. I suffer from the same fate whenever I try races. Most of the time I’m riding on my own, and there’s not a lot of racing going on. :smiley: Might as well be a TT.

A combination of “standard” and “handicap” races would seem to be a reasonable approach. Then those who don’t like the idea that a slower person can beat them could opt not to take part in those races. Similar to how people have the option to take part in races that allow power-ups or not.

I don’t do many races for two reasons :-

  1. I don’t like the very fast starts (I am a TTer normally so steady state is good for me)
  2. I end up riding 50 minutes or so on my own.

I am hoping that now numbers are increasing races will have more people in each category (C for me) who in theory should ride similar times to me.