How can these odd race results be explained?

Recently I finished top 10 in two cat C races from the monthly series. They were on mostly flat courses and culminated in mass sprints of groups of about 20-30 riders, after the tempo/wattage had steadily increased over the last 5 minutes. There had been no break-aways whatsoever in each race (though 70-80% of the participants had been dropped that could not maintain pace). I therefore think that the power curve from zwiftpower should paint an accurate picture of the race finale. Also, given the layout of the course I would expect raw watts to be most significant here. In both cases, during the finale I was always in the draft in the first half of the group.

Below is what the power curve in the first race (event ID 3362947) looks like for me (orange, 83kg 194cm) and a few riders that finished ahead of me.

Black (80.5kg, 188cm) finished 3rd, 0.86 secs ahead of me.
Green (73.9kg 172cm) finished 4th, 0.4 secs ahead of me.
Blue (98kg, 183cm) finished 6th, 0.07 secs ahead of me.

This sort of boggles my mind as I was clearly outputting significantly higher power numbers over even the last 10 minutes of the race. I understand that I was the tallest rider here, but it’s not exactly like the other riders were midgets. Especially the black graph looks odd, by far the lowest power output, yet clearly ahead of the others.

The second race (event ID 3620096) shows a similar pattern, I (purple curve) finished 9th this time.

Orange (87.5kg, 190cm) finished 2nd, 0.58 secs ahead of me
Red (94kg, 180cm) finished 4th, 0.33 secs ahead of me
Black (58kg, 154cm) finished 5th, 0.26 secs ahead of me
Blue (79kg, 175cm) finished 6th, 0.18 secs ahead of me
Green (92kg, 191cm) finished 7th, 0.12 secs ahead of me

Here I am mostly intrigued by the black and blue curves, outputting way less watts, yet still ending up in front of me. Also, how is it is possible that “Mr. Orange” - who has similar length and weight) despite topping my power only in the very final second by just a few watts but with significantly less power just before, ends up more than half a second in front of me. We were doing over 60 kph, so that equates to about 10 metres, hardly the photo finish I would expect.
Who can shed any light on why things played out this way?

Aero power up & pack position are the 2 obvious ones…

Plus you know, power graphs very rarely decide races unless its a ITT - Its how & when you use that power over outright best effort.

As we are talking a few seconds between riders, its not going to be easy to tell you exactly why… A recording of the race would shed a whole lot more light.

Forgot to mention, but in the second race I did in fact deploy an aero power up during the final 200 metres. In the first race there were no power-ups.

Frame and wheels will also play a part in how aero efficient you were throughout the race and the sprint, keeping in the lead group but out of the wind can save you lots of Watts.

Bike and wheel choice, drafting and optimal pack positioning. Efficiency, basically.

Flat line watts is clear sign of a rider who has activity set to private so live data not been updated to fit file. Top end power is always missing on power graph.

I’m just throwing this out there but looking at the video of the 2nd race I would say you have started your sprint too late and therefore possibly too far back. You are finishing strongly but you don’t appear on the rider list until around 65 metres to go and at that point 7 of the 8 who finished ahead of you are already ahead of you. ( and have been since at least 166m out)

If you look at the final sprint segment time you will notice you were faster over the sprint segment than 4 of those finishing ahead of you. I suggest that they possibly opened up their sprint earlier and were able to hold the speed they built up to the line. (Not sure how any of what I have written can be related back to power graphs for watts or w/kg !!)

Tx Ian, that makes perfect sense. Good to learn about the flat line.
A fellow participant pointed me to a video of the race, which I have now also looked at and it is very instructive. I agree with you that I started my final push too late and then had to make up too much ground. Obviously the one thing that you can not extrapolate from the power curve is when that power was precisely applied. And I still had something left as I crossed the line, as witnessed also by being still ‘in the red’ with my w/kg, should have spent that earlier.
Again, tx for the feedback.

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I don’t think you can accurately compare the lines looking at watts. The other rider may weigh significantly less and is putting out similar or higher watts/kg. Click the watts/kg button at the top for a more accurate comparison.
Also, the graph does not show your wattage output at a specific time in the race.
The race does not start on the left and end on the right in that graph.
It is just showing your output over a specific time.
For example, 20 minute power of the black line is 200 watts. But that could be 20 minutes at the beginning, middle or end of the race. Just whatever their best 20 minute effort was.

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u got graphs for w/kg instead of raw watts?
hard to tell without taking rider weight into account.

u leading people out for the sprint or what? XD
ppl behind you with aero powerup might get an ez win even if u doing the most watts. timing is very important.

It’s pretty surprising but, when you look broadly at what power profiles of even flat route winners look like, they are more likely to have more wkg than the others in their race than pure watts.