I hate ZRL racing, what am I doing wrong?r

I’m terrible at it, I can’t hold wheels, and I get dropped so quickly that I’m just about done with it. I’m a strong rider, not an elite by any means but a decently strong Cat 2/3 on the road. I get killed without exception in any and all ZRL races. My (ashamedly high) weight is correct, I’m using an aero bike and wheels on flat courses, light bike and wheels on climbing courses, and it makes no difference. I’m really discouraged and it’s making me want to stop completely.

I don’t get it and I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

They are just mostly stuffed with high quality fields with a good density of sandbaggers. Yes, tough racing, and the intermediate sprints make it harder for those of us with feeble sprints.

But the team element makes them fun (IMO) and also there’s an attraction in being able to test myself against the best. Even though I knew the answer before I started.

I was going to skip this season but my team is short of riders.


Even though I’m part of a team, I’ve yet to experience the fun of it. Team strategy or tactics are pretty useless in ZRL racing, as it’s a non-stop hammerfest from the gun, so there’s no chance to attack, counterattack, or set up a break. I wanted to do it since group rides are non-existent where I live and I’m stuck in a town without an active community.

I guess I’m just not cut out for it.

ZRL are a bit of a different animal. They are very focused on prime points so the sprinters do well.

I think it is easier to sandbag in ZRL because you can get a lot of points without blowing over the 20 minute limit.

Look at some other races there’s some nice ones out there.

There is also some group rides that do mini races at the end.

First off, don’t be disheartened.

I feel that Zwift does penalise slightly aggressively based on weight; IRL I can hold my own against my other rider friends, but on Zwift I just watch them fly off as they have a 10kg advantage over me.

I think what you’re experiencing is really several smaller issues all gang up on you. In ZRL, it’s an even more exacerbated problem.

In the three seasons I’ve been riding it, I haven’t got a single FTS or sprint point and - across our team - I think we’re averaging a handful of points a race.

In most races, the issue is that intermediate sprints don’t just exist in isolation; I would probably score more points if the first FTS was 100 metres from the starting pens. I find it’s hard to even be in contention because the pace beforehand means that by the time we reach a sprint, I’m already well down the field, or not in a big blob where I can leapfrog off the group pace.

The second issue is that standards have - I think - really shot up year-on-year.

In Sprint 2021 we were hovering around 3rd/4th in our division.
In Autumn 2021 our same team, with arguably a bit more racing fitness in our legs, was down in 10th/11th.

My conclusion is really that weight is more of an influencer on your success that your raw power development. In that, you could be 20% more powerful than the average rider, but if you’re not light enough you’ll still get chewed up.

FWIW, I don’t think sandbaggers are really that much of a problem in ZRL compared to general community races and events.

As to what to do about it, other than the obvious answers, I think you need to break the challenge down. Forget about ‘getting a result’ in the race overall and instead work your work up to sub-goals, which is what I do/did:

Goal 1 = Can you hold the main grupetto pace for 1 Lap?
Goal 2 = Can you hold the pace of the leading group for 1 Lap?
Goal 3 = Increase number of laps
Goal 4 = 20 mins
Goal 5 = Full race, but not contend the sprint
Goal 6 = Full race and be a contender in the sprint

I have never, ever been able to hold the leading group pace for more than 75% of a race - usually it’s 25 - 50%.
I can, routinely hold the ‘main’ pack pace for the whole race though

These days, I view a race as ‘20 mins’ and use the 20-minute power on ZP to gauge my progress. But it’s largely academic; I’m never going to make A category and I’m never going to win B category, so I just view it as good exercise in and of itself.


ZRL is a cruiser’s dream. 20 min w/kg is irrelevant so many “manage the numbers” to stay in a lower Cat than they probably should be in. To be successful you need to have excellent endurance and extremely good 15 seconds to 5 min power.

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Sorry to hear you aren’t having fun.

When I started ZRL I was a fairly ok C and through the season became a good enough C to warrant tactics and strategies.

I still got hopelessly dropped in some events, other weeks I was getting good points.

At the end if the season I upgraded to B and this is new experience of ZRL.

Like you say, holding the front is harder and strategies and tactics just go out the window. I also miss my “teammates”.

I put that in quotes because ZRL calls them teams but they aren’t quite. If a rider upgrades they are out and hunting for new friends. Not very "team"y.

Luckily within the “club” of racers I managed to get together a new team and being part of that helps the fun side of things.

We know we aren’t league winners, but we turn up, login to discord and just do what we can, sometimes its like a group ride at the back of the race.

Also ZRL isn’t the only way to race.
The Team Time Trials on Thursday are fun and there are many other series, check out things like Flamme Rouge Racing’s “Tours” - they are longer races over a period of 1 week usually.

The point is, I think you can probably find something that you will like even if you can’t get into ZRL in a way you enjoy.

Ride On!

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I think ZRL races are some of the toughest races within their respective categories. People who join is not just people who do an occasional race but people who want to race week in week out. So the field is pretty competitive.

First question to you. Do you do any other races like Crit Races?

I find Crit races to be quite similar to flat ZRL races in the fact that the pace is brutal on the first lap(s) then settles down a bit and then super high again on the last lap. I personally love the Crit races and having done alot of them helps me to hang with the pack for the first crazy push.

How hard the races start really depends alot on the course. If there is a sprint close to the start like there was in Neokyo then the pace is relentless. If the first sprint is a few km out then the pace drops a bit. If there is a climb before the first sprint then the pace tends to be slow until hammer drops on the first climb, like it did this last week in NYC.

Ive found there to be plenty of room for teamwork, though it really depends on where your team mates are. If they are scattered across the different groups then its not easy to work together. But if you say have two team mates in the first group then taking turns on the sprints is one tactic to use to make sure you dont sprint against each other and that you still score some points while saving your legs for the finish. In the comming races that will be more hilly us heavy diesel engines will need to help our sprinters get to the climb. There will be a high pace on the flats to try to burn those sprinters.

But yes its high pace since its all sub hour races. Pace is usually high but they all play out differently.

I did too. I just quit racing on Zwift. It’s just no fun at all stuck at around an honest 3.3 W/kg in the B cat.

Then enter mass start races (as a B) and make it your goal to spank all the C’s.
It’s all make believe racing anyway.
There’s nothing wrong racing C’s as a B as long as you’re properly identified.

The team aspect of ZRL was promising, but the series hasn’t been going anywhere. So I prefer to spank my own numbers. That works perfectly fine over longer distances, whenever I want, without having to configure/calibrate tons of additional equipment, and making my efforts public to everyone.
If Zwift (or any other platform) wants to make me race online again, they better come up with fully integrated results and proper privacy options. Matchmaking based on merit would help a lot as well.

Online just seems to be the wrong place for sportsmanship.

Let’s make ONE THING perfectly clear on this point: It is NOT OKAY to join any C category race as a B when the categories are individually penned. All you’ll do is foul up the race for the C cat racers and you’ll be a stupid frickin’ sandbagger.

In races where there no category pens, you’re fine and like me you’ll be racing with the pointy end of the C cats because I’m at the bottom of B.


There is no place that is the wrong place for sportsmanship. Once we start making excuses for there being no reason for sportsmanship in one venue then nothing is off limits.


… is the wrong place to expect sportsmanship.

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It’s self-perpetuating. The longer it’s ignored, the worse the reputation of racing on Zwift gets, and the more people rationalise unsportsmanlike behaviour because ‘it’s just a game/not real etc’. The chances of them doing it themselves increase because hey, everyone cheats on Zwift racing right? Who cares, I’m just racing myself, there’s no prize money. Which obviously makes the situation progressively worse.

Hopefully we’re finally starting to see the issue being taken as seriously at the community level as it is in the flashy pro events.


People making money out of streaming minor events doesn’t help the situation either.

And just to be clear: by “spanking my own numbers” I meant that I gave up the hope for good, fun, fair racing and went back to workouts instead.


I wasn’t referring to you there, more the cliché that as long as we’re all getting fit/fitter then none of it matters. :+1:


Whoa, I think we’re talking about 2 different things.
Enter a mass start race as a legitimate B and try to stay ahead of the C’s or hang on to the B’s as long as possible.
There’s no sandbagging involved.

I’m just saying, if you’re not going to win, you may need secondary goals.

Yes, we are. I just wanted to make sure someone who doesn’t understand the difference between a Penned and Mass start race knows to not jump into a C cat race. Believe me, many of those sandbaggers don’t know what they’re doing nor the consequences of their actions. The rest of them are just bullies.