Picking the right category

I have entered multiple events in the past 6 months and one thing is clear: the range of watts/kilogram is misleading. Apart from time trials, races and rides start off well above the top end of the zone, and so if you enter a C category event and want to ride with other people, you have to have the capacity to spend the first 5 minutes at ~4W/Kg (well above the stated 3.1W/Kg ceiling), and then hover at FTP for the remainder of the event. If you ride tempo, you are shelled out the back and spend the hour alone.

Here is an idea: for races, sure, fine anything goes. The point is winning or helping a team-mate win. For rides, perhaps the assumption should be that people want to ride together more than alone. So perhaps the stated range of W/Kg should not use one’s maximum hour-long capability as the ceiling. Instead, perhaps index the pace to zone 3, sweet spot, tempo or something other than one’s FTP. Until then zwifters who want to ride with other people are either going to avoid events and start using the meet up mode instead, or they will select the range of W/Kg that matches their tempo pace … and they will ride tempo and be able not only to enjoy the company of their fellow rides but also enjoy all the glorious flowers and hills and chapels and balloons and rolling scenery.

Hi @Madeleine_Kraus

The category is not a ceiling it is based on a riders FTP. (i.e FTP divided by weight = w/kg).

So it is actualy your hour-long capability, that is what the FTP is.

image

2 Likes

Hi Gerrie,
The question is not what is FTP. The question that I am asking is why is the same category used for both racing and group rides. Racing - it makes complete sense to tear out of the starting pens at 5W/kg, establish that immediate separation between the Legends and the little people, and then settle in to your functional threshold power, drafting where you can for the remainder of the hour. Drop the competition. Crush them. Humiliate them. Post up at the finish banner, let them limp across the line after you are off the bike, showered and enjoying your post race champion meal. That is racing.

But on group rides? The fact that ZwiftPower shows trophies for “rides” is a strong indicator that there is no Group in group rides. They are populated by racers who want to shred the peloton. This morning I entered a group ride with the complete expectation of going out of the pens at 90% of my FTP and being dropped by all but 5% of the participants within the first few minutes. The only reason I entered this group ride was to do a new event-only route. And yes, that is pretty much exactly what happened. That’s OK, the lavender fields were beautiful.

I don’t think this is an easy question, but it goes to the rider experience. Racing, tours, fondos, group rides. They are all the same thing - set out of the pens at . Someone who actually wants to ride with other people in Zwiftlandia has to create their own personal meet-ups or enter a category lower than their FTP would assign them to. Cos we aren’t trying to ride at our maximum effort for 60 minutes. We’re trying to have a group ride in an interesting new virtual landscape.

Hope that explains where I am coming from ,
Madeleine

2 Likes

This is why group rides have a stated w/kg range.

Categories for rides are general indicators of the pace of the ride and not a limit on who can join. If you are an A cat rider you can join a D cat ride for a nice comfortable cruise if you like.

Zwiftpower knows which events are races and which are rides and only applies the category rules to the races so you don’t have to worry about being DQed if you enter a lower cat group ride.

2 Likes

Yes there are people that shoot off the front at the start, and there is not much the ride leader can do.

but in a group ride the idea is to stay with the ride leader (leader has a yellow beacon) about 70% of the group will stay with the leader.

As Aoi said you can pick any cat for a group ride.

1 Like

That’s not meant to happen in a group ride, so unfortunately you got a bad one (not your fault). The exceptions being the ‘official’ Zwift events like the current Specialized one, which are listed as group rides but basically everyone treats as a fondo because there’s no leader.

Try a Pack ride, or one of many others that are excellently led.

2 Likes

I think it depends on the event and if there is a leader. Some of the ‘discovery’ rides and the like are indeed like races. Your best best, IMHO, is to just cat down if your intent is to go at a more casual pace. Note: I’m not talking about sandbagging in a race, which annoys me — for group rides and like, I’m ok with picking whatever cat makes sense for the type of ride you want to have.

I will say, though, that I experienced a bit of an opposite problem tonight. Did the AHDR B ride earlier … great group, usually fantastic rides, and this isn’t meant personally, but the new fence and constant barking at riders to stay with the beacon was annoying. While I usually don’t like fliers in group rides either, in this case, it was advertised as a 2.5 to 3.0 ride… which probably should’ve been labeled C and not B. However, after 45 minutes averaging 2.0, I had enough.

1 Like

Hi Brian,

I agree that the only way to assure riding with people in a group ride is to ride one category down from what ZwiftPower assigns. That’s what I’ve shifted towards doing for fun rides and recovery rides and it seems to be OK. I haven’t tried the AHDR rides - will give it a go and see how it is for me.

Thanks,
Madeleine

The question that I am asking is why is the same category used for both racing and group rides.

“w/kg” (for better of for worse) is used nearly everywhere in Zwift, but it’s not really accurate to say that “the same category [is] used for both racing and group rides.” Racing w/kg is intended to provide “legal” lower and upper limits for entry (problematic as that is in practice). Group ride w/kg is intended to communicate the power output you should expect to produce to sit on with the group leader.

the only way to assure riding with people in a group ride is to ride one category down…

It does somewhat assure you will “ride with people,” but you have to be ok with riding slower than you’d otherwise like when the group actually does what was advertised. The only real solution is to do various group rides with various groups/leaders until you find one/some that actually ride(s) dependably at the advertised w/kg from start to end. Once you do, then ride with that dependable group on a regular basis for your group rides. For example, I’ve had good experiences with the Dutch Diesel group (who do events on a regular basis), and it’s to the point where I trust that their group rides will follow the advertised w/kg.

On that note, perhaps it would be great if one could give group rides a rating in Zwift, so that other users had a way of previewing/anticipating how dependably various groups follow that which they advertise for their rides :thinking:

You mentioned lavender fields, and an event-only route, which made me think you were riding one of those TdF group ride events? Was that the case? If so, those “group rides” are different from team-led group rides, which are specifically targeted to either a small w/kg range or a speed (the former is most common). With team-led rides - as mentioned by someone earlier - there is a leader identified by a yellow beacon, and that leader rides (or should ride :wink:) at an avg. pace listed for the ride. The point of these rides is to have everyone swarm around the beacon and ride as a group.

Group ride events such as the TdF, Specialized, and MAAP, for example, show as 1-5w/kg, which basically means “anything goes”. Some will speed off the front and try to hit PRs, others will form groupettos with other riders riding at the same pace, and some will do their own workouts within the ride.

I think part of the confusion comes from the fact both the team-led rides and the event rides are called “group rides”. One is most definitely a group ride similar to what you’d experience irl, while the other is more of a ride-at-your-own-pace kind of experience.

No, the ride in question was the DIRT Rolling Thunder ride, group C, on the very flat Douce France route last week. In the description it states “We will ride the flats around 2.5w/kg. On the hills we will not exceed 3.2w/kg”. That was not my experience. I started out at 2.4w/k and everyone sailed away in the first few minutes as I ramped up to 2.7w/kg. As you say, everyone swarmed around the beacon. One of the factors that may be at play here is that if ZwiftInsider data are correct, heavier riders go faster than lighter riders. A 60kg rider doing 2.5w/kg will travel at 32kph, while the beacon at the front marking 3w/kg is travelling at 36kph. IOW, both are technically in the C zone, but the 75kg rider pulls away from the 60kg rider at a rate of one meter every second, a football field in less than 2 minutes.

This is more of an observation, really. Not a complaint. We Zwift for different reasons at different times of the week and month. It is easy for me to find a race in which I find a place in the pack. It is hard for me to find a group ride in which I find a place in the pack. Weird, eh?

As a lighter rider myself, I’ve figured out that I typically need to put out .2w/kg more than that of the beacon to stay with the group. For example, if the ride is 2.5-3.0w/kg, that’s 2.7-3.2w/kg for me.

MAAP was mentioned above. I entered a stage 1 RACE yesterday in category C but first seven finishers were cat B on ZwiftPower. They were not disqualified UPG by ZwiftPower. I think the organisers must have called event a ‘race’ but actually set it up as a group ride.

I have seen this too - the podium is filled with people whose average w/kg is well above the stated zone. I am not entirely opposed to seeing that, more curious about how Zwift can create a level playing field for racers, and how Zwift can create a group ride setting that keeps the virtual group together in the same way ABC rides on the real roads stay together.

Zwift road racing is completely different from real world road racing - for the most part, races are less than an hour long, and so one should expect the watts/kg of winners to be above their hour-long FTP. That is what makes selecting the appropriate race category hard: race conditions are such that competitive riders need to be able to ride for long stretches at 120% of FTP - IOW, a rider with an FTP of 3.0w/kg needs to do the first 3-4 minutes in Zone 7 / 4.5w/kg and then settle in to Zone 5/at 3.5w/kg for much of the remainder of the race.

This isn’t like real world road racing, which unfolds over several hours and takes wind and weather into account, and it isn’t like crits for which the Zone 7+ sprinty bursts are less than a minute long followed by settling back into the draft, and it isn’t like cyclocross either where bike handling on highly variable terrain is as much a factor as overall power.

Zwift/Zwift power use 95% of your best 20min during the race, so long or short no difference.

Take your FTP decided by your weight in kg and you will get your start category.

1 Like

Ha ha ha ! In actual fact, Gerrie, if I do this math, except for in time trials, I do not get my start category, I get my loss category. The power that a person can sustain continuously for an hour is not an appropriate index for Zwift road race category placement. Zwift road races are not won by people whose race effort approximates FTP. It is won by people who are capable of putting in multiple 5-6 minute intervals at 130% or more above their FTP. This is a very different physiology from what FTP measures.

It is won by people who are capable of putting in multiple 5-6 minute intervals at 130% or more above their FTP.

But since there isn’t a race categorization anywhere (neither in Zwift nor IRL) like “how many 5-6 minute intervals at 130% or more above FTP can you do?,” Zwift uses FTP as a basis for creating a level playing field. Two racers of the same weight/height/etc with the same FTP should have approx. the same general riding strength, shouldn’t they? Of course, each rider had particular strengths and weaknesses–but this is where choice of route is important.

In group rides, the problem is usually that the ride leader simply doesn’t follow the advertised w/kg (and of course, lightweight riders will always have to put out more w/kg than heavier riders to maintain the same speed on a flattish course). #heygroupleadersfollowtheadvertisedpaceplease

In races, the problem is usually that entrants are cheating in some way–either sandbagging/cruising (which explains why they are able to ride at what seems like it should be FTP for the category, but still have enough reserve for those repeated 5-6 minute big efforts), or they’ve lied to Zwift about their in-game weight or height. #heyzwiftpleasejustuseresultsbasedcategorizationalready

1 Like

Hi Xavier,

This is my point: the metric that defines the outcome of the race is not one’s Zone 4/FTP - it’s one’s Zone 5 /VO2max/Aerobic capacity. Zwift uses FTP to create categories for racing, but this doesn’t mean that the category creates a level playing field. FTP-based categories do not take into consideration weight or height - on the flats, a 60kg rider going 3w/kg goes slower than an 80kg rider putting out 3w/kg. Additionally, FTP is not a clean predictor of how long a rider can maintain power at VO2max - that is a different physiology, which young men have in spades and older women just plain don’t. So categories based on nothing more than FTP seem to do a poor job of creating a level playing field.

All the starts at Zwift are flat, and most have a double-draft effect, so successful racers in Cat C events, for instance, they know that if they go out of the pens at 4.5w/kg for a 2-3 minutes they will create the first separation from which there is no amount of effort that the rest of the racers can bridge. The 80kg riders have put 5 minutes into the 60kg climbers before the first hill comes up, and unless that hill is Ventoux or D’Huez, there just isn’t enough distance for the lighter rider to start to leverage his/her skills.

I think all of this is interesting, and we have a lot to learn about riding with each other and racing against each other in Watopia. As I think about the category in which I belong, though I have to say it is not with 80kg men whose FTP is 2.8-3w/kg and who have youthful 30-something year old legs and lungs that can sustain VO2max for 3 minutes or so. It is with 60kg women whose FTP is 2.8-3w/kg and whose ageing 50-something year old legs and lungs have a much shorter burn time in Zone 5.

…VO2max - that is a different physiology, which young men have in spades and older women just plain don’t.

Fair enough, although this point wasn’t explicit in the first post. It remains true that for group rides (where there shouldn’t be any VO2max efforts, unless clearly indicated in the ride description) the general problem is that ride leaders aren’t following the prescribed w/kg target. For races, firstly, entrants need to obey the proper w/kg limits–that, and Zwift needs to switch over to a results-based categorization (which would likely solve much of the issue in this thread); secondly, it sounds like what you really want is not a different categorization, but rather races that are limited to (as just one example) master-level women, so that the physiological differences you mention don’t apply, or at least not as significantly. I sympathize with the concept, as I myself am not as young as I once was :shushing_face: What we can’t do (although it’s what many do, in fact, do) is try to pick a category on the grounds that it may give us a better chance of winning/hanging with the front group; otherwise, even those with “youthful 30-something year old legs and lungs” could/would do the very same thing.

At any rate, best of luck moving forward :ride_on:

1 Like

No category that is based on power or weight will ever level the playing field. But that is the current race rules that we need to follow.

What we need is a ranking system based on race performance.

See:

4 Likes