Riding in categories

Im just coming back to zwift after a few months off…cos the weathers still rubbish in the uk…ive tried to compete in 5 or 6 races this week but the same thing is still happening… my power is max 2.4 watts p kg, deffo within the D cat…but how come there’s always more than a few pushing well over 3.5 for full 4 mile laps…either the cat enforcement isnt working or theyve found a cheat…in any case its not an incentive for us ordinary riders who honestly want to compete with the same level…last year i often rode the london races and usually contested the sprint…now im giving up half-way round…please someone explain

There are a few scenarios where you can see riders pushing big W/kg in lower categories:

  1. They’re about to get upgraded to a new category. You can check their profile in Companion after the event and see if that happened.
  2. They’re below the Watt floor for the next category. This often includes very light riders, such as juniors or other small people.
  3. The event is very short.

If you post the event ID for a race, or describe the route/distance/duration you might get more accurate advice about it. Category D goes up to 2.63W/kg zFTP and 3.2W/kg for zMAP.


That means a rider could do close to 2.63W/kg for around 40 minutes (zFTP) without being upgraded, or more if it’s a shorter effort, or 3.2W/kg for around 5-6 minutes (zMAP). And if their zFTP is below 150W then they stay in D forever.

I don’t think there is any evidence that anyone in your race was pushing well over 3.5 for a full 4 mile lap. Possibly 3 or 4 riders may have worked hard together, each pushing over 3.5 in short bursts to break away.

Winner of your race did 2.6 for 20 min and 3.3 for 5 min and has been promoted to Cat C, probably on zMAP.

3rd to 5th racers did 2.3-2.5 for 20 minutes and all did 2.7 for 5 minutes.

Looking at the rider list and seeing some high numbers doesn’t always mean it’s the same rider/s constantly pushing big numbers. Usually it is different riders pushing big numbers for short durations to ensure they stay with breakaway efforts.


That’s interesting - I didn’t know you could analyse stats like that, and thankyou for checking it out - I was of course concentrating on riding and looked at the numbers only occasionally out of interest - the category is described as 1.0 - 2.5 so it seems weird that anyone even reaching 3.3 would be able to compete - I guess the London rides were flatter and suited me - all this weeks courses have been hilly so I need to get to know them.

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The “1.0-2.5” information is both wrong and a little confusing. Wrong because the limit is 2.63W/kg zFTP for D category, and confusing because it does not imply that riders can’t do shorter surges way above that power number (eg, 10W/kg in a sprint or around 3.2W/kg for 5 minutes). The range of ability in a category is very wide, so people who have top-of-category power are often not working that hard to stay with a group, and so they have reserves to push harder from time to time. Riders who are struggling to hang on for the entire race are not going to be able to react to those surges.

Thankyou Paul…really appreciate you taking the time to reply and explain. I was sad that i was excluded from the E category because that is definately my level! Hope to see you out there one day!

@Paul_Southworth I have been riding near the top of D, which has been fun. I rarely win, but usually in the mix. Did Lap it up 5 tonight (5:10mtn). I came in third. I did a hard sprint. Over 5 minutes, trying to catch the guy in 2nd place. It raised my zmap to to just over 3.2. which bumped me up to C again (I think). Looks like the guy I was chasing also was bumped up to C. My question is… Our numbers are almost identical. And I would say definitely not Cat C type numbers. Does that make any sense?

If you’re usually “in the mix” in Cat D you’re likely flirting with being upgraded to Cat C unless the watt floor applies to you. Same for Cat C/Cat B (that would be me)

If you think about it, that should be self-evident.

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Yes it makes sense based on how the category system works, and the numbers are by definition category C type numbers if you crossed the zMAP threshold. Of course there is a separate question of whether the category system is fit for purpose - it has many limitations. One of them is that people hang out at the top of a category without getting promoted, and others hang out at the bottom without being downgraded, so people come to expect a certain experience from racing, which is upended in an unpleasant way if they get upgraded. They cross an arbitrary line and go from usually in the mix to probably dropped early.

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This will be the third time being bumped up to C. I will find it really hard, as the previous times. I will have no one to chase, or to push me. So I find racing really boring. So I will do something else. My numbers will drop, and the cycle starts all over again. I have discovered ladder races. So maybe the ZR app, and/or racing with a team. Will keep me motivated enough to push through the basement woes. Who knows might be fun🤷

The ladder races are great - highly recommended. WTRL TTT also allows mixed-category teams, and that’s another format where you get support from your team because they don’t want to drop you early. You could also check out TFC Mad Monday, VirtuSlo Split-Cats events, and herD Beginner Racing and see where you fall in their customized categories. They all offer categories where you would not be racing against the top of C category.

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how do you get on a ladder race?
where are they to be found?

You need to join a racing club that does the ladder events. I do them with Rhino Racing which mostly races UK evenings, so if that works for you, drop in to the Discord and ask in the welcome channel if any squad has room for you. They’ll need to know your Zwift ID number to look you up on zwiftracing.app and see your level to match you with an appropriate ladder team. The exact race days and times are negotiated between the two competing teams.

thanks Paul
Ill get round to it