I love riding as a get / stay fit approach. Zwift seemed to be the answer for bad weather days when I am not MTB’ing. I do not have a high FTP (under 2) and when I attend an D ride for 1 - 2 kWh riders I am sick of seeing the surge in riders for the lead and racing even though it is not a race and even the race ‘official’ is ignored when they asked riders drop back. At times riders are attaining a wattage of 4 or 5.
I can’t keep up and get stuck in the middle on my own where I can’t benefit from another rider. Is there a better way to keep similar skilled riders together to learn and challenge each other?
Try to stick with the yellow beacon (ride leader), don’t try to keep up with those at the front. There should be a “blob” of riders around the beacon and you’ll get a lot of help from the draft. I had the same problem with my first one or two group rides.
Some group rides are better than others at keeping to the advertised pace. The Pack rides are particularly good at this, and they do a 1.3-1.6 W/kg ride which should suit. But “challenging other riders” isn’t really the point of a group ride – it’s more about developing skills to ride at a steady pace, challenging yourself to keep up, and chatting to others if you want.
It sounds like you need to find a more orderly group ride with leaders who are devoted to keeping the group together and sweepers who will help riders off the back. Group rides are not all equal in this regard. Keep sampling different group rides and you should be able to find one that suits your needs. If you lose the draft of the main group, immediately group-chat that you need help from a sweeper.
You might try rides by EZR (EZ Riders). Their rides have a low pace, and are “fenced” so people who go off the front are automatically ejected from the ride. Check out these search results and see if they have a time that works for you:
What do you mean with “E Ride”? The Category E is often used for collecting all kind of riders. It is not necessarily slower as D rides! Have a close look into the description of the rides you want to attend for more details.