I want to start out by saying I pretty much use Zwift as a training tool. 95% of my time is spent in workout mode. I do races every now and then to supplement my training. I’m about 186(84.54kg). I have an FTP of about 295. I race as a masters Cat 3/4 on the road. I am by no means a dominate rider, but I can hold my own in most instances. I have a quarq for use on the road and a hammer trainer for indoor use. My normal setup is use a hammer (ANT+) with an (ANT+) HR strap. I have a cadence sensor (ANT+) that broadcasts that to Zwift but the Hammer is what controls Zwift. NOW ONTO THE INTERESTING PART……
This AM as I wanted to do the Tour of Watopia Stage Five but also complete my training for the day. I hooked up a powered USB hub and thew on two ANT+ sticks. I brought up my workout using PerfPro which is very similar to Trainer Road. This for today will control the trainer. I then set Zwift to read the Power from my Quarq. Zwift still reads my cadence and HR but was not controlling the effort. Here is where things get interesting…… I started the stage and my workout had a normal 20 min warmup. So when the stage started I was shot out the back. Well into the 190s in position. As things progressed and my workout got into the meat (3X20 at 93% (275) 5 mins off (180))… I was able to steadily make more and more progress. This brought quite a bit of clarity to me as to the idea of Virtual Doping, events, and races. In the end I finished 107th out of about 400 riders. When comparing the data files between Zwift, my Garmin, and the PerfPro they were all very similar and not statistically significant.
What I came to realize is that removing the grade has a drastic and dramatic impact to the results. It didn’t allow me to push more power or make me faster. While keeping a continual watch on the riders I passed and passed me it became even more clear which ones I could more or less point out as having a setup which aided in better results. You can call it virtual doping, or whatever you want.
The take away from this is not to bash Zwift, other riders, or put any ill will on any person or the platform. I did this only so I could complete my daily training workout while also completing the stage. I am by no means a technical expert but I am savvy.
What I want people to realize is there are loopholes when we use all this technology. Some people will figure out how to do this. Some people may not even realize what they are doing. Some may be lowering their weight. Some may have mis-calibrated equipment. Some may be doing all the above. In the end Zwift is an awesome tool in my opinion. For me it helps me pass the time not looking at a dot. It’s a great motivator with the rideons and the gear upgrades. There is a social aspect for those that want it.
In the end it’s a tool, and if you go in knowing it’s a tool to help you get better then whether you finish 1st or last you are getting better. It doesn’t matter what that virtual rider is doing or if he/she is or isn’t being fully truthful. Also please don’t turn this into what about events that offer prizes for position. For starters I will never be a legitimate A top 10 and knowing what I know unless there are other safeguards in place I can’t see the end result being real legitimate. CVR has checks and balances, but if people can compete in their basement being more or less anonymous with no repercussions then people will always find a way to cheat.
Maybe this will bring clarity for some, or upset some, or be that I told you so, but remember if you use it to get faster, fitter, lighter, or stronger then in the end Zwift achieved its purpose for you.