My First Zwift Race


I've been using Zwift regularly since April 2020, when I was building back from being an 'early adopter' of Covid-19. In all that time, I've not raced in Zwift, and I've only very occasionally ridden with friends on Zwift.

Until now.

I noticed via a post on the Timetrialling forum that the Veterans Time Trials Association was organising a series of weekly 10 mile time trials on Zwift, and decided to enter. I did a bit of prior investigation as to how these things work on Zwift, and recognised that there was an elaborate arrangement where riders line up behind the start gates and that the actual start line lay a short distance from where the lines start. The time trial was on the Tempus Fugit route, which is very flat, and given there's no wind in Zwift, the shorter return leg wouldn't affect things.

On the evening, it seemed as though the four or so lines would start riders every 15 seconds. I guess this is inevitable given the possibility of huge numbers of participants. There was no drafting in this event - I think this is why we were asked to set up with time trial bikes (but I saw several riders on road bikes), but maybe a Zwift time trial is set up for no drafting by default. Anyway, I had prepared with a warmup of just over 30 minutes during which I rode for a short while with one of the D robopacers. That made it quite clear how much you benefit from riding with a group on a road bike in Zwift!

I jumped to the start area about 5 or 6 minutes ahead of my 19:10 start time, and just kept pedalling. I was concerned I might get a bit cold if I stopped - it was pretty cold out there in the garage on this January evening!

Pretty quickly I was off and trying to get up speed for the flying start. I had decided ahead of time that with no time trial (IRL or virtual) since September I'd no way of predicting what power I should aim to ride at, and that I'd use this first experience of a Zwift TT as an experiment and use my general estimate of form to set the tempo for the TT.

I was a bit bemused by the race itself. With a pretty much pan-flat course and no wind to contend with the only sensible strategy was to aim for a consistent pace that would last for the duration and no longer. The problem with that on a first Zwift TT ride was that I wasn't sure how long it would take to cover the 16.1km. I'd estimated 24 minutes ahead of the event, and assumed that for the purposes of my pacing strategy. Pretty soon after starting I settled at a pace of around 240W. This is actually a bit lower that my FTP as estimated by TrainerRoad's AI algorithm, but really I found the effort a bit difficult to gauge in terms of sustainability.

I'd hoped that I'd still have a little juice left in the tank to lift the pace in the last couple of minutes, but I think I'd paced this effort just right, and it was all I could do to hang on there. I've pasted the charts from Garmin Connect below - this includes a couple of minutes where I kept going past the TT finish.

All in all, an interesting experience. I do find maintaining a high effort for long periods quite difficult on a turbo trainer, so I was pleased with the outcome. I'd predicted 24 minutes, and completed the course in 24:18 - which wasn't far off. I've not seen the age standard results yet assembled by the VTTA.

Kit for this race: My trusty and ageing first generation Tacx Neo smart trainer. For trainer riding I have my retired steel Cougar TT bike mounted. I have a Polar H10 HRM. Zwift was running on an Apple TV connected to an old Samsung TV.

The final results for VTTA members are as follows:


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Tuesday, 05 March 2024

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