Zwift Racing League is back in action, with a 10 week series that kicked off this past Tuesday. There's 1,440 teams competing across the various divisions and categories this season, a near doubling from their first launched league a few months back. Organizers WTRL have seemingly ironed out many of the bugs that plagued the first season, as well as the first few weeks of the Zwift Duathlon League.
Because teams are allowed to still add roster members, here's what you need to know if you plan on racing in ZRL.
Teams can either be all female, or men's/mixed gender. Teams can have a total roster of up to 12 riders, which are then added to the mix. A minimum of 4 riders must start each week, with a maximum of 6. Start too few or too many? Disqualification. (The Slowtwitch B team found this out the hard way in Season 1, when we started 7 riders in our first race.)
Riders must compete in at least their minimum ZwiftPower category. So if you log into your profile on ZwiftPower, and it says "Minimum Category: C," you may compete on an A, B, or C team. You are not eligible to compete in D. Taking myself as an example, I am flirting with the maximum of B and the entry of A. I now race in the A division. Sure, I get blown to bits (more on that in a moment), but it's a hell of a workout.
The biggest problem that Zwift Racing League has yet to overcome is the lack of decent starting times for the eastern half of the United States. To compete in the morning, you're going to be very early in the morning: 5:15 (women) or 5:30 (men's/mixed) AM. That's it. That's the only morning time slot. And you're technically in the Pacific divisions. The two America's focused time slots start at 7:00/7:15 PM and 9:30/9:45 PM, respectively. The Slowtwitch teams compete in the America's East time slots in the A, B, and C mixed divisions. In other words, plan on it being a later night with needing to come back down after racing.
For this season, there are 6 points races and 4 team time trials. Think of points races as just a "standard" Zwift race with some intermediate points on the table, and the team time trials are relatively self explanatory. This season features a good mix of flatter courses, sprints, and climbs, so a balanced team will go a long way in the standings.
Week 1: Team Time Trial, Douce France
Week 2: Points Race, Beach Island Loop
Week 3: Points Race, NYC KOM After Party
Week 4: Team Time Trial, Greatest London Flat
Week 5: Points Race, Cobbled Climbs
Week 6: Points Race, Champs-Elysees
Week 7: Team Time Trial, Magnificent 8
Week 8: Points Race, Surrey Hills
Week 9 (Playoffs): Points Race, TBA
Week 10 (Playoffs): Team Time Trial, TBA
How Results Are Scored
In points races, there are three ways to score points. The first, and highest rewarding, are results at the finish. Points are awarded all the way to 80th place, so even if you get blown out the back of the main group, you can still help your team. The second way is to be the first across the line of one of the intermediate points; these could be sprint or KOMs along the way. The third is to have the fastest time across those timed segments. It can pay dividends to be in the middle of the pack, for instance, before a sprint, and then use the draft to slingshot your way to a fastest time.
Team time trials, meanwhile, are based on raw time. But there's a catch! Each team is given a start delay. This means when the clock counts down to zero, it doesn't mean you are starting! In this past week's time trial, for example, the Slowtwitch A team had a 5 minute start delay. Once the clock hit zero, I hit a stopwatch to wait our full 5 minutes and counted us down so we could start at the correct time. Teams can be given time penalties or disqualified for starting early. One tip: stop pedaling in the pen about 30 seconds before the timer hits zero, and then don't start pedaling again until it's your time to go.
It's fast. It's really, really fast.
In a points race, like most Zwift events, the start is usually a sprint to get the group going. Making the front pack is imperative -- if you're off the back at the start, it will be nearly impossible to pick off stragglers who blow up later. Depending on where the first climb is, this effort can be anywhere from 30 seconds to a full five minutes of nearly full tilt riding.
From there, strategy comes into play: will you go for intermediate checkpoints? Save yourself for the finish? What makes the most sense for you? Using myself as an example, my greatest value to the team in a points race is likely to try and gobble up either first across the line or fastest time sprints. I have too many kilos for climbs to be competitive. So that's where I'll focus effort, and otherwise attempt to place as well as I can mid to back pack at the finish.
Team time trials require good communication. Most teams will use a voice chat, like Discord, in order to be able to give each other signals on who will pull through, how hard to go, and to make sure the group stays together. Time is awarded to the fourth rider across the line, so it's important to keep the team together as best as you can. And with Zwift launching their new drafting engine, keeping as large of a group together for as long as you can will do more for your time than just raw power.
For B, C, and D racers, you earn half points if you do not have a power meter or heart rate monitor broadcasting into the game. For A divisions, these are mandatory; not having them earns you or your team a DQ.
There are roster spots still available for the Slowtwitch teams. If you are interested in riding with us, please email me and I will get you in contact with the appropriate team captain.