Swapping out for a Zwift race

I have searched with only a limited yield on the subject so I thought I’d ask the question:

I want a little more mental stimulation on the trainer, I’m half way through build mid volume and I’m struggling with getting on the bike. I haven’t missed any sessions but I’m not excited to jump on the bike either. I was thinking that an option to create a bit more stimulus to jump on the bike every day before the race season kicks off in earnest here in the uk would be to race a Zwift race once a week. Question is, what sort of workout would you sacrifice from the plan to race on Zwift?

Any insight or thoughts would be greatfully received. Thanks in advance

I am a road and crit racer, cat 3 hoping to get to cat 2, currently at around 4.5w/kg


The Sunday workouts would be the best ones to swap out if you are in Build, and most of the Sunday events are pretty well attended.

Unless you are doing the short hilly courses (like Watopia Hilly or Figure 8), most of the races tend to sit in the sweetspot area for 60 minutes or so, which should give you a similar type of stimulus.


One of the high intensity sessions, preferably a threshold session. Don’t replace an easy day with it obviously.

Probably not going to be as beneficial as a structured workout but if it keeps you training that is a good trade off.


Like everything, it depends.

If it’s the shorter races (<60mins) and you jump in the A group it starts very fast (need to be pushing 350-400w a couple seconds before the race starts) and can be an hour at threshold with anaerobic efforts and some SS mixed in. Definitely a weekday intensity day.

The longer 120km A events are more like a long SS workout with some just over threshold surges and a bit of VO2 max and anaerobic. Great to swap for a weekend workout.

Keep in mind your raw watts really factor more than w/kg. Not much climbing in most races and the interface takes some getting used to. I’m a tall and skinny 4.7wkg and I routinely put out higher numbers than those finishing around me. The short flat races are pretty brutal in particular.


I feel same as OP at times and do a zwift race or workout instead. While workouts can be substituted easily, zwift races leave me more fatigued than if I did a TR workout. I find zwift races are more like TT races or 1h FTP tests regardless of the terrain or virtual physics. Mentally it also feels different than going through an interval, as if the interval is of an unknown length. As mentioned, Sunday is probably best, but there are lots of races midweek too.

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Just choose a race you fancy and do it instead of the TrainerRoad workout. What’s the worst that can happen? You should have the base of fitness now. I doubt you’ll ruin a whole winters work by adding in some intensity. I’m in Scotland and seeing a lot of familiar names from the bunch in races on Zwift now. It’s a great way of getting in some intensity. There are plenty of races that have a lot of climbing. Just look carefully on the comapion app.

It’s not always a TT effort in a race. Folk that say it is often haven’t done too many races and don’t know how to “play Zwift”.

Personally, I’ve put in some of my biggest efforts across all durations this winter on Zwift. The big upside is that I’m starting the season in a place than I’m not afraid of race day efforts.


I actually would like to know the trick to race there. I can’t let the power go even for a bit or I lose the wheel instantly. Unlike the real race, there just no “breather” moment in zwift.


I’m frequently in zone 4 for 90+% of the time during a cat B zwift race. These races are without a doubt the most intense workouts I do. Looking at my historical race stats I’ve increased from 3.2w/kg to 3.5-3.7 w/kg during these races since November with a mix of Trainerroad and Zwifting(which I only use for racing). There is a learning curve, sometimes I you to put out 400 watts for the first five minutes to stay with the lead group, but it doesn’t always make sense it may be better to settle in with the 2nd or even 3rd grouping if you cannot maintain the pace. I find racing has become more difficult to be competitive, especially this year with the increasing user base, I’m always finishing somewhere in the middle to bottom 3rd of placing @ 185lbs 290-310 watts avg.


I have found that after getting to know the courses you can pick ones with climbs similar to the length of your intervals, the rest between just isn’t as easy.
I always find a group to ride with during the race, even if you get dropped.

Recently I’ve found the Lutscher course on Innsbruck great for 2x20ish sessions. New York climbing races are good for 3-5minute efforts and Surrey Hills in London good for 5-15 minute efforts.


It’s about being steady and deliberate. Also about watching your avatar, those about you and the power numbers of those around you. Folk are often too choppy with the power, fly straight through the pack and off the front. Over-compensate and you’re out the back. Try and be as smooth as possible. Unless your on the Tron bike (or the TT bike that can’t draft), your avatar will sit up when your in the draft.


I do notice this, yes, thank you. Often overshoot or have to surge again to catch up. It’s really weird, nothing life like, as if the reaction to my actions is delayed a lot.

Are you using a smart trainer or powermeter as your power source? There is a bit of a delay with a smart trainer, and a much more instant response with a powermeter. Still takes a little getting used to. A good way to practise is join one of the group rides and practise staying in the draft and moving about in it.

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Currently with smart trainer calibrated to match PM readings. I tried it with the power meter before, but noticed there was very little avatar momentum present. If I eased off just for a second, the avatar slowed down way too fast. This was maybe 2 years ago, I may try it again, perhaps they have improved since then.

The other reason I’m not using PM is because it is Powertap P1s, not only it is single side, but also prefer shimano cleats…

Apologies for hijacking the thread. Probably best to return to OP’s question :slight_smile:

I’m using a Neo but power from my P1S. I ran a power comparision yesterday, sending power to Zwift from the Neo and power from the pedals to my Garmin. Average power over 1 lap of Watopia hilly was identical, but I found that the avatar didn’t respond as quickly as it does to the pedals.

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Thanks for all of the advice in input. As I have spent the last three months pretty solidly on TR and just completed my first two real world races in the last couple of weeks, I feel that some race efforts on the trainer could be beneficial, those efforts when you are hurting but the pack surges and you have to jump? The ones where you don’t want to follow the wheel in front but if you don’t you’ll get spat out the back? That can’t do me any harm in terms of mental resilience and adaptation. I think I’m going to swap one of my harder midweek sessions out for a Zwift race.

I’ll report back in a couple of weeks.


The biggest thing I’ll take away from a winter on Zwift is that I’m not fearful of race efforts any more.


I happen to think that a nice bonus to Zwift racing (assuming you’re in a properly challenging category) is the mental training of starting a ride/race knowing you’ll have to struggle to not get dropped. Just that bit of extra stress is a good stimulus. Even if I don’t take results seriously I know it’s going to get ugly when the gun goes off…


The highest HR of mine I’ve seen is during zwift race, especially the final sprint. Never get that during workouts, not even ftp test.


TR has workouts to help you deal with these types of efforts. Using the workout search, use the following: “over-under” , “high-power tags”, “neuromuscular tags” There are some other options as well, but these should get you started.

The “over-unders” I find more applicable to long climbs where u might need to pick up the pace for a bit. The “high-power tags” and “neuromuscular tags” might be more what you are looking for.

Yeah, but you’d likely need to hide the workout. One massive benefit & challenge to the Zwift races (like riding outside in a group) is the relative unknown.

Having to hold a wheel or pace in a group without really knowing how hard they will go, or when they might let up and go easier, is almost more mental than physical. I find that I can do about anything when I know the specific demand and timing. That goes out the window when it’s all hidden.

I may be wrong, but I think that aspect is more what Gareth was getting at.