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Group rides and races on Zwift

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Road Cycling It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. -- Ernest Hemingway

Group rides and races on Zwift

Old 11-07-19, 10:07 PM
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sanmateoclimber
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Group rides and races on Zwift

Hey all,

Starting dipping my toe into the Zwift waters over the last few weeks... pretty cool but somewhat confusing. I've got various questions if anybody wants to dig in.

This is my first time measuring power. Neat. I'd love to get into zone based training and look forward to playing around with interval programs. I did a factory spindown on my kickr core, and did a ramp test that gave me an FTP of 256. I'm skeptical that I could actually hold that output for an hour or whatever... how do Zwift ramp tests compare to more standard FTP tests? Are they inflated or anything? Is there a preferable way to determine a baseline FTP on my trainer?

I'm finding that I really don't have a good sense for how to dial in and maintain a certain amount of output, and it fluctuates a lot. Is it normally difficult for riders who are new to power measurement to work in consistent zones? I can tell my legs "okay now increase from 220W to 240W," but they just respond "yeah actually we have no idea what you're talking about..." Anything I can do to improve at this, or does it just take time?

I moved the "realism" of the resistance changes on hills from the default 50% to 100%. I can't understand why I wouldn't want the indoor experience to feel as much like the outdoor as possible. But I know a lot of people don't set that at 100%. Can someone explain the logic to me? It just seems like if I want to get better at transitioning from a flat surface to a 8% grade hill in real life, then the resistance of an 8% virtual hill on the trainer ought to be as comparable as possible; I totally don't understand the counterargument.

Lastly, how do I suck less? Based on my 3.08 w/kg FTP, I raced in the C category of a 30 min-ish race on Wednesday. I think I came in 21st place out of 71 males, pretty good and probably pretty well suited to my ability. I also just thought it was a really fun and motivating way to push hard on an indoor weeknight ride. So tonight, I figured I'd try a cool looking group ride (Pedal Racing Training Ride,) which is category B. Dear reader, I got dropped hard. I ate dust about 32 min into an hour-ish ride when the group kicked it up to 3.4 W/kg. I really liked the idea of this ride (the intensity ratchets up with passing laps, and includes recovery periods; seemed like good fun training,) but I clearly lacked the stamina. So I'm wondering, are there other good social training rides that are better suited to a C+ rider? I was surprised at what seemed like an enormous difference in difficulty between the two experiences. And considering I still finished out the 9 laps ahead of like 40% of the other starters who got dropped, I'm wondering if this ride was actually harder than a standard B ride. Would people recommend group rides and races as a way to push my endurance, or should I really be focusing on ERG stuff for that?

Last edited by sanmateoclimber; 11-07-19 at 10:21 PM.
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Old 11-08-19, 12:31 AM
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FTP and Testing. I think the Ramp Test is a fine way to get you into the ballpark for finding an FTP to set the intensity of your interval workouts. If a workout program is too hard, just lower your FTP a few watts and wait for the next retest to move it up.

I actually just use the FTP results zwift gives me from races. I find that number is fine for any workout I have done.

Power Consistency and ERG? Are you using ERG mode when you are trying to hit zones, or are trying to hit particular zones free-riding outside of ERG mode? For free-riding it is just practice to hit consistent numbers (though racing can train you to fluctuate to help keep position in the groups!). For ERG mode ... pedal at a consistent RPM and let the trainer take care of the resistance. And make sure you turn off erg mode smoothing in the wahoo app for the kickr core, so you get the real data in erg mode!

Trainer Difficulty Nothing wrong with putting it at 100% and leaving it there for a more realistic feel through the pedals on the steep gradients, but there are some good reasons to not put it there all the time. If I have my flat land cassette on the trainer, it really is not that fun to get punched in the legs by the 15% grades that Zwift sometimes hits. Also, in certain spots in the game (the esses or Titans Grove) the rapid changes in grade happen just slightly behind the avatar on the road, and if the grades are less sharp there is less of a mental disconnect between legs and visuals. Also, a low trainer difficulty is a great way to reduce the amount of shifting you have to do because shifting can be loud and annoying indoors. For me though, since most of my zwifting is done with an eye towards zwift racing, I don't really feel like practicing shifting for outdoors, I lower the difficulty quite a bit. I actually race most of the time at ~30%. I find that is a good number, since you can still feel even small changes in gradient in the pedals, and you rarely have to shift over the tops of climbs, making it easier to stay with the group at the most important points of races. I do like to race Alpe de Zwift at ~80% or even 100%, but that is because the grade on the climb is reasonably similar the whole way up and I like the way the little ring feels on the steep stuff. Also, I do sometimes feel the need to practice shifting, so I do free ride at 100% sometimes.

Sucking Less For this, I just race a lot on zwift, and ride around unstructuredly at other times. Both indoors and outdoors. Not the most efficient way to improve, but very enjoyable. Also, I can say that there really is skill involved in zwift racing even if it does not look like it most of the time. There are only a one variable you get to manipulate, Your Power, but timing that power matters, and reading the other riders and the gradient are really important to keep the virtual speed up. It is not that hard to learn, but you can really save a lot of energy with good racecraft. Really a better answer is ... I Have No Idea.

Racing and Such Opt-In to Zwiftpower.com if you have not already. Definitely better results and data there than given by the Zwift app or the Companion app. And a good event list is there as well. Your race result sounds great, and a good place to start. Just keep racing! Also, there is definitely a large gap between all of the categories, and you found that with that group ride. For most upper B's 3.4 w/kg is that nice pace where you get to recover in the race. Constant 3.4 w/kg is hard work for the C's! For other group rides, I think some of the ADHR rides are closer to 3 w/kg, but I can say I do not do many group rides, and most of the ones I have done were 2.0 w/kg rides on recovery days. That event list on zwiftpower would be where I would look for a particular type of group ride. I guess the problem normally is having the group ride be at the right timeslot on the list!

One of the best types of events you have not mentioned are the Fondos like the El Giro de Rigo last weekend (or the Zwift run Tour/Stage/Races). These are mass start, normally high participation, events that are really races, but everybody might not be racing and they are not categorized as real races on zwiftpower. In them, the large starting pack breaks up just by natural drafting physics and you ride the whole event (I have done up to 80 mile Fondos) with a bunch of people who are all about your level riding in a group. Plus, if you are dropped, there is always another group behind you can latch onto!

I can say though I really enjoy racing. When I started on Zwift I was just over 3.2 w/kg FTP@70 kg, so not only did I have to move to up to B cat right away, I was still getting dropped from the C lead groups because of poor racecraft! It took a couple of months of racing when I had increased my FTP to about 3.6 to 3.7 w/kg before I could hang with the main B pack. (And it took about another year more to get to just 3.9 w/kg!). Entering a few races a week and practicing hanging onto the main B group for as long as possible really helped ingrain when and where I had to put the power down and when I had to conserve energy. Now 150 races later I am ranked in the top 30 for B's on zwiftpower. Still not an A though.
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Old 11-08-19, 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by sanmateoclimber View Post
I did a factory spindown on my kickr core, and did a ramp test that gave me an FTP of 256. I'm skeptical that I could actually hold that output for an hour or whatever... how do Zwift ramp tests compare to more standard FTP tests? Are they inflated or anything? Is there a preferable way to determine a baseline FTP on my trainer?

You are correct. There is a difference between only having the conditioning to maintain a max effort for 20 min (Then taking 95% for 1hr power) vs. actually having the conditioning to sustain it for an hour. The best way is to actually do a 1hr test. I see inflated FTPs as a result of 20 min tests on a few buddies on Strava that I know cant hold it for an hour.
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Old 11-08-19, 03:37 AM
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Zwift's ramp test is too "steep". Starting at 100w and then ramping up by 20w every 1 minute, people with good anaerobic capacity (or whatever the proper term is for that sort of thing) will be able to tap into that to sustain efforts higher than they normally would with just pure aerobic endurance alone. Compare this with Trainerroad's ramp test which, if I remember correctly from reading elsewhere, starts at 50% of your current FTP and then ramps up by 6% of your FTP every minute, resulting in a less "steep" gradient -- you spend more time at the lower power steps and are more likely to stop at the lower steps than with a steep ramp.

When I tried the ramp test Zwift reported an FTP that is 23% higher than what it should be. Instantly knew I wouldn't even be able to sustain that effort for 20mins, let alone 60mins.
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Old 11-08-19, 05:12 AM
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Agree with the above comments on the FTP tests. Set your FTP lower (you can do that on the Zwift screen where you also set your name) and then do one of the races on Zwift and pedal as hard as you can as long as you can - see what it says your FTP should be.

On the realism setting, I leave it at 50%. The only difference is the more realistic, the more shifting you will do - nothing else really changes, same power required to do the same speed on the same grade. I am on the bicycle in the basement for training increases in my leg strength and aerobic fitness, not so worried about my wrist rotation shifting muscles. No matter how cool the Zwift screen is, I'm still in the basement on a stationary trainer - the screen is to distract from the boredom of indoor riding, doesn't come close to making me think I'm outdoors!

If you go to the Zwift Insider site, they have some articles on "Zwift Racing" strategies, there might have been some GCN videos too. I'm not a bike racer in real life, but I've enjoyed the races on Zwift as long intense rides but quickly learned that if I wanted to see any of the other racers around me, vs as dots way up ahead, you had to ride like a bat out of hell for the first few minutes and latch on to a group riding near your Watts/Kg level. Lose the draft, and you are just going to do a long time trail vs. a group ride.
\
You will see a lot of group training rides that advertise a Watts/Kg level - try a few out that are above and below your Watts/Kg level. The SAS group has several that I really enjoy.
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Old 11-08-19, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by sanmateoclimber View Post

I moved the "realism" of the resistance changes on hills from the default 50% to 100%. I can't understand why I wouldn't want the indoor experience to feel as much like the outdoor as possible. But I know a lot of people don't set that at 100%. Can someone explain the logic to me? It just seems like if I want to get better at transitioning from a flat surface to a 8% grade hill in real life, then the resistance of an 8% virtual hill on the trainer ought to be as comparable as possible; I totally don't understand the counterargument.
As jpescatore said, a reduced setting makes for a bit less shifting necessity. Also some areas of some Zwift courses are 15% gradients, which some people's trainer bikes aren't geared for. On that note, the difficulty % is really just emulating that your bike has lower available gearing than In Real Life. While you may not be able to spin at 90rpm on a 12% gradient on your real bike on a real hill, Zwift allows you to emulate this.

Last edited by Sy Reene; 11-08-19 at 07:00 AM.
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Old 11-08-19, 06:29 AM
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firstly, just to make sure folks are clear FTP isn't strictly 1hr power, if you search around you'll find Dr. Coggan has refuted this many times, it's really a long sustained duration, usually around 40mins or more. My FTP is currently 290 and I know for a fact I couldn't do that for an hour at this point, but using it as the basis for intervals like sweet spot works well for me.

A few years ago when I just had the fluid trainer and my powertap wheel, I would do a lot of races and it was a matter of being able to sustain FTP for longer and longer durations. By one point I was averaging FTP for 70mins and really close to it for 90mins with no breaks. It takes time to be able to develop that ability. But if you're doing interval work, go with what you got on the FTP test. Try to do some of the workouts (there's a 2x15 at FTP workout in zwift that's decent). I personally use trainerroad (and just use zwift for visual distraction) because I find more success in doing structured intervals vs group rides, but I think if you just keep challenging yourself to hang with groups you'll start to get stronger as well.
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Old 11-08-19, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by hubcyclist View Post
firstly, just to make sure folks are clear FTP isn't strictly 1hr power, if you search around you'll find Dr. Coggan has refuted this many times, it's really a long sustained duration, usually around 40mins or more. My FTP is currently 290 and I know for a fact I couldn't do that for an hour at this point, but using it as the basis for intervals like sweet spot works well for me.

A few years ago when I just had the fluid trainer and my powertap wheel, I would do a lot of races and it was a matter of being able to sustain FTP for longer and longer durations. By one point I was averaging FTP for 70mins and really close to it for 90mins with no breaks. It takes time to be able to develop that ability. But if you're doing interval work, go with what you got on the FTP test. Try to do some of the workouts (there's a 2x15 at FTP workout in zwift that's decent). I personally use trainerroad (and just use zwift for visual distraction) because I find more success in doing structured intervals vs group rides, but I think if you just keep challenging yourself to hang with groups you'll start to get stronger as well.
So, clear this up for me: If FTP is defined as the maximum power you can sustain for "a long time," then if you're sustaining it for longer than, "a long time," say, 90 min, hasn't your FTP simply gone up?
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Old 11-08-19, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
So, clear this up for me: If FTP is defined as the maximum power you can sustain for "a long time," then if you're sustaining it for longer than, "a long time," say, 90 min, hasn't your FTP simply gone up?
Well, I believe it's for about 60-70mins at the high end and 30min on the low end. I don't think I can link to other forums, but if you can find some topics in which Dr. Coggan has to address trolls who like to bicker over defining FTP.

I was never 100% for 90mins, maybe like 95%? My FTP was lower than it is now (this was back in 2016, it was like 265w) but I'm still amazed I was able to sustain that level for so long, can't imagine doing it right now.
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Old 11-08-19, 07:58 AM
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For real FTP tests I don't bother with a ramp test or 20 minute test, they simply don't provide enough motivation and are not long enough to be truly representative in my mind. A race certainly is, but the dips into anaerobic and VO2 max efforts simply make any FTP calculations pretty unusable. Lately, I've just been using Alp Du Zwift, I'll also load up https://www.zwiftgps.com/ so I can see the +sec or -sec to my PR and try to break it. I'm at 42.50min right now and am hoping to one day get sub 40min. Since it's a well-motivated steady effort for over 40 minutes, I can simply average the power lop 2-3% off and take that as my current FTP (which is 290 atm or 4.7w/kg (one day I'll break that 5.0 barrier!)).

IMO the best training methodology is to do the "Sweet Spot" approach, this massively improves FTP, and will generate the highest amount of training stress for the least needed recovery. According to FasCat cycling sweet spot is between 84-97% ftp, if you focus primarily in this range, it'll hurt, but won't require as much recovery as straight threshold work and will be far more beneficial than sitting at 55% for hours on end.

So, that's my 2 cents, there's no point in doing exercises in power zones if FTP is over or under calculated, if you do a ramp test and it comes out higher than you can sustain, all of the exercises will be too hard, even the "easy" ones would require more recovery than expected and throw things off. If under calculated, exercises will obviously become too easy, making the time put in not equate to much improvement.
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Old 11-08-19, 09:59 AM
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One reason why people don't set the trainer difficulty to 100% is that they want to keep pedalling on the downhills without spinning out.
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Old 11-08-19, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by OBoile View Post
One reason why people don't set the trainer difficulty to 100% is that they want to keep pedalling on the downhills without spinning out.
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Old 11-08-19, 12:28 PM
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Thank you all! This thread has been very helpful for a new Zwifter like me. I have been sort of aimlessly riding around Wattopia and various cities, and need to up my game now that the weather is truly getting awful in the Chicago area.

Is there a way to create your own custom workout? I have found most of the included workouts overly complicated, or just not quite what I want.
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Old 11-08-19, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by HarborBandS View Post
Thank you all! This thread has been very helpful for a new Zwifter like me. I have been sort of aimlessly riding around Wattopia and various cities, and need to up my game now that the weather is truly getting awful in the Chicago area.

Is there a way to create your own custom workout? I have found most of the included workouts overly complicated, or just not quite what I want.
Yes, after launching Zwift, hit the Training button, and then workouts and then Custom -- where it's basically a drag and drop system to build your own workout.

https://zwift.com/news/12975-zwift-h...custom-workout
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Old 11-08-19, 02:02 PM
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Do an actual 20min or hour test. Apply 90 to 92% to the 20min test. Nobody outside of some of the faster 33 forum racers will be able to replicate 95% of a 20min test. Pick a flat route and just try to TT for the effort.

Then do the workouts, group rides, races.

Also, always a grain of salt. People do cheat.

I haven't done any races because I don't like their prescribed race zones of ABCD. I think they need to split them with numbers also perhaps. Keep D and C. Have a B1 and B2. Then an A1, A2, A3.

Basically, I feel "stuck" being too fast for one and way way too slow for another.
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Old 11-08-19, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
You will see a lot of group training rides that advertise a Watts/Kg level - try a few out that are above and below your Watts/Kg level. The SAS group has several that I really enjoy.

Yeah, but a word of warning about those - at least from my experience. Many times, I'll see a ride advertised as 2.5 W/Kg and I'll think, "oh good, an easy-ish tempo ride is exactly what I need tonight", and then nearly everybody, including the ride leader with the beacon, will be putting down 2.8-3 W/Kg and I'll end up expending more effort than I wanted to.
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Old 11-08-19, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
Also, always a grain of salt. People do cheat.
I'm in the zwift trail period (after defecting from TrainerRoad after their second price hike in less than a year, but I digress...) and was poking around the flybys on Strava afterwards. One of the guys had a Zwift ride pic that showed power and w/kg numbers that put him at about 120lbs. His IRL Strava pics were certainly not that of a Lilliputian.
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Old 11-08-19, 04:14 PM
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Not trying to open a can of worms on that one, but notice there's a huge swath of faker/cheater accounts with Asian alphabet characters for the usernames. Could be anyone, but, I suspect Chinese internet cafe hackers that turned it into an XBox controller kind of thing.

Either that, or the World Tour needs to start doing a LOT better recruiting over there. In general, I think you could staff the entire WT from the top Zwift KOM times. Lol!

I appreciate they have the "rotating" KOM and sprint jersey stuff though. Something to chase. And PR's and such.
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Old 11-08-19, 05:46 PM
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Part of me knows that fast group rides / races are the best way to get faster. I use a set of 20 + year old Performance rollers with the turbo fans. Adding PM pedals and Sufferfest has changed my training routine; riding at rush hour is replaced with structured Sufferfest workouts. They complement the road rides nicely. I suppose I could do Zwift with my setup but there are parts of the equation that would be missing. The attraction of pushing beyond Sufferfest workouts is tempting though.
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Old 11-08-19, 09:59 PM
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you can really push yourself and get a great workout doing Zwift races, that's for sure. It doesn't bother me that some people might be cheating - there's no actual prize for winning. If I get blown out by a cheater, I still get the workout, and that's what I came for.
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Old 11-09-19, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
Not trying to open a can of worms on that one, but notice there's a huge swath of faker/cheater accounts with Asian alphabet characters for the usernames. Could be anyone, but, I suspect Chinese internet cafe hackers that turned it into an XBox controller kind of thing.

Either that, or the World Tour needs to start doing a LOT better recruiting over there. In general, I think you could staff the entire WT from the top Zwift KOM times. Lol!

I appreciate they have the "rotating" KOM and sprint jersey stuff though. Something to chase. And PR's and such.
Ive noticed that too. Maybe its just the times i ride Zwift, but if someone blows by me at 7 w/kg, its usually a rider with a Taiwanese/Korean/Japanese flag above their name.
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Old 11-09-19, 11:30 PM
  #22  
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Zwift Ramp Test I've only ever done the 20-minute version of the FTP test. It's probably worthwhile doing both types of tests but I prefer the sustained output of the 20-minute test as I'm more interested in pacing myself at a high, consistent power output over a short period of time.

Your supposition that you couldn't hold your FTP for an hour is probably true. This isn't to say your FTP is wrong, it's just that it's really hard mentally and physically pushing yourself at 100% FTP for an hour. The best I've managed for around an hour of biking was on a Zwift Academy race that lasted 66:25 and I biked at 95%/97% FTP (average/weighted Watts). It was easily the hardest thing I've ever done on a bike.

Maintaining Power I suspect you'll get better at this but if your legs are still fresh you'll likely have a hard time telling 10-20W changes from one another. Don't sweat it.

Realism My wife doesn't set the "realism" at 100% all the time because there are some hills she just can't handle, like the 15% grade coming out of the subway tunnel in London. I'll sometimes set it at 0% when I don't feel like paying attention to Zwift and just want to watch TV and bike at an endurance pace of 60-65% FTP.

Group Rides I've only ever done one group ride as part of Zwift Academy and it was the one and only time Zwift has ever desynched and I didn't actually finish. However, assuming you didn't have people on the ride who were actually stronger than they claimed like others have mentioned I'll speculate that it's because there's a fine line between "I can do this" and "I am dead".

As to what you might want to practice, I guess it depends on what your goals are. I'm in the US Navy and we have a fitness test every six months where you can run/bike/swim the cardio portion (your choice). The bike is a short 12 minute test on an exercise cycle. The scoring is entirely power/weight and at the upper end weight really matters (mostly because it requires very steep increases in wattage outputs). So I had twin goals of high intensity training to get my FTP up and lower power and longer endurance rides to lose weight.

I tried to do one interval session a week to prepare for my Navy fitness test which is done at about 110% of FTP. My other typical rides were one hour at 85-90% of FTP or 60-120 minutes at 60-75% but looking at my rides I realized I was all over the place so I guess I often rode at whatever length and intensity I felt like that day and "what I felt like" varied enough that I got some good variety.

I did find the four Zwift Academy races I did to be very hard and very beneficial. Three were short races of around 20 minutes that were fantastic for getting ready for a 12 minute Navy fitness test and one was the aforementioned one hour long race. Really brutal. I've found a few structured workouts to be good, too. I made one for myself that was almost too hard - 5 minute warmup at 55-75% FTP, 6 minutes at 105% FTP, 3 minute recovery at 65% FTP. Repeat the 6/3 interval 5 times. Four of the intervals was fine. The fifth was brutal with my HR bouncing off of its maximum for that last half of the fifth effort.

In other words, races and structured workouts can be good to push yourself harder than you thought you could.
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Old 11-10-19, 02:37 AM
  #23  
atwl77
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Yeah, but a word of warning about those - at least from my experience. Many times, I'll see a ride advertised as 2.5 W/Kg and I'll think, "oh good, an easy-ish tempo ride is exactly what I need tonight", and then nearly everybody, including the ride leader with the beacon, will be putting down 2.8-3 W/Kg and I'll end up expending more effort than I wanted to.
Yes, totally on the point. I join C group races and everyone is regularly pushing 3.2-3.4W/kg, and because I'm a lightweight I struggle to keep up on the descents.

I also see people join the D group but have no problems putting out 4W/kg and hanging with the B and C riders
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Old 11-10-19, 06:10 AM
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Dan333SP
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Originally Posted by atwl77 View Post
Yes, totally on the point. I join C group races and everyone is regularly pushing 3.2-3.4W/kg, and because I'm a lightweight I struggle to keep up on the descents.

I also see people join the D group but have no problems putting out 4W/kg and hanging with the B and C riders
One of the problems with Zwift racing is that some people, myself included, maybe don't have time for whatever the scheduled distance is, so we join, attack a lot, and then quit halfway in. This drives up the pace beyond what it would be if everyone were pacing themselves to get to the finish.

Come to think of it, it's really no different than real racing. Someone always attacks and pulls out after causing havoc.
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Old 11-10-19, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan333SP View Post
One of the problems with Zwift racing is that some people, myself included, maybe don't have time for whatever the scheduled distance is, so we join, attack a lot, and then quit halfway in. This drives up the pace beyond what it would be if everyone were pacing themselves to get to the finish.

Come to think of it, it's really no different than real racing. Someone always attacks and pulls out after causing havoc.
Sounds like a new Allstate mayhem commercial.

Or a new cat3memes post.
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