Want to up your racing game? Confused about the different types of races and how to ride them? We’re breaking down the most common Zwift race types to help you out.
The Race: Flat Races
Flat races are just what they sound like - races on routes with very little elevation change.
But that doesn’t mean they’re easy. Flat races can be some of the fastest on Zwift, meaning if you lose the pack even for a second, it’s going to be a challenge to get back. Groups tend to be larger, and the races usually come down to an all-out bunch sprint.
What Makes a Good Racer on Flats?
Flat courses tend to favor riders who:
- Are good at sprinting and short bursts of raw power
- May not be lightweight or have high watts per kilogram
- Can draft well on Zwift and stay tucked into the pack
If you don’t fit this profile, don’t worry! There are still ways you can do well. Let’s take a closer look at how to get the most out of a flat race.
Flat races can have short laps or long ones, but what they all have in common is their resemblance to a tabletop. Routes commonly used for flat races include:
- Watopia’s “Tempus Fugit”
- Watopia’s “Volcano Flat”
- “Greater London Flat”
- Richmond’s “The Fan Flats”
How to Race on Flat Courses
To help you get the most out of your flat races, we’ve collected tips from some of Zwift’s most active competitors.
If you want to split the field in a flat race, the start is one of your best chances to do it. Zwift races typically launch fast right out of the gate before settling down. If you can push a lot of watts, make good use of them here!
Rick Barbera says: “I am big-boned... more of an all-arounder with ZwiftPower highlighting my long sprint as my strength. The start should be hard, very hard. If someone else pushes the pace great, if not do it. Need to split the field in half within the first 2-3 minutes.”
Early attacks can succeed, but that’s rare on a flat course, so don’t panic if someone flies off the front. Stay in the bunch and wait for your moment. A sprinter will want to wait until the finish line is very close. If you don’t have a strong sprint, you can try a late attack.
Duane Gran says: “Light rider here. On flat races basically ignore (almost) anything that happens in first 1/3 and suck wheels. In the last 10-15 minutes keep near the front, hope for a pack split and be in it. In the final 5 minutes attack because sprinting is hard to win when you are light. But... if the finish is on an incline (NYC 6 train reverse) then it is all smiles going into the finish.”
Rick Barbera says: “Know the finish line as you will be sprinting.”
Test Your Opponents
If flat races are your bread and butter, or you get bored waiting for a sprint, you can make things harder for those around you. Push the pace or try a sneak attack when they aren’t expecting it!
Kory Stotesbery says: “Larger rider with more short punch/sprint ability than long efforts, [especially] climbs. Sit in for the first third, and 2nd third I will pepper in attacks to see who is actually playing to win. Last third sit in and recover unless an attack goes, in which case I will cover if it is one of the fighters I identified early.”
Duane Gran says: “Answers here are dramatically different if you are racing with teammates. In that case your objective may be to cover attacks or create some pacing chaos for your adversaries. Flat races are good for this because on a hilly route everyone knows where the attacks are likely to happen. Teams on a flat course can be very interesting.”
Stay In the Draft
Make sure you know how to use the draft in Zwift. Close any gaps as soon as possible, to avoid being left behind by a speedy peloton.
Eugene Chan says: “As a lighter rider near the bottom of my category, I learn to yo-yo inside the blob and quickly identify riders slowing up. It’s beneficial to keep an eye on physical rider position and also w/kg in the rider list. I surge past those who stink at drafting. I always accelerate through corners because Zwift makes everyone appear to go wide on their end (out of the draft.)”
Choose Aerodynamic Gear
Weight isn’t very important here, so put your avatar on a road bike and wheelset with as many “aero” stars as possible. Read our garage guide for more gear guidance.
In a flat sprint finish, you’ll get the most help from the Helmet Aero Boost powerup. If you have one of these, try to save it for the end unless you’re really in trouble. A Truck Draft Boost powerup can help you hang onto the draft, while (if enabled) the Breakaway Burrito can cause a split by shedding riders off your wheel. Learn more about what each powerup does.
Now that you know these tips, you should be ready to take on races that steer clear of the hills. Have a blast!