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: Long Races
Most Zwift races take an hour or less to finish. But if you’re craving a longer challenge, there are a few events that go the distance.
Some of these long races include KISS 100, 3R Racing, Flanders Endurance Race, Saris NoPinz’ Sunday Send, Team WEz Race, and La Partie de manivelle du dimanche by Frenchy Fuzion. Other race series might switch things up once in a while with a long-distance or multiple-mountain route. You’ll usually find them in the schedule on weekends. After all, that’s when people tend to have more time to spend on the bike.
You may know Nathan Guerra as the main voice of Zwift Community Live race commentary, but he is also a veteran racer. He has experience as a pro mountain biker outdoors and as a competitor in all kinds of Zwift events. When he’s looking for a long training effort at a moderately hard intensity, he says long races are a lot more fun than a workout.
“I do these instead of high-tempo rides now. I get my tempo rides in a highly entertaining and very competitive way with a bunch of people I know, in a way that pushes me way beyond anything I would have done at a boring Zone 3 and Zone 4 mixture.”
If you want to see Nathan’s race streams, check out his Twitch channel.
What Makes a Good Long-Distance Racer?
These races can be flat, hilly, or mountainous, and different routes will suit different types of racers. No matter the course, they tend to favor Zwifters who:
- Have good endurance
- Manage their energy well
- Can keep their power up for a long time
- Can still put out big efforts when fatigued
Whether or not that describes you, we’ve collected some tips below that can help you prepare and ride a long Zwift race. Read on and ride on!
Example Long Race Routes
Some long courses that might be used for these races include:
- Watopia’s Big Foot Hills, Out and Back Again, Big Loop, Big Loop Reverse, Bigger Loop, Pretzel, and Mega Pretzel
- The London Pretzel and London’s Triple Loops, PRL Full, and PRL Half
- New York City’s Everything Bagel
Keep in mind that long races can use any route, sometimes spinning around a tiny course for many laps.
Nathan says: “The course makes a difference. In KISS 100, when we do Box Hill (in London) every lap, everyone just waits for Box Hill and then tries to hang on. On something like Watopia Flat, you’re going to be able to get a lot more creative.”
Nathan live streaming a Zwift race
How to Prep for Long Races
Ride long in training: Even though these races have plenty of hard riding, they’re still mostly about endurance.
Nathan says: “Endurance training is about telling your body how much energy you’re going to need. It’s not really about how powerful you need to be. You want to get your endurance to a place where your Zone 2 heart rate stays pretty much the same at the same power for the duration of what the race is going to be. If you really want to train for events like this specifically, I’d get to double the duration (like 6 hours for a 3-hour race).”
Have plenty of water and food: Keep lots of it on hand, and eat and drink small amounts often. Make sure your food is something you can get down easily while riding.
Nathan says: “Most Zwift races, I can show up with one water bottle. 30 to 45 minutes is what I’m expecting. When I go to do KISS 100, I show up with way more water than I think might be needed. … I have 3 gels, 2 packs energy chews, and whatever is going to be needed to get through the 2-3 hour mark.”
“If it’s an hour-long event or more, at a high intensity level, you need sugar. Start during the first 20 minutes. These events deplete you so much that after an hour, it’s too late. Every 20 minutes, get some sort of sugar in.”
Choose your bike frame and wheelset carefully: Unless the race includes long mountain climbs, you’ll probably want something more aerodynamic than lightweight.
How to Ride Long Races
Now that you’re all prepped, it’s time to get to the start line!
Don’t skip the warmup: Every race is different. Sometimes, the racers will take it easy and slowly ramp up the intensity. Other times, they sprint hot out of the gate like it’s a 40-minute event. You’ll want your legs and lungs to be ready, but keep your warmup on the shorter side, 10-15 minutes at most.
Nathan says: “You can’t go in expecting not to get a normal (fast) race start. In 20 minutes to a half hour, things will eventually chill out, though.”
Use the draft and save energy: Attackers can get away in these races, but they don’t usually stay away when they attack early.
Nathan says: “A lot of times in a longer race, if there’s a large peloton that’s strong, they might let somebody go and get 30 seconds and not care as much. They’ll bring them back. Reserving energy is important. Sit in the draft. Make sure you’re with the peloton and doing the least amount of work in there, and that’s really going to benefit you in the final 30 minutes.”
Get to that finish line: It can be hard to keep your motivation high during a long race, especially if you lose the front group early and get stuck in disappointment. Set a reachable goal for yourself so you have a reason to keep going. That could be placing above a certain number, staying with a chase group, holding a certain average power, or just crossing the finish line.
Nathan says: “I’ve been in races, on Zwift and in real life, where I just don’t know why I’m here anymore. You don’t want to be in that headspace. However you need to do it, make sure you finish. That’s going to set the bar for next time.”
Unless you’re racing long climbs, you’ll probably get many PowerUps along the way. Early on, use them when you need them. Later in the race, make sure you have one ready when things get intense at the finish. The Feather Lightweight PowerUp will help you on hills, a Helmet Aero Boost gives you speed on flat ground or descents, and the Truck Draft PowerUp will help you hang onto a group. To learn more about all the PowerUps on Zwift, click here.
Ready to go long? Grab those gels and water bottles and enjoy the challenge!