The Zommunique logo June '23

“We’re “Doubling Down” on Cycling Esports Racing,” Says Zwift!

The company stresses a commitment to competition and community during the September 2023 "This Season on Zwift" Press Conference.

Those were the words of Zwift’s VP of Content, Mark Cote, during a recent “This Season on Zwift” press conference. The presser highlighted many new features, upgrades, gamified elements, and returning events coming to Zwift, along with one change to racing on the industry-leading platform.


Zwift Racing has seen substantial growth since the company’s 2021 statement, which labeled the platform as not primarily focused on competitive esports because the majority use the platform solely as a training tool. Back then, only around 20% of users were competitive. 

This Season on Zwift 2023
Image courtesy of Zwift

Zwift Racing is Growing

According to Zwift, the platform has experienced a year-over-year increase of 10-20% in monthly competitive users. During peak months, each race averages 360 athletes. Additionally, over 500 promoters organize around 1,200 races weekly. 


Notably, one-third of all users have participated in at least one race—an approximate 50 percent increase. The company’s premier community series, the Zwift Racing League (ZRL), is set to hit a new high with 2,000 registered teams for the upcoming 2023 indoor season just about to begin. It sets the stage for record racer numbers in 2023/24.

For a deep dive into what the renewed focus means for the racing community, listen to the Virtual Velo Podcast Ep. 30: This Season on Zwift—The Racer’s Edition

What did VP of Content   Mark Cote say when questioned about whether Zwift’s growth would lead to increased resources for improving the authenticity and credibility of the race experience?


“We’re not disclosing specific features, but we’ve built a dedicated content team focused on competition over the past year. The primary goal was to strengthen community elements through significant resource allocation.”

The Stunning Watopia Expansion video courtesy of Zwift

Reassuring Statements

The statement should provide some reassurance to those in the Zwift racing community. Even among Zwift employees, there was uncertainty about how the new management team headed by co-CEO Kurt Beider would approach competition following their takeover in December 2022.


Cote further added: “We’re significantly ramping up our internal efforts. While racers may not immediately notice the changes, we’re increasing our investment and focus on racing at all levels, from elite to community. We have some exciting developments planned for the second half of the year, including a new Zwift Championship and supporting features.”

this season on Zwift racing score
Zwift Racing Score is coming in November. Image courtesy of Zwift.

New Race Categorization System

Racers can expect to see a new categorization system rolling out this season on Zwift. The Zwift Racing Score is the competition team’s take on results-based categorization, with a power-based component included, and a step away from a purely wkg classification system. It aims to provide racers with an objective way to compare themselves to others, using a combination of skill and performance. 


Zwift Racing Score updates after every race, determined by finishing position, field strength, and critical power algorithms. Riders can anticipate the revamped scoring system in November 2023 and a more streamlined sign-up process and post-race results interface.


ZwiftPower isn’t going anywhere for now, and races using the traditional A to D categorization will be accompanied by Zwift Racing Score ranked and unranked events.

The race-specific enhancements follow a period of significant upheaval in the Zwift racing community. On August 17, 2023, the Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI) announced that it awarded the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships to the cycling esports platform MyWhoosh for the next three years. The news shocked many who consider Zwift synonymous with elite esports racing, the only platform to host an Esports World Championship or Olympic Esports Series.

Until now, Zwift has been noticeably close-lipped on the matter, passing on multiple requests for comment, including an initial denial during this press conference. However, Mark Cote felt compelled to share his insight in time.

This season on Zwift racing
Image: Zwift

Esports World Championships Statement

“We put in a bid for the UCI Esports Worlds Championships, as we’ve been building the event with the UCI for many years. Yes, we’re bummed that we weren’t selected. At the same time, we’re also pretty excited that the maturity of the sport has gotten to the point where there is additional investment and hunger from multiple platforms to compete.” 

Want to hear an in-depth analysis of the potential factors involved in “The Decision?” Listen to Ep. 29 of the Virtual Velo Podcast entitled, “MyWhoosh, Zwift, the UCI, & the Esports World Championships—Wuht just happened?”

Cote added: “We think the bedrock of racing is the community for us, and that is where our focus has been and will continue to be. We are forging forward to evolve what competition looks like on Zwift. The Zwift Championship is going to be pretty rad. We’re extremely excited about our elite and community racing calendar and the general health of the sport. There’s a lot of investment and interest now. It’s much different from when this all began, and we’re very excited about that.”


What did he say when asked if that meant a more significant commitment to the community than elite racing?


“It’s not more either way. It’s a full pyramid. We want to have an interactive experience so that what we build across can trickle through. The commitment is similar across all levels. We are investing more in driving engineering and product resources to the holistic competition area.” 

Zwift racing league riders coming under banner
Image: Zwift

Business Focus on Racing

Cote added: “From a business perspective, the more focus you put, the more output there will be. I wouldn’t say it is one way or the other, but I will emphasize that the community built this in the first place. We will ensure the community is supported and there are incredible experiences there.”


Zwift faces a business perspective dilemma. While racers are their most loyal user base, they make up only a minority fraction of total subscribers. The majority often resist changes aimed at enhancing the racing experience.


Consider the case of Pack Dynamics. Zwift’s updated versions aim to offer a more authentic racing experience by minimizing avatar movement both forward and backward and reducing the speed of large groups.

Mixed Reactions

However, this has led to a perceived reduction in drafting benefits, requiring users to exert more effort to maintain their position. 

It has sparked user discontent, with one even voicing his dissatisfaction on the Zwift Forum.

The user said: “I’m not sure why we continually need to change this part of the GAME as it seems pointless to try and make a GAME feel the same as it does when you ride outdoors. These latest changes are so dramatic that it seems BROKEN and has already discouraged me enough to look at changing my routine…that’s pretty sad, don’t you think?

Later in the same thread, several community and elite racers touted the change as a positive step forward, including top-ranked Zwifter P.O. Auto’s Joakim Lisson. 

I feel like 4.1 is a big step in the right direction, and from what I have seen, it makes for way more exciting races, but yeah, it also requires a lot of getting used to both in races and riding with robopacers for how actually to optimize power.

Zwift cycling avatars racing near an animate squirrel
Image: Zwift

A Difficult Position

Is angering the majority of your subscriber base a sound business strategy? Zwift’s investors may not think so. 


Therein lies the company’s conundrum that fuels the perceptions, whether justified or not, that Zwift isn’t committed to racing. The UCI believes MyWhoosh’s position is better than Zwift’s to deliver and is banking on a continued commitment to growth for the next three years and beyond.


The cycling esports platform indieVelo’s implementation of innovative race and credibility enhancements, like multiple race formats, individual event creation, unparalleled draft mechanics, and built-in dual recording, in a few short months, while still in Beta, offers a glimpse and gives dissatisfied Zwift racers a standard to point to.


Partnering with indieVelo as an “Independent Commissaire” for the upcoming elite-level Zwift Grand Prix is a step forward.

Winning Strategy

How can Zwift emerge victorious from this seemingly no-win situation?


Deliver on the promise to double down on racing. How? To Zwift, that is a renewed focus on what got them there—the community—the facet of the virtual cycling market where the company has a distinct edge.


Zwift has supported elite racing, investing substantial time collaborating with organizations like the UCI. However, in the company’s view, the core focus remains community racing. A solid community base is deemed essential for nurturing elite competition. 


The company aims to expand the racing community, which has grown from 20% to 30% despite the overall increase in Zwift’s user base. This growth is attributable to community organizations like DIRT, KISS, and HERD, which have laid the foundation for elite teams such as Canyon Esports, NeXT, Saris-NoPinz, and the other top teams. 

Zwift avatars dressed in alpine clothing riding up a hill
Image: Zwift

Community, Commitment, Competition

Most recent discussions and initiatives are centered on strengthening this community focus, hoping to elevate more riders and teams to elite status. The value of the Zwift “community” was a prevailing theme of the press conference, especially concerning the future of competition on the platform. 


The importance of grassroots involvement is a focus of the UCI’s choice for the 2024-26 Esports World Championships. MyWhoosh’s newly updated ruleset V2.0.0, effective from September 1, 2023, focuses on encouraging grassroots participation. 


Racers must participate in at least two weekly rides to qualify for individual prize money. To be eligible for prize money, teams must host a weekly social ride or race featuring at least three team members and promote these events on social media. Incentives like in-game jerseys go to teams that help grow the platform’s user base. 


Zwift still holds a considerable edge in community engagement, and it can cement this position further and widen the gap. If the company reallocates resources to enhance the race experience—especially in light of the attention garnered by losing the bid to host the UCI Esports World Championships—Zwift could achieve something extraordinary, possibly launching a series of live events and other immersive elements. 


Now is the time for Zwift to reassure its community that not only is racing on the platform in good shape but the foundation is set for a stronger future.

To subscribe to the Zommunique and receive more informative and entertaining articles like this one sent directly to your inbox, click here!

Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
.Alien King.
.Alien King.
7 days ago

zwifts never ending spiral of change is meh at best.

Leave dynamics alone for “normal riders”
implement whatever you want for “racers”

until you change shit so much causes ppl to leave.

Zwift is truly in a terrible position as “the community” makes or breaks them as a whole. If “top clubs” walk out and go somewhere else. The dynamics and power of zwift are gone. The community is truly king here and has all the power. If just the top 5 clubs leave, thats a chunk of the zwift (monthly userbase). That would also be closer to double that of “racers”. These numbers are guesses, and just to show that things can rapidly change.

That then doubles into less group rides, less interactive rides, which could lead to other things. My basic point here is in zwift chasing the magic ball to become “The IT Girl of ERacing” could lead them into burning the bridge that made them a success. Without the community zwift is basically nothing. They better watch how they play this

The Zommuniqué

Virtual Velo Podcast logo final
Check out Episode Thirty here!

The Zommunique’ Community gets 10% off at with coupon code “TheZomm gives 10% off”   

The DIRT Dad Fund

Contribute to a great cause!

The DIRT Dad Fund

Share the power of The DIRT Effect

Jaclyn Long, MFT

Certified Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher

Marriage & Family Therapist in CA

Sports Anxiety Therapy

Drink Coffee and Do Good!  

What could be better than that?

Click the Image and Shop now!

Related Articles

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x