Race Recon: London 8

Race Recon: London 8

ON December 30, 2019 by Zwift

The London 8 is an extended version of our London Loop route, adding a lap around the Classique’s red tarmac to make the ride a bit longer and flatter. Races here generally vary from 1-2 laps in length, so be sure you know the plan for your event. Along the way, enjoy the sites of London and Surrey Hills as the peloton flies through Trafalgar Square, past Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, along the Thames, and over Box Hill.

Remember these top tips for Zwift racing (most apply outside as well!)

  1. Warm up because the start is a hard effort
  2. Use the draft to conserve energy whenever possible
  3. Attack every punchy climb to avoid being dropped
  4. Know the route so you can pace yourself, move to the front before important climbs, etc
  5. Save a useful powerup for the finish

What follows is a detailed look at key sections of this route from Marius Midtskogen, an experienced B racer from Norway. Pay close attention to the racing tips he has shared since they will help you get top results on the London 8 route!

Length: 12.6 miles // 20.3km
Elevation Gain: 833′ // 254m

London 8 is a challenging course since it includes Box Hill mixed in with several smaller “kicker” climbs. Knowing where to go hard and where to recover is key to success here. As Marius says, “I’ve lost many a front group on this course due to bad preparation!”

#1: The Start

3.1 miles // 5.1km, rolling terrain

Zwift races always start fast, so go into the start pens having already completed a good warmup, because these first minutes are crucial! Marius explains:

The first 2 minutes are crucial to having a good race. For the London 8 course, it’s the first 2km that are the most crucial. If you can hang with the front of your group for that long, you’ll probably do well. Right after you cross the start/finish banner, there’s a little 3% climb right away, followed by a short descent and then another 4% climb, all within a few hundred meters. After that, you settle in on the flatter section along the Thames.

#2: Northumberland Avenue

400m long, 5% grade

When the group makes a hard right away from the Thames be ready to punch it up Northumberland Avenue and maintain power over the crest through Trafalgar Square until you are comfortable with your position in the pack.

“This is often where the group splits,” Marius warns, as lighter riders will have a huge advantage to heavier riders. Dig deep… “rest” is near.”

#3: Sprinting Into the Red

200m, 1% grade

The section around Buckingham Palace is paved red, making this portion of the route stand out clearly. This is where you’ll find the sprints in London, and for this route you will hit the sprint in a reverse direction near the end of the red pavement.

If your race is tracking sprint points it is helpful to know the sprint begins 200 meters before the banner, and is on a 1% false flat.

After the sprint, you will turn right towards Big Ben and ride along the Thames for a bit before it’s time to cross over. Use this time to recover for the climb ahead.

#4: Box Hill

1.9 miles // 3km, 4.4% average grade

Crossing the bridge you’ll have a little climb and descent before going into the subway and down the 15% escalator. Body weight matters here, as Marius points out:

“If you’re a climber you might have to work down the escalator to stay with your group. If you’re a heavier rider like myself you can get 2-3 seconds of rest. Coming out of the tunnel you’re miraculously transported to Surrey Hills (approximately 50 miles away IRL).”

Next you will hit Box Hill, the most decisive portion of the London 8 route. Do you have the legs to stay with the front of the race? Marius explains what to expect:

I love Box Hill as it is a nice, not too long, steady climb. The first part is 7-8%, then drops to 4-5% towards the end. There’s a nice letup in the hairpin turn. The second part is 5-6%. The last part is the longest, but at only 5% and with nice graphics on the road, it’s really not that bad. It flattens out at the top on the turn, before it kicks back up again, and then flattens back down before the lead-up towards the banner. 

#5: Hilltop Kicker

300m, 9% average grade

After the KOM banner, there’s a nice flat section that finishes in a short, tough climb. If you have a match left to burn, and perhaps a feather powerup, this is a brilliant place to bridge up to the next group or put in a hard attack.

#6: Fox Hill Descent

1.5 miles // 2.4km, -4.3% average grade

The descent on the backside of Box Hill is known as Fox Hill, and it’s a great place for heavier riders to recover after a hard climb. Marius says, “I tend to use the downhill as a time to rest. Go hard at the top to enjoy some time super-tucking down Fox Hill.”

#7: Stairs Up from the Underground

100m long, 15% grade

“At the bottom of Fox Hill you go back out the way you came in, which means powering up the 15% escalator,” warns Marius. “Treat it like a sprint–try not to lose momentum.” 

Most riders will simply try to hold a wheel in this section, but if you have strong 2-3 minute power and a weaker sprint you may be able to gap the group on this short climb then stay away until the finish.

#8: The Finish

300m long, slightly rolling terrain

The finish comes down to timing, powerups, and what you’ve got left in the tank. If you’re in a pack, stay near the front and watch the riders around you carefully.

The approach isn’t flat: there is a short descent at 200m to go before a +2% grade so don’t let up the power early, since you will slow more quickly because of the slight gradient. Choose your moment then give it all you’ve got!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Race Recon. The goal of this series is to explain the features that make each Zwift route uniquely challenging for racers. Looking for more? See our complete list of Zwift Race Recons.