Race Recon: Crit City Bell Lap

Race Recon: Crit City Bell Lap

ON June 15, 2020 by Zwift

Crit City’s “Bell Lap” route is the reverse version of “Downtown Dolphin“. You can expect the same flat, fast, downtown crit-style racing from both routes. In this direction, though, there is no timed prime section, and the climb is a bit longer and more punishing.

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 look at key sections of this route complete with racing tips from Stephen Blackburn, an Australian A racer who has been on Zwift since early beta days. Follow his tips to achieve your best results in a Bell Lap race!

Length: 1.2 miles // 1.9km
Elevation Gain: 34′ // 10m

This map is called “Crit City” due to the course layout and shorter races it hosts. Stephen summarizes it like this: “Short and therefore intense racing, coupled with minimal elevation variation, so pretty much ‘full-gas’, on the pedals racing.” Don’t bank on having much time to catch your breath, either. “On an outside course with 12 corners, you might get up to 30 seconds freewheeling every lap! But because this is Zwift, there are no micro rests as you freewheel through the corners.”

Let’s look at the key sections of this short route.

#1: The Start

“Like all Zwift races, it’s important to be at the front of the pen,” advises Stephen. “Make sure you log in early, especially with a large field size.”

Most Zwift races begin with 1-2 minutes of hard effort. This is especially true in Crit City because stronger riders will try to force a selection quickly. Be sure you are nicely warmed up and ready for a hard effort as soon as the clock hits zero!

#2: Twisty Climb and False Flat to Zwift HQ

500 meters, uphill rollers into a false flat

You’ll hit a hairpin after riding through the start/finish banner, then it’s up the twisty, rolling climb onto a false flat which takes you past virtual Zwift HQ. This is the most difficult part of the course, so mind your position and be ready to push hard!

“This is why the Bell Lap direction is harder than Downtown Dolphin,” says Stephen. “This section of the course has some nasty false flats, along with the rollers through the park. The rollers can easily sap your legs. The key to getting through is to power through the bottom of each roller and let momentum carry you up and over, rather than rolling through the bottom and having to power over the top. Get this right, and you’ll be getting a little bit of recovery on the drag towards Zwift HQ, rather than trying to catch up.”

#3: Down the Bricks

200 meters, -4% grade

You’ll take a hard left after Zwift HQ, ride through the prime banner, then see the tarmac change to brick as you begin a short descent.

“This is a chance for a little bit of recovery, but pay attention,” says Stephen. “If you’re not back on the pedals at the exit of the cobbles you’ll quickly lose places. At this stage though, don’t panic – stay where you are and tell yourself to concentrate better next lap.”

#4: False Flat

200 meters, ~2% grade

After the brick descent, you’ll hit a false flat just one block long. Drifting off the back of the pack? “Use this to power back up through the field if you lost places earlier,” recommends Stephen.

PowerUps play a big part in race strategy at Crit City, and you’ll get a new one with each lap if your race has powerups enabled. Smart racers use them on almost every lap, as Stephen explains: “This is your little piece of insurance, allowing you to get a bit of rest – you’ll get one every lap, so don’t bother saving it.”

Where are PowerUps best used? “I like to use the PowerUp through the rolling section [twisty climb], however, patience is key,” says Stephen. “After going through the hairpin at the end of the finishing straight go through the first roller before activating your PowerUp. You’ll find you get good momentum through the rollers this way, rather than getting bogged down on the last roller.”

#5: The Finish

300 meters, flat

Most Crit City races come down to a pack sprint where timing and 15-second power are crucial. Stephen walks us through the final stretch of the Bell Lap route:

“Like all Zwift racing, getting the jump is critical, and there is always a trade-off between going too early and not dying before the line. This isn’t real life, so no need to worry about the corners – instead, watch the distance tick down in the header. One km to go – near the front, but there’ll be a slight lull on the false flat, don’t get caught out and end up in front. 500 meters to go – now is the time to go. This finish rewards a 90% kick, saving your last 10% for when you turn onto the finish straight.”

Good luck!

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.