New York's Gotham Grind Reverse is a figure 8 route that stays on the ground-level roads of Central Park while avoiding Harlem Hill to the north, making it one of the flatter New York routes. But this is not a flat route! With 315' // 96m of elevation gain per lap you need to stay alert and be ready to hammer so you can hold a wheel up the short climbs.
Regardless of your race route, remember these top tips for Zwift racing (most apply outside as well!)
- Warm up because the start is a hard effort
- Use the draft to conserve energy whenever possible
- Attack every punchy climb to avoid being dropped
- Know the route so you can pace yourself, move to the front before important climbs, etc
- Save a useful powerup for the finish
What follows is a seasoned Central Park racer's detailed perspective on key sections of this route. Zwift's VP of Events Charlie Issendorf is a veteran NYC racer, having ridden (by his estimation) probably 10,000 outdoor Central Park laps in his lifetime.
Charlie has generously agreed to act as our tour guide for this route, so we know you'll enjoy this quick recon full of useful tips for top results when racing Gotham Grind Reverse.
Lap Length: 5.7 miles // 9.3km
Elevation Gain Per Lap: 315' // 96m
#1: The Start
After leaving the pens take a left and you're on the Park Perimeter loop, the classic Central Park loop.
Charlie explains, "The 'Gotham Grind Reverse' name for this route is a bit misleading for Zwifters who have ridden many laps in the Park because it's actually not 'reverse' at all, it follows the normal direction for cyclists riding in the Park."
Without a big climb ahead expect the race to start hard and fast as stronger riders work to force a selection. Get in a good warmup beforehand and find a group to work with!
This east side of the Park alongside Fifth Avenue is the flattest, straightest, portion of our route, so Charlie advises, "Conserve energy here because rollers are coming on the other side."
#2: West Side Climb
0.6 miles // 1km, 3% approximate grade
Begin a slight downhill and then make a left towards the Baseball Fields. This is the cut-through that connects the east side of the Park to the west side. It also avoids the tough Harlem Hill.
Make a left out of the cut-through and you're on the west side of the Park.
Charlie says, "Immediately the road tilts up so be prepared for an out-of-the-saddle effort after the left turn. It's not steep but if you're not expecting it, you could be caught off guard."
#3: East Side Bump
300m // 5% approximate grade
After a fast downhill, you'll make a left and head to Bethesda Fountain. Another cut-through, this is the road that connects the west side to the east side.
Charlie says, "Once on the east side, you'll make a sharp right and immediately face a very short, slightly steeper hill. Again, be prepared. You're back on the Park Perimeter loop but this time you're actually going in the reverse direction. Outdoors, cyclists are not permitted to ride in this direction so for old-school Central Park riders like myself, it's a new experience."
225m, -1% approximate grade
There's a false flat as you head towards Tavern on the Green and the Sprint arch, so be ready to bump up your power as needed. If your race tracks sprint times you'll want to start hammering before the right turn towards the sprint straightaway. With a slight downhill grade this is a fast sprint, even with the slight rise at the end.
Charlie continues our tour: "Past the Sprint arch and the road is downhill as you approach the cut-through and back again towards the Bethesda Fountain. This time, instead of making a right turn after the cut-through, you'll make a left turn back on to the Park Permitter loop and the normal direction of Central Park."
#5: The Finish
300m, 6% approximate grade
Charlie says, "It's a slight, short, downhill as you approach the bottom of Cat's Paw Hill (the steepest hill on Gotham Grind Reverse). This is the end of the lap and you'll see the Finish arch near the top of the hill. This also the finish of outdoor Central Park races."
Most races on Gotham Grind Reverse are 2-4 laps long, so if you're heading into another lap be ready to hammer up this short, steep climb. Feeling strong? This is a smart place to attack if you can climb fast then keep your speed high to drop some riders as the road flattens.
Final lap? This is a tough uphill finish, so if you've saved an aero helmet, van, or even feather power-up this is the place to use it! Build speed on the flatter initial portion, then hammer it home as the road gets steeper. 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.