Our Yorkshire map's "2019 UCI Worlds Harrogate Circuit" route is a re-creation of the very roads raced by the world's top riders in the 2019 UCI World Road Championships. Riders completed a long lead-in section followed by multiple laps of this circuit, culminating in a final uphill finish in central Harrogate. During race week, heavy rains made the constantly-undulating roads even more punishing. Fortunately, Zwifters can stay dry as they race this course from the comfort of their own homes!
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 detailed look at key sections of this route with racing tips from an experienced Zwifter. Simon Schofield, creator of the Zwiftcast, is a Yorkshireman who grew up riding these very roads. He's generously shared useful tips for top results when racing the Harrogate Circuit.
Length: 8.6miles // 13.8km
Elevation Gain: 803' // 245m
#1: The Start
Take a moment to enjoy the scenery and architecture as your race begins.
Simon says, “This is a flat roll-out until the turn at the roundabout/traffic circle, along a section of road called West Park. It's a perfect start to get the legs spinning and the cadence up, with lots of pretty scenery because the Stray, a beautiful park, is on your right and some classic Harrogate architecture on your left. It’s Harrogate-- and this circuit--at its most genteel!"
Our first climb begins quickly at the sharp right turn, so make sure you're warmed up before the race begins!
#2: Otley Road Climb
1 mile // 1.7km, 4% average gradient
Expect the effort level to rachet up as soon as this steady, straight climb begins. “It’s ramrod straight so surprise attacks are probably not going to happen here--there’s nowhere to hide," says Simon. "The gradient is also shallow, so not much scope to test fellow racers’ legs."
Looking to get away with a small group or even solo? The final 200 meters of this climb, with the water tower on your right, may be the place to do it. As Simon explains, "It steepens and as you crest the hill, a very optimistic long-range attack could be launched with enough momentum to sustain it as the road starts to descend. It would be optimistic though!”
#3: Pot Bank Descent
0.4 miles // 0.7km, 16% max gradient
The Pot Bank is one of the most steep and twisty descents in all of Zwift. As such, it's “One of the very few places on the whole course where a breather can be taken," says Simon. "Steep enough for the supertuck to kick in and, with vigilance, this could be a good place to relax for a moment or two. But beware the climb up Pot Bank!"
#4: Climb Up Pot Bank
0.8 miles // 1.3km, 4% average gradient
The climb immediately following our Pot Bank rollercoaster descent can really make things interesting in a race. “This immediately follows the descent and it rears up good, followed by a longer more shallow section," explains Simon. "So a really good hard kick up the short, steep pitch followed by a sustained power climb could see a gap open here. This is used IRL for circuit racing and is a notorious spot for attacks.”
Gaps can also quickly be closed here with smart riding. Coming in hot from the Pot Bank descent and looking to catch a group 5, 10, 20 seconds up the road? Hammer up the first little climb, perhaps deploying a feather powerup to keep your speed as high as possible.
#5: Forward KOM (Up Cornwall Road)
0.7 miles //1.2km, 5.5% average gradient
This is the only timed KOM on the Yorkshire map, and it's where the race's biggest attacks usually happen.
"In real life, this is overhung by trees and it’s almost always damp and dank. It’s pretty steep and twisty as it develops... and it goes on for longer than you think," says Simon. "Truly a testing little climb and as it happens relatively close to the finish this is an anvil on which fellow racers can be hammered. The section up Cornwall Road is draggy and difficult after a hard effort lower down the climb."
#6: Sprint segment
200 meters, slightly uphill
"Set amongst some of the most exclusive parts of residential Harrogate, this is comfortable on the eyes, but not on the legs. Flat or near flat, the turn on the sprint may fool a few," says Simon.
If your race includes a sprint competition, you will want to start hammering well before the sharp right where the sprint begins. No sprint points on the line? Surf those wheels and conserve for the finish.
500 meters, 2% finishing gradient
"Arguably the most testing section of a testing circuit, the finish up Parliament Street is a killer," says Simon. "With legs already burning from earlier hard sections, it is absolutely essential to save something for this if you have any ambition of getting into the top order of finishers. Even after the slope relents, it’s not over. The final couple of hundred meters are a drag to the finish, the road still going up and the legs burning.”
If you've saved a feather powerup, use it as you make the sharp right, since this is the steepest portion of the finish. Feeling strong? A long attack here may open up a gap that won't be closed, if you can sustain the watts per kilo to the end. Or try a shorter attack by popping an aero powerup after the steep section ends, hitting top speed in the final seconds.
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.