Race Recon: Crit City Downtown Dolphin

Race Recon: Crit City Downtown Dolphin

ON June 5, 2020 by Zwift

Looking for a flat, fast race with the feel of a downtown crit? Downtown Dolphin is Crit City’s most popular route, with a prime climb section, a short, twisting descent, and perhaps the fastest finish in Zwift. This route is the reverse version of Bell Lap.

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 veteran Belgian racer Fran Bambust. Follow her smart tips to achieve your best results in a Downtown Dolphin race!

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

#1: The Start

Zwift races always start with 1-2 minutes of hard effort. This is especially true in Crit City because stronger riders will be looking to force a break in the pack quickly! Be sure to enter the start pens nicely warmed up, and be ready for a hard effort as soon as the clock hits zero.

Want a slight start advantage, especially against a large field of riders? Fran says, “Be in the pen as early as possible to get a good spot.” 

#2: False Flat

300 meters, ~1% grade

Within seconds of the start, the road tilts up slightly. The false flat continues past the eSports stage until the road makes a sharp right toward the finish line.

“You might not feel this one the first or even fourth time around,” says Fran. “But it can become a pace breaker after eight rounds. Don’t sit too far in the back here.”

#3: Prime Climb

200 meters, ~4% grade

The bricks of the prime section are where most attacks happen on Downtown Dolphin. Fran wisely advises, “Be sure to ramp up a little every time, do not put all your trust in the drafting here.”

Unless you’re trying to attack, ride carefully here, surfing the wheels near the front to safely conserve as much as possible. “It may settle somewhat once a breakaway has formed – you can take the section in a lower gear during those laps to let your legs recover,” says Fran. But “It will ramp up again in the final two laps. Higher gear and higher cadence.”

Above all, Fran warns, “Stay vigilant here at all times.”

#4: Twisting Descent

400 meters, ~2% rolling grade

While descents are usually the easiest part of a race, Fran says, “The descent is not to be underestimated.” With the tarmac rolling up and down a bit, well-timed attacks or a loss of momentum can quickly open up gaps.

So how should you approach this section? Fran advises, “Keep pushing, do not get too comfy. Gaps that form here can be deadly. Keep drafting, stick to the front.” 

#5: The Finish

200 meters, flat

Having a useful powerup for the finish is a huge help. Luckily, in Crit City you can get a new powerup every lap! The helmet aero boost powerup is what riders typically want on a Downtown Dolphin finish, since most races come down to a pack sprint. Fran says, “If you have an aero powerup within four laps of the finish, I would suggest not gambling with it unless you need to close a gap.”

So save that aero powerup, and maintain a good position in the front group. Then it’s all about power and timing! The aero powerup lasts 15 seconds, which means you should trigger it no later than the bottom of the twisting descent, well before the final hairpin turn.

Of course, not everyone is a sprinter. If you don’t like your chances in a pack sprint, you can try a long attack on the final time up the brick primes. Most riders will cover the distance from the prime banner to the finish banner in approximately 60 seconds. If you can jump away from the group on the bricks (perhaps with the help of a feather powerup) then hold high power for 60 seconds, you may just stay away for an epic solo win.

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.