Race Recon: Watopia Road to Sky

Race Recon: Watopia Road to Sky

ON December 10, 2020 by Zwift

Road to Sky is the quickest route to Alpe du Zwift, the longest climb on Watopia. A GPS-accurate re-creation of the legendary Alpe D’Huez (one of the more famous Tour de France stages), Alpe du Zwift takes some riders 2+ hours to complete, while top pros complete it in under 40 minutes!

If you’re racing this route, take care not to blow up early. Enjoy the changing scenery as you climb over 3,000′, and make sure you descend from the top after your event. You’ve earned it!

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 useful powerups and deploy them strategically

What follows is a detailed breakdown of the Road to Sky route from A+ racer Neil Ostenfeld. Follow his tips to get your best result on race day!

Length: 10.9 miles // 17.5km
Elevation Gain: 3428′ // 1045m

#1: The Start

Warming up before your race is essential, as the pace will be hard and fast from the beginning. That said, you can expect Road to Sky starts to be tamer than a typical race, since riders know all the action is coming on the big climb, and the lead-in to the climb is mostly downhill.

Neil’s advice here is simple: “Try to stay in the best possible position, but don’t blow yourself up. There’s a long way to go. Save your energy!”

You’ll begin on a paved descent from the Jungle Start Pens. This turns to the dirt Jungle Circuit road which takes you to the right turn for Alpe du Zwift. Stay alert if the pack stretches out, and try to stay ahead of any gaps that form. Dust can obscure your view up the road in large packs, so don’t be afraid to use your minimap if visibility is poor.

#2: Alpe du Zwift, Part 1

2.5km // 1.6 miles, 9.8% average gradient

Proper pacing is essential on long climbs like Alpe du Zwift. “I like to break up the Alpe into three sections,” explains Neil. “I start off about 5-10w under FTP through turn 16. This lets me find a solid rhythm. On the steep early ramps (11+%) I like to push a bit.”

Staying just under FTP is a smart approach, since you don’t blow yourself up chasing wheels at this early stage. Better to have a little left near the end than to blow up early and limp your way up the long climb!

#3: Alpe du Zwift, Part 2

4.9km // 3 miles, 8.3% average gradient

“For the middle (turns 16-7) I start to push the pace right on the limit of my FTP,” Neil says.

This is the longest of Neil’s three sections, and it’s where riders will begin to struggle mentally. Concentrate on keeping your power consistent and high through each section. If you need a carrot to chase, focus on the next rider up the road and work to catch.

#4: Alpe du Zwift, Part 3

4.8km // 3 miles, 7.9% average gradient

Time-limited powerups will show on the minimap, so if your race includes powerups do your best to make it to the powerup zone in time to receive a welcome boost.

“I personally think the first section (between turns 7-6) is the hardest to keep the power on. It’s long and right when real fatigue is starting to set in,” confesses Neil.

Neil explains what you can expect through these final turns: “Once you make it to the last powerup through the tunnel after turn 4 you’re within sight of the summit. You should be completely buried in your stem by this point. Make sure you empty everything from the tank from here to the finish. The last thing you want is to regret not digging deeper once you cross the line.”

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.