Watopia's "Legends and Lava" was originally designed for the Zwift Academy Road 2021 program as a fitness test of VO2, sprint, and FTP power. The varied, roller coaster nature of the geography paired with a top-of-the-Volcano finish make this a popular race course, especially for events giving out intermediate points such as Zwift Racing League.
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 useful powerups and deploy them strategically
What follows is a detailed breakdown of Legends and Lava from Zwifter Jacob Braaten, who races for the DIRTy Ducks B team in Zwift Racing League. He says, "We like to spend inordinate amounts of time scouring routes and coming up with the perfect tactical plan that usually revolves around a divide and conquer mentality." Follow his tips to get your best result on race day!
24.6 km // 15.3 miles
352 meters // 1,155' of elevation
Jacob introduces this course by explaining, "With just two arches before the final ascent up the Volcano, powerups are at a premium and need to be used wisely. There are very few places in which a decisive, race-winning move can be made on this course, but there are numerous places where the race can be lost! The main theme is to stay safely tucked into the draft and keep a watchful eye on what is going on around you."
#1: The Start
As with any race, a solid warmup is crucial before you head to the pens. Get that out of the way, then join the pens and wait for the clock to hit zero. Jacob says, "The desert start is flat and fast and gives you just a kilometer of racing before you take a left and head into Titans Grove. I like to break Titans Grove into 3 parts: rollers in, the Reverse KOM, descent and rollers out."
The roller-coaster rollers at the start require constant attention to maintain your best position in the peloton. As Jacob explains, "This is the first spot where a moment of inattentiveness could cost you." Gaps may open up if the pace at the front is hard. "In my experience," Jacob says, "it is better to be in the first five wheels than the last five wheels through this section."
#2: Titans Grove KQOM Reverse
910 meters, 4.3% average gradient
"Titans Grove Reverse KOM is one of the most consistent climbs in Zwift," Jacob says. "The key is staying in the draft. If you are focusing on taking points, draft and kick the last few hundred meters. If you are trying to survive, then stay with the biggest group you can."
The finish line here is a bit hidden, marked by a few rock piles instead of a large overhead arch. Jacob offers this advice for approaching and continuing through the climb's finish: "I recommend scouting out landmarks before the race to better time your kick. It is flat for a little while after the KOM finish line, so it is best to keep the power on and ensure you are safe in a group when the descent starts."
#3: Titans Grove Descent and Rollers Out
The descent following the KQOM is gradual and does not give much of a super-tuck option. Gaps can open within groups over the top, but motivated riders are often able to catch back on to the front. Pay close attention as you hit the rollers following the descent. Jacob says, "Your race can be lost by getting a little off the front and then having the group blow past on the next uphill, or by getting just a few meters off the back over the top of a roller and the group speeds away on the downhill."
#4: JWB Forward Sprint
350 meters, flat
If your race includes sprint points you'll want to be rested up for this segment, as it's relatively long at 350 meters. Positioning, timing, powerup fortune, and good old-fashioned power will be key if you want to take any segment points here.
"The big danger of this sprint is not the sprint itself but what comes just 300 meters past the finish," warns Jacob.
In a team race offering sprint points (such as Zwift Racing League), this could effectively be your finish line, as a good effort might double your points total if you're out of the top 10 up the Volcano.
#5: Kicker and The Esses
"The momentum of the sprint segment will carry you across the wooden bridge before turning hard right into a short, steep and painful hill that marks the entrance into The Esses," Jacob explains. This is a common attack point as the peloton contains tired sprinters and riders trying to conserve energy through the sprint.
Once you get to the top of the kicker, vigilance is still important as you fly through The Esses. Jacob says, "Pack positioning is essential through here as it only takes a moment for a small gap to become an impassable chasm that can ruin your race. Once through The Esses there is a short stretch across the bridge and half of a lap around the volcano for the weary to rest."
#6: Volcano KQOM
3.8km kilometers, 3.2% average gradient
The day's big climb comes at the end of your ride, but it's not one for pure climbers, as Jacob explains: "As a lightweight and lover of all roads that point skyward, the Volcano KOM is one of my least favorite climbs. The mostly low grade, short downhills, and flat sections create a high-speed climb that evens the field between the high watt riders and the high W/kg riders."
Rather than big splits forming, you'll often see gradual attrition of the group as riders can no longer hold the pace. You'll know you are halfway through the climb when you hit a few hundred meters of flat ground as you ride through the Volcano. Sit in and catch a few breaths before it gets hard to the finish!
"There are always one or two riders that are tempted to launch a long-range attack once you exit the inside of the volcano and the road ramps up again," Jacob says. "But there is still a long way to go and with the flatter/rolling stuff once you reach the wooden boardwalk portions means you have to hold considerably more than the group to stay away. It’s doable but it takes some serious power."
#7: The Finish
The finish is all about timing. Jacob walks us through the final meters:
"The grade slowly ramps up before it kicks into red numbers with about 150 meters to go and continues to be steep until flattening about 20 meters before the line. The best-timed finishes start their acceleration before the really steep section, but you risk going too early and fading if you have been on the limit from the previous climbing. All three powerups can be useful in the finale, but you will be hoping for the aero or feather to take you to the top."
Good luck, racers!
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.