Race Recon: Watopia Mountain

Race Recon: Watopia Mountain

ON 5 April 2019 by Zwift

The Mountain Route takes you up Watopia’s first big climb, the Epic KOM. Say hello to the ibex guarding the KOM banner, then take a deep breath because there’s more in store. It’s time to conquer the steep road up to the Radio Tower! 

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 detailed look at key sections of this route from a racer’s perspective. Former pro rider (and current IndoorSpecialist team rider) Johnathan Freter has generously shared some pointers, so we know you’ll enjoy this quick tour full of useful tips for top results when racing Watopia’s Mountain Route.

Lap Length: 18.3 miles // 29.4km
Elevation Gain Per Lap: 2237′ // 682m

#1: The Start

Watopia Mountain races typically start a little tamer than flat races, since riders know the hard effort is coming soon on the climb. That said, it will still be a hard start. Johnathan cautions, “It really hurts coming out of the pen, especially if you didn’t get a proper warm up, but whatever you do, don’t be a Zwift n00b and get dropped here because you thought it was an easy rollout.”

Here’s a little start tip from Johnathan: “False starts aren’t a thing in Zwift so wind it up and don’t be afraid to smash it before the clock hits zero.

#2: Ramp Out of Ocean Tunnel

2.2 miles // 3.5km into lap
300m, 6% grade

This is a key early section before the big climb. As Johnathan explains, “This won’t make your race but if you aren’t paying attention this sneaky ramp will be more than happy to break your race.”

Once you get to the top of this quick kicker, Johnathan advises taking a deep breath. “It’s time to get your heart rate back down because in the next 25 minutes you’ll have lactate pumping out of every orifice.”

#3: Epic KOM

2.7 miles // 4.3km into lap
5.8 miles // 9.4km long, 3.9% grade

This challenging climb will split up the pack as the race turns into a power-to-weight slugfest. The climbing begins with a short, steep, winding kicker (“a wake-up call if you aren’t already in the mood to suffer,” says Johnthan), then you cross the uphill bridge and head up the mountain. Top A racers complete the Epic KOM in under 17 minutes, while B and C category racers are looking at 20+ minutes.

Johnathan advises setting intermediate goals, “From here it’s all about finding little landmarks you can use to stay in the game. First the village with the castle, then you ride into the snow, then the tunnel. From there, you have to tell your legs if they already survived to the tunnel you can make it to the top.”

After the long tunnel, you’ll be greeted with a series of rollers leading into the final haul to the KOM banner. Johnathan tells us what to expect:

“If you’ve made it to the tunnel, don’t get too excited too quickly, you still have a couple more challenges to come in the form of short punchy rollers that will bury your legs 6 feet under if they can’t respond to the steep grades. Finally a short downhill into the final climb to the KOM banner. Take a breath, knowing that you haven’t died yet. And stay composed as you almost regret signing up for this race as your avatar makes a left turn up to the radio tower!”


#4: Radio Tower Climb

8.8 miles // 14.2km into lap
.7 miles // 1.1km long, 13.7% grade

“This is 1 km of hating yourself, Zwift and everything that we do these efforts for,” Johnathan says. This the steepest climb of any substantial length in Zwift, and there’s simply no way to make it easy during a race.

Got strong 5-minute power? This is the place to use it. A feather powerup might just provide a little solace as well. Jonathan explains, “With an average grade of almost 14% top riders are smashing this out in under 4 minutes. There are bound to be massive gaps formed here.”

#5: Epic KOM Descent

9.7 miles // 15.6km into lap
3.9 miles // 6.3km long, -5.9% grade

The road down from the radio tower is short and steep. Use it to gain speed quickly, power through the little bump at the bottom, then get up to speed for the descent of the Epic KOM’s backside. This is a long descent where you may be able to recover in a supertuck if the pack isn’t pushing things too hard. But watch out for the road to flatten or turn upward, which will spit supertuckers out the back quickly. Johnathan explains:

“Finally a downhill, right?! Don’t be so happy yet, this course still has a couple tricks up its sleeve. From here, work on your recovery but DON’T lose focus. Just as the road takes its second right, there is a kicker that will put heavy legs back in their place if the lactate hasn’t been spun out yet. Once you’ve made it over this hump. It’s all about floating in the group and holding on to the wheels around you as you roll toward the fishing village.”

#6: Climb Out of the Fishing Village

15.1 miles // 24.3km into lap
1.2 miles // 1.9km long, ~1% grade

After the Epic KOM and radio tower climbs this short false flat won’t seem like much. Still, you may see some attacks as the road tilts up, so stay aware.

Johnathan says, “Nothing to worry about if you just hang on with a group but if you are solo, I would suggest waiting for the next blob so you can roll together. Take in the scenery if you can. This is the easiest you’ll have it all race.”

#7: Sprint Banner

16.5 miles // 26.5km into lap
350m long, flat

Racers typically keep an even pace over the sprint segment, unless the race is awarding sprint points. If your race is factoring in sprint times be sure to hit the start line at full speed to give yourself the fastest possible time.

#8: Ramp into the Esses

16.8 miles // 27km into lap
300m long, ~5.5% grade

“Roll through the sprint, the road turns to the right and BAM! another kicker. This one always hurts,” Johnathan says. “It’s only 300 meters long but this next section rolls fast and Zwift legend has it that famous pros have been caught out and dropped here.”

#9: The Finish

300m long, flat

“You’re so close but so far away,” says Johnathan. The final sprint rewards those with a knack for positioning, timing, and of course a powerful final kick.

“There is a slight downhill until a few hundred meters to go. Go too early and the blob will swarm you before you know it. Leave it too late and you’ll never see the clean air at the front. The best bet here is to roll down this slope and get a run up at the impending mass arrival. This takes practice and knowing how to ride Zwift!”

Of course, a helmet powerup doesn’t hurt either.

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. Previously we looked at Greater London Flat. Be sure to read that post for more tips!