Race Recon: New York City Park Perimeter

Race Recon: New York City Park Perimeter

ON 28 June 2019 by Zwift

The Park Perimeter route accurately recreates the outermost loop of New York City’s Central Park, including a climb up Harlem Hill and a finish on Cat’s Paw Hill. With very few flat or straight sections, this is a race course which demands focus and short bursts of power. 

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 the perspective of top A racer and NYC native Adam Zimmerman. He has raced these Central Park roads many times on Zwift and outdoors, so he knows a thing or two about this course. Follow his advice to achieve your best results when racing the Park Perimeter route!

Lap Length: 6.1 miles // 9.8km
Elevation Gain Per Lap: 411′ // 125m

Races on Park Perimeter typically vary from 2-5 laps in length. Be sure to read the race details so you know how long your particular event will last.

Before we dig into key sections of this route, Adam starts us off with two important reminders. First, “Keep yourself more focused on NYC courses than other Zwift worlds. The road and terrain are always changing.” Second, if you suffer on climbs, keep in mind “Any hills on the course are short and punchy, which means they will not last long.” 

#1: The Start

With all Zwift races, it is important to be warmed up and ready for a hard effort when the countdown hits zero.

“The course starts on a mellow part of the loop,” explains Adam. “After the first five minutes or so you’ll find yourself at Harlem Hill.” When everyone hits Harlem Hill attacks will start flying, so it’s usually best to sit in and conserve on this flatter straight section.

#2: Harlem Hill

0.4 miles // 700 meters long, 4.5% grade

Harlem Hill is legendary with Central Park races, and it’s the longest climb on the Park Perimeter route. Adam warns, “Each time you hit this hill on the loop, you will need to dig deep from thirty seconds to a minute. Push hard and make sure you get over the top with the leaders. Even if you have to go all out.” 

If you’re having trouble hanging with the front group up this climb, use a feather powerup. The feather is especially useful at the steep top of the climb after the left-hand hairpin.

Once you reach the top, don’t ease up! Keep those watts coming so you can quickly build speed for the short descent which follows, setting you up nicely for the next climb.

#3: Are We Tired Yet?

0.7 miles // 1.1km long, 2% grade

Adam says, “I find the next section the most difficult on course because breakaways can happen here. The course continues to go up and down with almost a false flat. Most riders’ legs will be burning from Harlem Hill so its the best time to attack those who might be on the limit.”

#4: Sprint

200 meters long, -4% grade

If your race is tracking sprint points, you need to pay attention to the tricky timing of this sprint section. The road pitches up just after the intersection, and the sprint begins at the top of that kicker. The actual sprint is downhill and only 8-9 seconds long, but you have to hit the start line with a lot of speed to win! That means ramping up your power when you hit the kicker, then ramping it up still more at the top and through to the sprint banner.

#5: The Finish

300 meters long, 4% grade

You’ve made it this far; now it’s time to put it all out there for the finish. When should you begin your final push? Adam explains, “The last part of the course will favor a bunch sprint as it’s mainly flat and would be hard for a solo rider to break away from a big group.”

This is possibly the most topsy-turvy finish in Zwift, with a considerably steep but short pitch to the finish line. Adam advises, “If its a bunch sprint do not go too early as it pitches uphill to the finish line.” Many riders attack too early here, losing the race as the peloton flies past on the final kicker. Surf the wheels of the front riders, then give it everything you’ve got in the final uphill meters. Known as “Cat’s Paw Hill” in real life, this is a great place to use that feather or aero helmet powerup you’ve been saving!

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.