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Race Recon: Watopia Big Loop

on May 16, 2019

Racers can enjoy some of Watopia's most daring and beautiful landscapes on the Big Loop route. Ride up the Epic KOM, through the Mayan Jungle, and around an active volcano! This challenging loop begins and ends with flat roads, but in the middle you'll encounter plenty of hills, making this a well-rounded and challenging race course. 

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. Remember these tips so you can achieve your best results when racing the Big Loop!

Lap Length: 26.4 miles // 42.4km
Elevation Gain Per Lap: 2136' // 651m

#1: The Start

Be warmed up and ready for a hard effort at the beginning. The Big Loop start is flat, and usually fairly tame as riders know the group will split up on the big climb. Sit in the draft and conserve for the effort to come.


#2: Ramp Out of Ocean Tunnel

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

The group will hammer its way out of the ocean tunnel, so be ready for a hard effort. No need to attack here, just hold a wheel and maintain your group position. 


#3: Epic KOM

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

The initial steep, twisty climb to the bridge will soften the legs and cause some riders to be dropped quickly. This is the steepest portion of the course, so using a feather powerUp may make sense if it lets you stay with the pack up the steep section.

Climbing will continue across the bridge, all the way to the top of the Epic KOM. Top racers complete the Epic KOM in around 18 minutes, so pacing yourself near FTP is a solid strategy.


#4: Epic KOM Descent

8.8 miles // 14.2km into lap
3.9 miles // 6.3km long, -5.9% average grade

The Epic KOM descent provides much-needed recovery, especially if you can stop pedaling and supertuck for a bit. Beware, though: a handful of short flat or uphill sections on this long descent will take you out of the supertuck and drop you from the pack quickly! Anticipate these gradient changes and start putting out power early so you can maintain speed and hang with your group.


#5: Climb Into the Jungle

11.8 miles // 19km into lap
1 mile // 1.6km long, 2.5% average grade

After descending from the Epic KOM you will make a left through the level gate and begin a shallow climb toward the Jungle Circuit. This climb is flat enough that drafting is still a major factor, so hold a wheel and benefit from the draft as your group climbs then descends into the jungle.

The faster you go, the more drafting helps. Use the pack to keep speeds high and efforts low. Enjoy the jungle scenery and say hello to the sloth, but stay attentive and don't lose the group in all the dust. Recovery is key here as you'll be climbing up the Jungle Circuit soon!


#6: Jungle Circuit Climb

16.1 miles // 25.9km into lap
1.5 miles // 2.4km long, 3% average grade

The climb up through the ruins is not steep, so drafting remains a major factor. Riders already at their limit often get dropped here, so play it smart and attack if you're feeling strong.

Watch out for the rope bridge at the top: as the road flattens riders tend to ease off the power, but some will take the opportunity to hammer up the short incline at the end of the bridge, creating a split. Maintain your pack position and recover a bit on the flat portion following the bridge. Our last important climb is just up the road!


#7: Climb Out of the Jungle

18.5 miles // 29.8km into lap
0.9 miles // 1.4km long, 3% average grade

The climb out of the Jungle Circuit is a bit steeper and shorter than the jungle climb you just completed. Often by this point in the race groups are small and riders are strung out. If you've got the legs (and maybe a useful powerUp) try to bridge up to other riders on this climb so you can benefit from the draft upcoming descents and flats.

After climbing out of the jungle you have around 7 miles // 11km of downhill and flat terrain until the finish. Chances are no big moves will happen during this portion, so maintain your pack position and recover for the final push.


#8: The Finish

300m long, slightly rolling terrain

You'll hang a hard left after riding through the volcano and glass bridge, then it's time for the finishing sprint. This section is all about timing, so be careful!

Speed will be high with around 600m of 2% downhill before the final 300m of flat to the banner. You'll want to position yourself well within the pack, not at the front, but also not at the back. Wait for someone else to launch, then grab their wheel, activate an aero powerUp, and give it everything you've got to the line. Hammer time!


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 Watopia's Road to Ruins. Be sure to read that post for more tips!

 

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