The reverse version of our Big Loop includes some of Watopia's most daring landscapes. Beginning with the Volcano and progressing to the Mayan ruins, the best is saved for last as racers throw everything they've got at the Epic KOM. This one's for the climbers!
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 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 reverse!
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 starts with a slight uphill ramp before turning right to the glass bridge, so power will ramp up as well. Grab a wheel and stay with the front pack until the glass bridge, then things should settle down for a bit.
#2: Ramp to Italian Villas
3.1 miles // 5km into lap
300m long, 3% average grade
The group will hammer up this twisty short climb, so be ready for a hard effort and don't let riders get away in the dust. No need to attack here, just hold a wheel and maintain your group position.
#3: Climb to the Bridge
5.3 miles // 8.6km into lap
600m long, 8% average gradient
The steep climb to the bridge will soften the legs and shell some riders off the back. Using a feather powerUp may make sense if it lets you stay with the pack up the steep section.
The gradient decreases, but climbing continues across the bridge as you hang a right through the level gate towards the jungle.
#4: Climb Into the Jungle
14.5 miles // 23.3km into lap
.6 miles // 1 km long, 3% average grade
The shallow climb towards the Jungle Circuit 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, rope bridge, and Mayan ruins. But stay attentive and don't lose the group in all the dust! Recovery is key here as you'll be climbing up through the jungle soon.
#5: Jungle Circuit Climb
11 miles // 17.7km into lap
2.9 miles // 4.6km long, 3% average gradient
The climb up through the ruins is not steep, so drafting remains a major factor. With the Epic KOM still to come, racers would be wise to conserve energy for the fight ahead.
#6: Climb Out of the Jungle
13 miles // 21km into lap
.9 miles // 1.4km long, 3% average grade
The climb out of the Jungle Circuit isn’t as steep or long as jungle climb you just completed. Again, with the Epic KOM looming it is wise to conserve your energy for that long climb.
#7: Epic KOM Reverse
14.7 miles // 23.7km into lap
3.9 miles // 6.2km long, 6% average grade
This is the route's longest and hardest climb by far. The peloton will split on this unrelenting climb as groups form based on power to weight.
Top racers complete the Epic KOM Reverse in around 16-18 minutes, so pacing yourself near FTP may be a solid strategy.
#8: Epic KOM Descent
17.6 miles // 28.3km into lap
5.8 miles // 9.4km long, -4% average grade
Although the beginning of the Epic KOM descent is a bit of a roller-coaster, once you hit the long downhill sections it provides much-needed recovery. If you group isn't hammering the descent you may even stop pedaling and supertuck for a bit.
Beware, though: a handful of short flattish sections 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.
#9: Up from the Ocean Boulevard
25.5 miles // 41km into lap
300 long, 3% average grade
The short ramp out of the tunnel is a prime place to attack if you've got the power to drop the group and stay away for the final ~2 minutes. Simply keep your power up over the crest of the climb as other riders let off the gas.
Be warned: solo attacks against a fast-charging peloton rarely work here, but if the field is small or you can pull a few riders away to work with you a long attack may just work.
If you'd rather roll the dice on a bunch sprint simply match the surging group's power up this climb and surf the wheels into downtown Watopia.
#10: The Finish
300m long, flat
Once you turn a hard right off of Ocean Boulevard the group's speed will increase on the slight downhill into the city center. Maintain a position near the front, and deploy any powerUp once the road flattens out with ~300 meters to go.
This can be a long sprint, so maximize your speed by using an opponent's wheel then coming around near the end. You got this!
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 Richmond's 2015 UCI Worlds route. Be sure to read that post for more tips!