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Racing

Race Recon: London's Surrey Hills

on October 23, 2019

The Surrey Hills route is one for the climbers, taking you over all four London climbs. The increased effort from climbing, coupled with the longer course length, means this race course will test your endurance. Be ready to push it to the limit!

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. Top A racer Mary Wilkinson has generously shared some pointers, so we know you'll enjoy this quick tour full of useful tips for top results when racing Surrey Hills.

Length: 27.4miles // 44.1km
Elevation Gain: 3,375' // 1,029m

Here's how Mary introduces the Surrey Hills route:

Bring your climbing legs and escape the city. This is a route where you are going to be going either up or down pretty much the whole way. With five big climbs, to race well on this route it’s vital you avoid going out too hard and blowing up! Pace the first four climbs well and you’ll be flying past those who’ve overcooked it early on as you push on up the final climb of Fox Hill and the finish line.


#1: The Start

Mary shares some excellent advice for getting off to a good start: "The route doesn’t give you much time to get warmed up, you’re pretty much straight out of the start gate and onto Fox Hill. Despite the overall length, you can guarantee the start will still see some big watts as people try to get away early so make sure you’ve had a good warm-up and keep the legs spinning in the start pen."


#2: Fox Hill

1.5 miles // 2.4km, 4.3% average gradient

Steep and long enough to break up the group and create an initial selection, Fox Hill often dictates how the rest of the race unfolds. That said, you don't want to blow yourself up by going too hard on this first climb.

"You'll be feeling fresh and it’s easy to push too hard on the relatively steady climb of Fox Hill," explains Mary. "But try and settle into a nice steady effort and ideally sit in the group just letting the K’s tick past without too much stress."


#3: Base of Box Hill to Leith Hill

0.5 miles // 0.8km, 2% average gradient

"This is a cheeky little drag," warns Mary. "If you’re not prepared for it as you come off the junction at the base of Box Hill it can catch you out. If you lose the group here it’s hard to get back on. The road is uphill all the way to the top of Leith Hill... it’s a long way and it only gets steeper!"


#4: Leith Hill Climb

1.2 miles // 2km, 6.9% average gradient (timed KOM only)

Leith Hill is the longest climb on the London course, so again pacing is vital. The second half of the climb is especially steep.

Mary says, "The official KOM might only be 2km but the climbing starts long before this and you’ll be ascending for well over 5km. Try and stay relaxed early on and prepare for the inevitable attacks that will come as the road kicks up steeply towards the top."

Once you reach the top, use the group to recover while keeping speed high in the draft. Mary explains, "You need to be with the group to allow yourself to remain in contention on descents otherwise the gaps will grow quickly." Use the descents on Surrey Hills for recovery, because you'll need everything you've got for the climbs. Mary says, "The long descent off Leith Hill is the ideal to grab some draft or even better get into a Supertuck!"


#5: Box Hill

1.9 miles // 3.0km, 4.4% average gradient

Box Hill is the most well-traveled climb on the London course, and it's also the easiest, "passing in a flash," according to Mary.

"If you're feeling good," she says, "this is a great opportunity to attack as the shorter climb means you can lay down a high intensity for the duration and then recover a bit on the downhill. But remember you’ve still got a long way to go!"


#6: Keith Hill

2.6 miles // 4.2km, 5.2% average gradient

You've climbed quite a bit, and fatigue is sitting in. Just remember: everyone else is suffering, too!

Mary gives some pointers: "At this point in the race the mental side can be as tough as the physical. You’ve broken the back of the route having bagged 3 climbs, but on Keith Hill the finish can still feel a long way away. Stay focused and settle into a solid rhythm or focus on the wheel in front and dig in. It’s not that much further really!"


#7: Fox Hill (Again!)

1.5 miles // 2.4km, 4.3% gradient

Time for one more go at Fox Hill. How much do you have in the tank? "It's the final challenge and not an easy one, especially if you’re still in a group and looking to break away," explains Mary. "But if you’ve paced it right this is the chance to turn the screw on your opponents. If you have enough left to hold a high pace or put in a few surges you can really make them hurt."


#8: The Finish

500m long, flat

Timing on the final effort is key. There's a short descent followed by a flat 500 meters to the finish line. Got the legs for a long sprint? "The steep short descent just before the final run into the line is the perfect point to launch a sprint if you need to," advises Mary. Got an aero powerUp? Use it on that descent to break away and get up to speed quickly.


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.