Tour of Watopia: Stage 7 – Grand Finale

Climbing Alpe Du Zwift at 9am on a Bank Holiday weekend Sunday. I wouldn’t have done this out of choice. But I did it anyway thanks to the Tour of Watopia 2019.

If giving people who wouldn’t normally climb the Alpe a real sense of achievement is what Zwift were after, then I think they nailed it.

It definitely feels good to have finished the Tour of Watopia 2019, but the thing I will miss most is the massive group rides.

I see group rides often on Zwift but haven’t taken part. I think now that I have a gap to fill I am much more likely to find time to do group rides over the next few months.

I was feeling pretty much 5/10 for this one. I’ve not been feeling physically strong this week. My performances haven’t been ground breaking in many respects. Got some sprints in, but fatigue – or maybe bad form with my feet as I get used to clippy pedals – has kept my rides feeling lower energy.

I don’t feel like I have had a cold this week. But the amount of used tissues at the end of this ride was quite staggering. It was mucus-y 😀

Between where I am at this point – 494/584 – and where I finished, it says a significant number of people set off at a pace they couldn’t keep up.

Volcano is awesome. It looks stunning at 1080p on Ultra. Smooth as silk.

It was a nice touch to tour the Volcano as it’s been a fairly common land mark on this tour.

This kick started the race proper.

Riding with other people at a steady pace has been a fun experience for me these last 7 weekends.

It can be nice trying to chase down the group in front. Or watching as the small packs splinter apart as each individual rider tackles the next climb.

A biting 10% gradient. A gentle teaser of what’s to come.

I’d been pacing conservatively in the run up to the climb, and started to get giddy when we hit the first (of two) green walled off area.

When I started the Tour of Watopia I wasn’t a high enough level to enter the jungle.

Proving my still newb status, I misjudged this, thinking this was the entrance to the Alpe.

I wouldn’t say the Jungle is one of my favourite parts of Watopia. I think this is because my previous two rides there have been underwhelming personal performances. The graphics on the Jungle are pretty cool.

Stage 1 was ridden around the Jungle Circuit as best I recall, and at the time I was riding on an iPad. The graphics difference on this circuit more than most is amongst the biggest.

It was only a brief skirting of the jungle (just the down hill bit, thankfully) that then split off on to the entrance to the Alpe (properly this time).

I’ve only just unlocked the Alpe as a ride-able course, and have not yet done this climb. I have done others in prep.

As best I see it, Alpe Du Zwift is like two Epic KOM climbs on top of each other. There’s nothing as steep as the radio tower but the gradient is steeper on average, and this distance is much further than even the second next biggest climb in Zwift.

There’s a lovely long lead in. The mountain ahead disappears off the top of your screen. It feels like cycling down an idyllic country side lane. Ahh. Next stop, Beacon Fell.

The Alpe Du Zwift KOM start line

Twisting away out of view, keeping its mercilessly majestic minutes of pain hidden from view.

Yup. It’s basically up hill from here. For the next hour or so.

Unlike any other part of Zwift, the HUD changes when climbing the Alpe Du Zwift.

You get the sector stats.

These are the current sector number, my avg heart rate during that sector, and my avg watts during that sector.

Also, your time to complete each sector.

On the right, you get a much larger map view, with numbered corners that match up to the sectors info.

I’d done a bit of pre ride read up on Strava to look at each section.

As best I recalled, there were going to be 3 really hard bits, a few really long bits where the gradient would be a more reasonable 8% or something.

Truly bonkers.

I tried to capture a screenshot of each corner. Anything to distract myself.

My heart rate was up in the 160’s for the vast majority of this. Lifespan: shortened.

I really liked climbing this in the day time. I think it would be absolutely awesome to have spectators running out at riders, just like what happens in real life. Allez!

I’ve watched videos of this climb in the real world (Alpe D’Huez) and Zwift is apparently a really close approximation to the real thing. Except, on Zwift, you don’t feel the true burn of having less air (or some science) up there in the real world.

Also, there are some visual differences, as we shall see.

Hitting the first of 20 corners. This was one of the longest sections of the course. Not quite as steep as what we’d just ascended.

I’m wondering if the extra visual elements (the Yeti) are in the normal version of the climb.

In other words, when climbing Alpe Du Zwift on a random Tuesday evening come with the graphical embellishments, or is it daylight all the way to the top?

Whenever I get a ride on, I always look around the list to see if that’s someone nearby, or someone who has added me on Zwift.

I wish they would give the “Like Button Spam” circle ability on the Zwift Companion App during these events. Everyone who shows up deserves a ride on.

Without purpose, I found a rhythm of going harder on some sections, and then taking a bit of recovery in the next section (or sometimes two, tut tut).

There were a few people telling jokes on the chat. That was hilarious.

Le Protecteur des Quads. Lol.

Some of the sections were really short. I found that I kept jumping ahead, then falling back between the same sets of riders.

I think keeping at a steady pace is probably a better move than pushing then falling, pushing then falling. And so on.

By this point I had accumulated a full collection of used tissues and a suitably soggy towel.

This was full on hard going. I’d say without a question of a doubt, the hardest sustained physical activity I have ever had to do in my entire life.

The novelty of riding the Alpe for the first time is that I kinda expected at least some parts of be flat. Not at all so. This is absolutely brutally all up hill.

Do not believe the road signs. 7.3km at this pace takes absolutely ages.

Ticking off the corners was a God send though. The way this is implemented is really cool. In real life, you would get a definite sense of achievement as you climb higher and higher, but having a computerised display telling you exactly what’s happening is cool in a very different way.

There various visual elements to this climb that kept things interesting. Also at various parts I was shouting, grunting, and screwing my eyes shut as I had to mentally force myself to keep those pedals turning.

A oddly high number of people opted to ride this one on a TT bike.

I’m not entirely sure how much impact that reduced drag from a bunch had on this ride, but whatever small mercy I could have, I’d take.

Where things got very computer game-y was in the inclusion of the Yeti. Not sure if this is part of the regular, every day Alpe Du Zwift climbing experience, but the novelty was fun. Felt very Blizzard.

That said, I think I’d prefer a standard – but potentially shorter – day night cycle. It feels weird to have it go from daylight to dark over a 1 hour ride.

At the top of corner 9, the Yeti made its apparence. Very clever.

I mucked up a couple of corners, not getting screenshots. Not a huge deal.

What I’d do would be to alternate between sitting and standing as I was riding. When standing, sweat kept dripping on the phone, meaning when I went to click screenshot, the button wouldn’t always respond (wet screens + phones = fail.)

Not sure if people camp out on corner 7 in the Tour De France. Maybe.

I’ll find out this year, no doubt.

I’ve said many times before. The achievement of personal goals on these longer rides are always welcome distractions. Literally anything to keep my mind of the burn in my legs is a good thing.

I wasn’t sure if I’d hit my goals this week. Glad to have achieved both, even on a reduced riding schedule.

Slogging my way to the final few corners took a real focus.

There is no way I could have achieved this ~8, or maybe eve ~6 weeks ago.

Riding the various other climbs, particularly the Epic KOM and Innsbruck were solid prep for this climb.

I found a renewed vigour around the final 5 corners.

I figured I would be about 20-25 minutes longer from this point. Kinda crazy that I’m factoring in that much time for 2.5km, but there you go.

This section is a blur to me. I did not remember this cave section until reviewing the screenshots to make this post.

At this point my eldest was sat watching me, cheering me on, questioning why I looked absolutely soaked through.

Every person I passed was met with a cheer. Every person who found their way past me was met with a boo 🙂

I couldn’t work out if I should try to pace myself for the finish, or push with everything I had left.

As best I recall, I made some effort to push, felt like I’d gone too early, and then had to sit back in a much easier gear to recover, thinking I’d push again at 500m to go.

There were some cool shots to be had when playing around with the alternative camera views. I wonder how many others think to try these when riding. The distraction is welcome.

And then we turned into the final sector.

The ring loomed high. Not entirely sure what these two robot looking statues are supposed to be doing, but they seemed to be having a fun time doing it.

I wanted to catch the remnants of the group in front of me, but I’d left myself too much to do.

I got close to the person in front, but ultimately didn’t have enough left in the tank to push past.

And then we were done.

A fine unlockable set of gloves. All worth it.

The winners times were incredible. Essentially a full hour ahead of me. Fair play.

My time was good enough for 312th on the day. I believe 589 people took part, though I’m not sure how many finished.

Great to put a time on the board. I imagine I can do better than this in future, but I will take this effort / exercise any day of the week.

With checking out the leaderboard, and giving myself a breather before the descent, I stopped for some photo opportunities, and to check out the times of others on the day.

Then, my chain came off as I tried to switch back into the big ring for descent. What a fail.

Fixing up my issues, I found my legs had started to seize up even from my short respite. It took a strong effort to push myself down the slope.

I won’t bore you with the descent, but I had a lovely ride back down to the green barrier at the Jungle Circuit before finishing my ride.

However, in doing so, I think I mucked up the Tour of Watopia result thing, as my ride has not registered. Meh. A support ticket is in order.

Not a powerful performance today. Just glad to have got this one in the bag.

Burning off 1143kcal before breakfast? (well, second breakfast, I had toast pre-ride) is amazing.

Thanks to everyone who took part and made this a very memorable ride, and a great finish to the Tour of Watopia 2019.

I’m expecting to take a recovery day on Bank Holiday Monday, and then back on the bike on Tuesday. Maybe I will continue with the 4 Week FTP Builder workouts.

Climbing Alpe Du Zwift has given me an amazing feeling of achievement. 12 weeks ago I hadn’t ridden a bike – or done basically F*** All in ~15+ years. Now I’ve conquered an Alpe.

If I can, you can.

Ride on!

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