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How to conquer the Alpe du Zwift – GravelBikes.Online

It’s the most legendary climb in cycling, and the virtual version of Alpe d’Huez is Zwift’s most iconic challenge.

If we all want to ride the tracks of Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantini and most recently Tom Pidcock to climb the famous 21 pitches as fast as possible, Zwift users also want to record their best time on the Alpe du Zwift.

Replicating the exact gradients and distance as reality, Alpe du Zwift is the game’s most iconic challenge, challenging riders to complete the 12.24km course, whether in a race, group ride or a simple solo spin.

Tom Pidcock won stage 12 of the 2022 Tour de France that ended in Alpe d’Huez (Image by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The imitation of the surrounding mountains transports you to the French Alps from the sweaty dungeon of your own cave of pain, and virtually climbing to the top of the Alpe is something that all Zwifters are capable of, but recording better personal branding requires preparation and sound tactics.

Ian Jenner, an Italian coach, advises runners to treat the climb as a negative split, meaning you start a little slower than your average total watts and speed, then finish faster.

“It should be treated like a time trial where you manage your effort at the beginning before slowly increasing the effort towards the end,” he says. “You should break it up into three or four different sections.”

This tip is shared by British e-racer Gavin Dempster, who tells GravelBikes.Online that “I’ve done the Alpe three times in the last five days!”

“I’m recovering after a while without training, so it’s a good way to do longer intervals. For me, you have to ride it in 10-minute blocks and then a minute or two of easy riding between stretches” .

Going under an hour is considered a good time, and a rough estimate suggests that driving around 3.2w/kg will help you get under an hour. On-screen graphics will show your numbers and helpfully detail how many forks are left.

To better manage the effort, the rider must be aware of his power and heart rate and constantly monitor his figures. Jenner adds, “The first thing to understand is your training zones—they should be common knowledge to you.

“People can get caught up in FTP and all their numbers, but FTP and training zones are a range—they go from one number to another. Understand that and know your heart rate zones. You don’t want to be climbing to Zone 5 because you won’t last.

“I tell my trained riders that it’s better to go up the Alpe focusing on your heart rate because there are other things that raise it, like the warmth of the room you’re in. To get a fast time, pay attention to both. your heart rate and power zones.”

Read more: What is FTP and how do I use it?

To better prepare for a faster-than-ever ride on Alpe du Zwift, users should fuel and hydrate well in advance of the ride, just as they would approaching the actual mountain. This means a high-carbohydrate meal the night before, and it’s a good idea to bring a bar or gel on the ride. Electrolyte drinks should also be prepared as you will be sweating a bit.

Riders should also warm up for at least 30 minutes. It is best to choose a fairly flat course to train on but with some small hills to warm up your climbing legs.

Once you load the Alpe, don’t be tempted to rush out. “The big mistake people make for the first time on the Alpe is that they have fresh legs and they tear their legs to pieces at first,” adds Jenner. “You can’t sustain an effort like that.”

That’s why Jenner recommends that Zwifters climb the virtual 21 forks from time to time. “Ride it as high as you can,” he suggests. “The more you ride it, the more you will understand where you can gain time and where you are likely to lose it. That way you can plan your sections, knowing that in this or that section you can go harder or easier. The first few times you if you do, you’ll take a few minutes off your previous best time because you’ll know the climb better.”

Riders unlock the Alpe du Zwift at level six, and as they progress through the levels, better bikes and wheels become available. Buying these upgrades is recommended as they will improve climb time, some by up to 30 seconds on other bikes or wheels.

(Zwift game image)

Achieving a sub-hour time is a good barometer for the average club cyclist, while sub-50 minutes is fast for most runners. A time of less than 40 minutes requires an effort of around 6.5 w/kg, which only professionals are able to do.

Whatever your time is, enjoy it and don’t take Dempster’s review too literally. “It’s an awful hill to run or climb!” he laughs, before revealing that he’s always riding it. “Ah yes, I guess it’s the best climb there is, really.”

Of course it is.

Cover image provided by Zwift



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