Sometimes referred to as just “adz” within the Zwift community, the largest and most popular climb of Watopia is Alpe Du Zwift.
This mountain can be accessed after you reach a Zwift level of 6, and unlock that portion of the map. It is modeled after the Alpe d’Huez, part of the Tour de France almost every year (stage 12 last time it was in during the 2022 route).
Climbing the Alpe has become a go to challenge for Zwift members for a number of reasons. First is that it is hard. The more than 1000 meter climb is complete with plenty of 14%+ grades and includes 21 turns separating the sections along the route. Along the way there are mild moments of relief when the hill drops to under 5% grade. This of course still means you are climbing.
Change the Alpe Du Zwift Climb with a Lead In
In total the climb itself is 12.2km but as with any Zwift route you’ll need to pedal to get there. Unlike the popular Climb Portal, which replicates other famous climbs, the Alpe is part of Watopia and must be accessed via normal roads and normal start points. The shortest route that includes the Alpe is the Road to Sky, which requires a 5 km lead in.
Some folks have pointed out that you can access climbs more efficiently by starting the at other routes then manually navigating. This helps to make it possible to get more total climbing via the Epic KOM by starting the Alpe or other jungle routes and then immediately pulling a u-turn and heading to the Epic KOM climb instead.
Sadly there is no default Zwift Route that will let you have a shorter lead in than Road to Sky. On occasion there are events run that make it easier to get to the base of the Alpe, notably those that run the Alpe Du Zwift Descent or Alpe Du Zwift climbs.
The Alpe descent is a seldom run course that winds up being a race DOWN the Alpe course. Since this can be done entirely by coasting it is the option that will provide the least resistance while still providing some time to warm up.
If you really want to shorten the lead in the best option is to wait around until a robo pacer or group is heading up the Alpe. By watching timing of riders it is possible to teleport into the Peloton just before the pack starts the climb.
While this may be effective for getting you to the base of the hill consider that without a warmup launching right into a 14% climb that takes often more than an hour is unlikely to deliver the best results. If you are going for a specific time or a PR then choosing an option with a lead in is a good idea.
Alpe De Zwift Prizes
The second and arguably more important reason to climb the Alpe is for the rewards. There are a number of in game benefits to climbing Alpe De Zwift which include XP, bonuses, and challenge completion.
Completion Bonus: After completing the route you are rewarded with a prize wheel. The winning slots on it are items that are unavailable via other means. Some of the awards are purely cosmetic while others, like the wheel set, will help you preform in game.
The wheel itself automatically shows up as soon as you pass
Badges: There are a handful of badges that can be earned either only, or in part by climbing Mount de Zwift. Three of them are for climbing either a lot, or in a certain amount of time. Those include
- Avid Climber: Climb Alpe du Zwift 5 times
- Masochist: Climb Alpe du Zwift 25 times
- Liftoff: Climb Alpe du Zwift in UNDER 1 Hour!
While the second two of these are certainly hard, one of them is hard due to the endurance and the other is hard even for those willing to put in the hours. Riding sub one hour will generally require an effort of 3.2w/kg sustained for a full hour. By default this means that you will need to be a Category B rider to gain the badge. If you are NOT already a category B rider, climbing the Alpe in this time will shift your power curve enough to automatically make you one since Zwift looks at the complete power curve and not just that ridden in races.
In addition to these if you have not hit the speed badges (hitting 30mph, 40 mph, 50mph, 100km/h) you can pretty easily pickup each of these on the way back down. Even on a pure coast downhill most riders will pickup enough speed to capture each of the speed badges.
XP Earned: The Alpe is also a good way to earn some XP, but not for the +20 you earn per kilometer. Sadly the pace up the Alpe is slow and you’d be better off riding flat ground. Instead the Alpe is part of some of the more epic routes around Watopia. The obvious Road to Sky, which is purely a Alpe climb, will award 380 bonus XP.
If the wheel at top lands on something you already have it will instead reward you with XP points. So for those that have done the Alpe multiple times there is that added bonus.
There is also the XP bonus earned by coasting back down the Alpe. While some of the routes officially end at the top of the mountain (just like the Tour de France stage) you can still pull a quick uTurn and head back down. This addition of 12 extra kilometers will deliver 240XP without even pedaling!
Alpe Du Zwift in Under One Hour
One of the most popular challenges on the Alpe Du Zwift is to try to ride it in under one hour. As mentioned above this will earn you the liftoff badge and bonus XP.
Conventional wisdom is that it takes an average power output of around 3.2w/kg to ascend the Alpe in an hour. For smaller riders it may be a bit more and for larger ones a bit less, given the proportional weight of the bike. We have looked at FTP average on Zwift in the past, which suggests an average Zwift FTP around 250W, which means if you weigh around 78kg and have an average total power output on Zwift you may have a shot at holding 3.2W/kg.
Below we included a handy pace chart based on our recent 59:08 finish. This starts moderate and picks up the pace at the end, while leaving some wiggle room (50 seconds) to make it under the 60 min mark. If you follow this chart it will require a strong finishing effort as the pace slightly picks up near the end. Simiarly if you hit the first 15-16 splits exactly you will have a moderate amount left even if things start falling apart near the top. Good luck!
|Start to Turn 21
|21 to 20
|20 to 19
|19 to 18
|18 to 17
|17 to 16
|16 to 15
|15 to 14
|14 to 13
|13 to 12
|12 to 11
|11 to 10
|10 to 9
|9 to 8
|8 to 7
|7 to 6
|6 to 5
|5 to 4
|4 to 3
|3 to 2
|2 to 1
|Turn One to Arch
If you are going for the Liftoff badge there are a few tips to consider to give yourself the best shot.
- Choose the right gear. A light weight climbing bike can make a huge difference compared to a heavy but aero TT bike, sometimes impacting by more than one minute.
- Stay steady. It’s enticing to put some time in the bank on the first few turns but falling off near the top is more likely add huge chunks of time than lower sections are to save.
- Keep the power in turns. While there is only one small negative gradient most turns feel like a downhill as the switchbacks level to under 6% of incline. If keeping a steady pace you will notice power drop at similar cadence. A quick gear shift or fast pedal can make 2-3 seconds difference in and out of turns. With 21 of them this adds up quickly.
- Be realistic. If your hardest FTP test resulted in a projected 3.0w/kg FTP you may not quite be able to make the Alpe in an hour. That’s ok! There is no magic that happens at the one hour mark and even if you miss by 1 second you still got in a great training ride!
- Know the Pace. If you have done the Alpe previously you will have personal PRs on each section. Depending on how close you were to an hour it’s easy to spread the difference across the 22 segments. The one hour Alpe Du Zwift pace chart above can help with this.