The second points race of Zwift Racing League 2021/22 Season 1 happens Tuesday, October 12th, and it’s one for the sprinters!
It’s also the first ZRL race ever held on Zwift’s newest world, known as Makuri Islands. This week’s race is on the ironically-titled Flatland Loop whose draggy climb section will force some of the race’s key moves.
Let’s dig into the course, including tips for bike choice and strategic options.
Looking at the Route: Makuri Islands Flatland Loop
The Flatland Loop is 13km (8.1 miles) long, with 99m (325′) of climbing each lap. A/B categories will race three laps (39km/24.2 miles), while C/D will race two laps (26km/16.2 miles).
The race begins at the main start pens near the lap banner, on a descent toward the start/finish banner. The group will get up to speed quickly, then it’s basically flat for the first 5km.
The short Country Sprint at the 5km mark is where the work will begin. Efforts will spike as riders go for intermediate points on the sprint, then the road turns into a false flat as we make our way up to Village Onsen.
The short pitch into the village features the steepest climb on this course, but it’s not particularly steep or particularly long. Far from a punchy climb, what you’ll find is that steady high power is required to hold your position from the 5km mark to 10km each lap. It’s a drag, and efforts will bump up even higher as we make our way over the wooden bridges where Crr is higher, effectively giving us the “feel” of a steeper road.
Things calm down a bit through the Fishing Village at around 8.5km, then there’s one final uphill bit as we cross the water around 9.8km.
Tip for non-sprinters and lighter riders: this is a smart place to put in a hard dig to break away if you’re going for a long attack on the final lap. After the short climb the road is flat then downhill to the finish, meaning you’ll cover the 3km in under 4 minutes.
A bit of flat road takes you into the Castle area where we find the second sprint of the loop, the Village Sprint. This is another short segment, but efforts will ramp up early as riders hang a right turn off the main road and into the Castle.
Once that sprint is finished it’s almost entirely downhill to the finish/lap line. Portions of this descent are supertuckable, but watch for the road to level out in places because you may lose the group if your rider gets out of the tuck! Pack speeds will be crazy fast on the final run in to the finish, which is the only true downhill finish in all of Zwift. Heavier riders have the advantage here, and aero powerups will help immensely.
Riders will be awarded powerups through the start/finish banner as well as the sprint banners, meaning we’ll get 3 powerup chances per lap. Three powerups will be randomly given out at each banner:
Aero Boost (helmet): makes you more aerodynamic (reduces your CdA by 25%) for 15 seconds. Use this to grab segment points on the sprints, to help you get away when attacking hard off the front, and to help you finish fast in the final meters.
Draft Boost (van): increases the draft effect you are experiencing by 50% for 30 seconds. In a double draft event, this powerup will give you 3x the standard draft effect. Use at higher speeds (flats and descents) when you are already drafting off another rider (since this powerup only helps when you are drafting.)
Lightweight (feather): reduces your weight by 10% for 15 seconds. Use on climbs, when weight matters the most.
The feather will be the least helpful powerup in the list, since none of the climbs here are very steep or long. The aero boost will be a huge help on the very fast downhill finish.
Bike Frame + Wheel Choice
Although the Flatland Loop isn’t particularly flat, the climbs aren’t long or steep enough for a lighter bike to give any advantage. With pack speeds staying high on the climbs, sprint intermediates being crucial, and a flying fast finish, it’s safe to say that aero is everything on this route.
The Cervelo S5 2020 frame paired with the DT Swiss disc wheel is the fastest combination currently in Zwift. If you can’t get that, here is a handy post which shows the fastest frames and wheels available at each level.
The Tron bike is a solid pick here as well, especially if you don’t have access to the Cervelo or any disc wheels. While the Tron bike is ~12 seconds slower over an hour-long flat race, it is also faster than any non-disc combination in game.
More Route Recon
Lots of rides are planned on the Flatland Loop leading into the big race. If you’re not familiar with this course, consider jumping into another event to do some recon! Here’s a complete list of upcoming Flatland Loop events.
Zwift’s vibrant race community continues to up its game when it comes to course knowledge and recon videos. Below we’ll feature our favorite recon videos as they’re published.
This week, more than any other of this season, is one for the sprinters. While Flatland Loop is far from flat, we don’t anticipate strong sprinters getting dropped on the climbs. Here are a few predictions about what we’ll see in this race:
- Hard Attacks Into Village Onsen: when the road pitches to its steepest after the first sprint on the way into Village Onsen, expect riders to attack hard. This will create the first selection of the race, and as riders push hard for the next few minutes the pack will continue to string out and more riders will be dropped.
- Long Finish: some riders will go for the long breakaway on the final kicker of the climb section on the final lap. Others will continue pushing after the final Village Sprint, trying to string out the pack and stay away to the finish. While a downhill finish may seem easy, we anticipate long attacks making the last 1.5km extra tough.
- Wonky Sprint Timing: on a course riders haven’t raced much, some will start the sprint too early, and others too late. (This is especially true on the “blind” Village Sprint.) The FAL wins may go to those with the willingness to jump first, but the FTS will go to those who sit in and who have useful powerups.
- Multilap Madness: while some may not consider it to be very sporting, there’s one far-out strategy which some riders may use to maximize intermediate sprint points. Riders may sit in with the front pack, going all-in on the Country Sprint for the first lap. Then sit up and take it easy on the climb section, letting the front riders ride away and come all the way around on their second lap. Join that front pack heading into the Village Sprint and use their draft and your fresh legs to set a high FTS time. Then ride the rest of your race, perhaps taking on the Country Sprint a second time if you’re still sitting in that front pack.
Premier Division’s First Week
This week is the first race of the season for the ZRL Premier Division’s, which is made up of the very best teams on Zwift. It’s being broadcasted by GCN on Monday at 8pm CEST/7pm BST/2pm EST/11am PST.
Watch it below and see how the race unfolds for the world’s top riders:
Any insights or further thoughts on Week 3’s big race? Share below!