The third race of Zwift Racing League 2021/22 Season 2 happens Tuesday, January 25th (Monday the 24th for Premier Division), and this week riders will need to pay close attention as they take on the New York’s lumpy Park Perimeter Loop.
Let’s dig into the course, including tips for bike choice, strategic options, and crucial segments:
Looking at the Route: New York’s Park Perimeter Loop
NYC’s Park Perimeter Loop covers the outer portion of the ground-level tarmac which is a GPS-accurate re-creation of Central Park’s real roads. The loop itself is 9.8km (6.1 miles) long, with 126m (413′) of elevation per lap.
All categories will be racing 4 laps, making this the longest race of the season for C and D riders (39.2km, 506.9m elevation).
While it doesn’t contain any long climbs, this course is never flat. You will need to pay attention constantly to make sure you’re maintaining an ideal pack position, as power levels and pack speeds will fluctuate with the ever-changing gradient.
Rather than taking you through a turn-by-turn, let’s just discuss the four key sections of each lap.
First, the Harlem Hill climb. This is the toughest climb on the loop, ~700m long at 5%. This is where the first selection will happen, on lap 1. Maintain pack position for the slack first portion, but as the road turns left at the intersection it pitches up steep (9-10%). This is where you really need to put out the watts to hang with the front!
Be sure to kick a bit over the top to get back up to speed and onto a friendly wheel, as the pack will be stretching and gaps will open up as riders speed down the descent that follows.
Second, the climb which follows. After the short descent from the Harlem Hill climb, you’ve got a longer, less steep climb (1.1km at 2.2%) where stronger riders may push to keep the pack stretched and create gaps as riders are struggling after the Harlem Hill effort. We’ve called it the “Harlem Chaser” in the image below.
Make it over the top in touch with the front pack and you can enjoy a nice descent to the sprint section.
Third, the sprint, which is one of the most technical in Zwift. Before the sprint start line you’ve got a short kicker climb, and if you don’t go hard on that kicker, you won’t hit maximum speed heading into the sprint. The sprint segment itself is short (some riders will do it under 8 seconds), but plan on 10-15 seconds of effort leading into the sprint if you want to perform well.
Fourth, the finish line kicker. The loop ends with a short, steep climb to the lap/finish line. Carry speed into this section on the less steep lead-in, but save some watts per kilo for that final 10-15 seconds. A feather powerup is a big help here as well.
Riders will be awarded powerups through each segment banner, meaning we’ll get 7 powerups during the race (one each time through the sprint banner, plus one at the end of each 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.
Best used when you’re going fastest and air resistance is highest. Very handy in sprints and attacks off the front.
Lightweight (feather): reduces your weight by 10% for 15 seconds.
Use on climbs, when weight matters the most. Useful on the kicker leading into the sprint, the steep portion of Harlem Hill, and the final meters before the finish/lap banner.
Anvil: makes you 50kg heavier for 30 seconds, so you can descend faster.
Use this on downhills. Pair it with a supertuck to go extra fast with zero effort! Best used on the descent before Harlem Hill – just make sure you activate it as soon as the road tilts downward, otherwise you’ll carry it into the flats. Do NOT get caught using this on any sort of climb, unless you want to get shot out the back of the pack!
Bike Frame + Wheel Choice
Aero trumps lightweight here, because while the loop is lumpy, none of the climbs are long or steep enough for a lighter rig to make a measurable difference. Go with the Tron bike if you’re concerned about staying in touch on the climbs, but choose the disc wheel setup if you want to be just a bit faster on your sprints.
And if you’re in the Premier Division where discs and Trons aren’t allowed, we recommend the Specialized S-Works Venge + Zipp 858 combo.
Read Fastest Bikes + Wheels at each Zwift Level to learn the fastest setup available to you.
More Route Recon
Many events now being consistently planned each weekend on the upcoming ZRL route. If you’re not familiar with this course, jump into one of these events and do some recon! Here’s a list of upcoming Park Perimeter Loop events.
Looking for a video recon, with lovely British commentary to boot? Here are our two favorite recon videos this week:
Points Distribution, Week 3
The maximum points a team of 6 could earn in this race.
As you can see from the chart above, sprint points make up the majority of the overall points – almost as large a portion as last week’s race on London’s Classique.
So what strategies will riders employ in race 3? Here’s what we predict:
- Save It For the Sprint: ZRL racers are learning that competition is tight in their divisions, making it hard to split up the pack on flat and rolling routes. Why burn matches attacking on short climbs if it’s not going to drop or hurt anyone sufficiently? Most riders will do the minimum work required to stay in the front pack.
- All In On Harlem Hill: if you aren’t a sprinter, but have strong 1-3 minute power, the best place to animate the race would be an attack on Harlem Hill followed by sustained pressure on the climb which follows. Non-sprinter teams would be wise to use this approach as a group in order to “thin the herd”. Solo non-sprinters might consider attacking here so their teammates can sit in while the rest of the group works hard to pull back the attack.
- Push Through the Final Sprint: with the last sprint ending just 2.4km from the finish, a small group of brave team riders who don’t fancy a pack finish might just counterattack after the sprint and attempt a breakaway to the finish line. (The short rise 1.2km from the line could help this effort.)
Watch the Premier Division Race
Zwift’s top racers will go head to head in the Premier Division the day before the community races. Watch it below on GCN Racing’s Youtube channel:
Any insights or further thoughts on this race? Share below!