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Zwift have launched their new climb called “The Grade.”  I had the opportunity to ride it prior to release.  I rode 2 new routes, one called “Oh Hill No” which is 7.8km with 306m elevation and the “Coastal Crown route,” which is 20.6km with 258m elevation.  These are the two new roads in Watopia.

Initial thoughts about the Oh Hill No route

The launch of The Grade was muchly anticipated.  I had huge expectations and have been left a little underwhelmed in certain aspects.

I rode the  Oh Hill No route, which most people will select to do an FTP test.  This route immediately goes straight into the climb.  There is no gentle warmup and considering this route is going to be used for an FTP test by most, I was left a little confused by this fact.  I would have expected a short flat section to warmup.  Consequently, if you select this route to do your FTP test, you would need to ensure you have undertaken another ride prior to warmup, or risk injuring yourself.

For the first 1.5km, the route goes straight up and I literally mean straight up.  This is rather daunting and may put some riders off, even before the start.  Effectively you are confronted with an intimidating wall to climb.  Perhaps it would have been better to have sweeping, gentle bends from the start.  There are hairpin bends at the end of the climb, but you have to survive this initial 1.5km wall to get to them, which may be off-putting.

The- hairpin bends are perfectly constructed but  don’t fit the roads of the rest of Watopia.

There are 10 segments to complete and your data is displayed in the left-hand screen, which you can measure and compare, to track progress.

 The climb itself is short, only 3.5km in length, which for many will be completed in under 20-minutes, meaning it is not long enough to qualify for ZwiftPower’s 20-minute ranking. However you will get an FTP number when you pass the finish line. From a racing point of view, being such a short climb means it has its limitations.

Overall, the route feels very clinical, and I fully appreciate that as Zwift states “the new test has been created using data collected from over 700,000 FTP tests conducted on Zwift,”. But I have to consider if the same results could have been achieved in a more natural way, with longer sweeping roads, and a gradual gradient like on climbs found in the French Alps, such as the Col du Télégraph or Col d’Izoard, making this road more accessible and usable in events.

Initial thoughts about the Coastal Crown route

If I wasn’t overly inspired by the Oh Hill No route, the same can’t be said for the next new road, which is the Coastal Crown route. 

This is a lovely route and this is what I was expecting when I first heard about the new climb.

This route is initially flat before turning right where the road gradually ascends and meanders its way up the mountain with a gradual ascent.  There are two opportunities to obtain a “King of the Mountains” jersey, the first being the Mayan Mountainside KOM and the second being the longer, Itza KOM.

The road eventually joins  the top of the straight section on The Grade, where your route then takes you down the mountain, before rejoining the coastal road. 

Zwift have added some really nice details to make this road memorable, there are beautiful waterfalls to encounter and a lush jungle to admire, including wildlife to spot. 

If the Oh Hill No road could be considered limiting in terms of what races could be hosted, the same can’t be said for the Coastal Crown route.  Due to the gradual gradient of the climb and the flat coastal section, the route is reminiscent of a lap of a World Championship course, where several laps of that route would make for an epic and challenging race, especially as the finish of the route is at the top of the Mayan Mountainside KOM. 

Summing up

I appreciate what Zwift have done with the FTP test as featured in the Oh Hill No route and I respect the innovation, but the road doesn’t fit with the rest of the map and I think the same results could have been achieved in a more natural and accessible way. 

In direct contrast, the additional new road that makes up the Coastal Crown route is an excellent addition and is a route I can see myself riding on a regular basis.  The gradual ascent means it is accessible to all and you don’t need to be an expert climber to enjoy this new road.  With beautifully designed backgrounds, it’s a ride where you can turn off your Head-Up-Display and just enjoy the scenery. 

Overall, it’s nice to have new roads and different routes to explore, however, I was just hoping for a longer, meandering climb, reminiscent of the ascent of the back of the Epic KOM.