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Saturday, February 6, 2021

Zwift Fondo Series: Ultima Fondo, aka The Mega Pretzel


I just spent almost 4 hours on my indoor trainer...

... and it was a lot of fun.

Such is life with Zwift - the gamification of indoor workouts is the most exciting thing I've discovered in years!

Today was the Mega Pretzel!

It has climbs, it has gravel, and oh yeah it has climbs... 

I found a few guides about it, but I found them all a bit lacking especially on strategy... so here goes.

Find An Organized Ride

I did this as part of the Zwift Fondo Series - having people around to draft helped a lot, not sure I'd want to do this solo.  People do it, but isn't 4 hours on the indoor trainer torture enough? has the best search, you can filter by route, start there.

Bike Selection, Bike Selection, Bike Selection!!!

The course is mostly paved (or the little gravel sections are short) so get a nice light road bike to start...

... except The Jungle.

You hit it twice - at about 11km for a single reverse loop, and again at around 85km going the normal direction.  It is almost entirely gravel, and road bikes have a massive disadvantage.

Very few people switched bikes (except for the 2 in this picture!) but they were absolutely fodder for those who did.  I picked up 50 placings the first trip through the Jungle, and retook ~5 positions from people who were stronger than me the second loop.

Where to switch?  

Don't wait for the gravel - it's at the bottom of a hill, and to switch bikes you need to be stopped... takes forever and you lose precious time.

On your way up to the jungle, you pass a windmill... right around there are the start pens (the weird angled roads you see here).

You can either do it right there, or at the top of the next rise (but don't get onto the descent or stopping takes forever!).

You exit The Jungle the same way you entered - as soon as the gravel ends, swap back to your roadie, and pat yourself on the back at how many places you made up!

I'd suggest practising going into the Garage mid-ride when you're moving on a less important ride.  Careful not to hit "End Ride" by mistake!  You can be in the Garage before you're stopped, but the icon to switch bikes will be disabled until you are.

The Route

  • Start / Lead-In - a few hills, find friends, be careful not to get dropped
  • 8.5km - Steep Climb 
  • 11km - The Jungle (reverse)
  • 23km - Epic KOM (reverse) - steeper!  Killer! Ouch!
  • Bunch of random nonsense
  • 52km - Volcano KOM 
  • 70km - Epic KOM - help I can't take anymore!
  • 86km - The Jungle
  • 103km - Hilly KOM - are you shitting me!?
  • 111km - Beer.
I really enjoyed it, but there are definitely easier ways to pile up 100km+ on Zwift!  Hit the desert and draft at 50km/h in circles for a couple hours, for example!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Tour de Zwift Stage 7: Welcome To the Jungle

The Jungle gets a lot of hate on Zwift.

I love it.

Mostly I think people just don't understand it!

So when I saw The Jungle on the Tour de Zwift list, I was giddy... 

The Big Mistake...

Two words: Bike. Selection.

There is really only one choice for the Jungle - a mountain bike.

I used the plain old Zwift Mountain Bike.  There are other options if you have the drops and level, they're within a few seconds of each other over a full lap according to Zwift Insider.

How much faster vs a road bike?  13m54s vs 15m!!!  That's enormous, wouldn't you like to be over a minute a head a lap?

And what about gravel bikes?  13m54s vs 14m11s... so it's at least close... but it's just not faster for almost the entire lap.

The Race

All of these people making different (wrong?) bike choices made for a fantastically fun race.  The very start (lead-in) was paved, I quickly fell back in the standings... but we only did that once - then onto gravel, and it was all making up spots from there on.

The difference seemed most obvious on the downhill - as the speed increased, the MTB flew.  I'm a heavier rider as well, so the combined effect meant picking up a LOT of places.  I pushed to make sure nobody could grab my wheel as I blew by, it was a hoot!

Right at the end of the lap was the paved(ish) tunnel... suddenly those road and gravel bikes I had just flew by were on my tail, catching up and sometimes blowing by.  It was short, so only those within about 10 seconds could catch before back to gravel...

The first one I did (C race, 2 laps) was amazing - right at that last section on the last lap, I was caught by 2 guys working together - only to then charged up the gravel hill with less w/kg and pip them at the finish.

So much fun! 

Pick a Mountain Bike and enjoy!