A Sweaty Success: Highlights From The Tour Of Watopia In Zwift
As I sat on my indoor bike trainer, adjusting my cycling cleats, and making sure my setup was ready to roll, it was time to dive into a 5-week challenge in Zwifts latest event. The Tour of Watopia, a virtual cycling adventure spanning 5 stages, was about to begin. As my first time participating in this annual event, I was excited to see what it had to store. In this blog post, I’ll share the highs, lows, and data from my Whoop strap that tracked each stage.
The Tour of Watopia is a popular event in the virtual cycling world that invites cyclists to experience the diverse terrains and landscapes of the virtual realm of Watopia. When signing up for a stage, cyclists have the chance to choose which category or group they would like to ride in. Tour of Watopia has 4 groups, A, B, C, and D, with A being the longer ride. Each stage offers a unique adventure, taking you through a range of routes, giving you a taste of the immersive environment that makes Zwift such a compelling platform for cyclists.
My goal was simple: Complete the longest ride in each stage of the tour.
In the upcoming sections, I’ll take you through each stage of the tour, sharing my thoughts and experiences as I tackled the various challenges, from tough climbs to riding in virtual dirt. I’ll also be sharing data from my Whoop strap, providing insights into the intensity of each stage, and heart rate zones I stayed within according to Whoop.
Tour of Watopia Stage 1: To The Volcano
Group A Long – Three Little Sisters
To kickstart the ToW event, Three Little Sisters had a good mix of short challenging climbs, including Hilly, Titans Grove, and Volcano KOMs. I’ve completed this route a few times, but I forgot that the first climb comes up quickly. I was already thinking “I should have warmed up before,” a theme that continued throughout the stages.
My main goal was to ease into this event and try and stay at or above 150 watts. For much of the ride, I rode alone, so I couldn’t take advantage of drafting others. Despite feeling like I’m a decent cyclist, out of the 100+ people in this group ride, I stayed towards the back of the pack. I realized people are fast at this event!
Overall, I felt comfortable on my first ride of ToW, and hit my goal of staying at or above 150 watts and finishing at 1:17:24. My long-term goal with this route is to complete it in under an hour, which will take some time getting there.
Whoop Heart Rate Zone Data
During the ride my average heart rate was 157 bpm with a max heart rate of 178 bpm. Most of my time was spent in zone 4 and I had a little over 9 minutes in zone 5, which is about 5 more minutes than I typically spend during cycling. Naturally my higher heart rate followed the climbs of the route.
Tour of Watopia Stage 2: Through The Desert And Trees
Group A Long – Eastern Eight
At almost 34 miles and one of the longest routes of the tour, my main goal was just to finish and have a good pace throughout. I tried to stay with a group this time around, but after roughly 8 miles, I wanted to take it up a notch. This ended up being a mistake as I couldn’t catch up with any groups ahead and ended up riding alone the remainder of the ride.
While I didn’t have a record-breaking performance, I still accomplished completing the 33.6-mile route in 1:46:06 with a good pace. I also made a new goal after this stage. I learned that you earn double experience points upon completing each route in a stage. Not only did I want to complete all 5 stages, but I also now wanted to complete the A, B, and C routes in each stage going forward.
Whoop Heart Rate Data
My average HR during this stage was 156 bpm with a max HR of 174 bpm. This was in line with the first stage; however, I spent most of the time in the anerobic heart rate zone (zone 4), which is 80 – 90% of my max heart rate.
After looking at this data, I came to the realization that I always spend most of my time in zone 4 during activities. Even though this is an event, and I felt the need to add mor intensity, this is something I want to keep an eye on in the future. For example, having a longer warm-up and cool-down, intervals, and having variation in workouts and time spent in each zone.
Tour of Watopia Stage 3: Climb Climb Climb
Group A Long – Tour of Fire and Ice
Group B Standard – Climber Gambit
Group C Short – Volcano Climb
Going into the Tour of Fire and Ice route, it includes one of my least favorite climbs, Alpe du Zwift. It’s one of Zwifts biggest climbs at 3,400 ft of elevation gain that span 7.6 miles. It’s a grind to the top and not for the faint of heart, as the average gradient is 8.5% with 21 hairpin turns.
This was my fourth effort going up Alpe du Zwift and my goal this time was to reach the top without stopping. In my previous efforts, I typically had to take short beaks after each hair pin turn as it’s nonstop climbing for over an hour.
I’m happy to report that I completed it without stopping and got a PR of 1:24:02 which is 4 minutes faster than my best time. To get my mind off the pain to the top, the new docuseries Beckham helped get me through it, which I highly recommend. By the end, my butt hurt, but overall, I felt good and only went through 2 bottles.
My long-term goal with Alpe du Zwift is completing it under an hour, but that does mean I have to do it more often then.
Whoop Heart Rate Data
Like the previous stages my average HR was 158 bpm with a max HR of 178 bpm. Zone 4 was my sweet spot for this ride again, but I had more time in zone 2 versus zone 3. This was due to taking a casual descent down the mountain. It’s the best reward after climbing for 84 minutes!
Tour of Watopia Stage 4: A Lot Of Dirt
Group A Long – Big Loop
Group B Standard – Road to Ruins
Group C Short – Jungle Circuit
All 3 of these routes included one of my least favorite sections of Zwift, the jungle. Cycling through the jungle is not necessarily hard, but more so a test of patience and endurance through the tedious dirt. The gravel slows down your speed significantly in the app, and it feels like no matter how many watts you put in, your speed doesn’t change. The best thing I did was power through and not pay attention to the screen but put that focus into the Netflix show I was watching at the time.
You do have the option of changing your bike during the ride to a mountain or gravel bike, which would speed up the section, however, I was paranoid something would happen, and I wasn’t ready to repeat the route. Next time I do a training ride during the jungle circuit, I’ll give the mountain bike a shot to see if it’s worth switching during the middle of a ride.
From the flats, up the Epic KOM, and through the jungle, I ended up setting a personal record for this route at 1:40:27 averaging 161 watts, which I was happy with! This beat my previous time by about 2 minutes.
Whoop Heart Rate Data
Consistent with the previous rides I pushed myself hard spending most of the time in Zone 4. My average heart rate was 157bpm, with a max of 177bpm, and burned around 1500 calories.
Since I’ve been spending so much time in Zone 4, to avoid overtraining, I’ve been spacing all 3 of the rides every couple of days to give my body time to properly recover. I’ll also pay attention to my recovery score in the Whoop app and gauge how hard I can push in a workout.
Tour of Watopia Stage 5: New Routes!
Group A Long – The Big Ring
Group B Standard – Coast Crusher
Group C Short – Canopies and Coastlines
Going into the final long route of Tour of Watopia, I made a mistake, and it came from decisions made the day before. My family came into town, and I indulged in a few drinks that tanked my sleep and recovery. Check out my previous post, “How Alcohol Affects Sleep” where I review my Whoop data after a day of drinking.
I scheduled my ride for late morning, but as I got up on the saddle, I knew it wasn’t enough time for me to recover from the previous day. However, I was determined to finish the route on the final day of Stage 5. I was happy to see that it was a relatively flat ride at 886 ft (270 m) of elevation over the course of 30.4 miles. It was also a newly released route on Zwift, and I wanted to check it out.
5 miles in, I already wanted to quit. Not because it was difficult, but I felt awful, nauseated, and most likely dehydrated, and it was all my own doing. I started questioning if I wanted to quit when I reached 30 minutes and do a makeup ride, but I tried to find a rhythm and distract myself with the help of Netflix.
After I hit the hour mark, I started to feel better, and I just had to keep pedaling to the finish. I didn’t break any records but completed the final route at 1:53:09 with an average power of 131 watts.
Whoop Heart Rate Data
My metrics looked a little different on my final long ride of the event with an average heart rate of 149 bpm and 164 bpm max heart rate. Due to bad decisions from the day before, it was hard to push myself physically and spent more than half the time in Zone 3. I was just happy to get through the ride.
As my first-time experiencing Tour of Watopia on Zwift, I would say it was a success. From the rolling hills to the swift descents, each stage brought its own set of challenges. Being able to schedule each stage ride throughout the week, helped keep me accountable and motivated.
The data from my Whoop strap also added an extra layer of insight, revealing the efforts behind each pedal stroke and heart rate zones I encountered. Whether you're a seasoned cyclist or just getting started Tour of Watopia offered a great blend of physical exertion and exploration through Zwift.
Recounting my ups and downs through the stages, I hope this recap provided a glimpse into the world of virtual cycling, which I believe will only continue to grow. Ride on!
So, what's next? Zwift Academy has just begun!
Do you use Zwift? What are some of your favorite rides or events?