How to Conquer Alpe du Zwift: Tips and Strategies

Author: Kier

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We cyclists are a competitive bunch and we’re continually challenging ourselves to blast past our personal bests. One of these challenges is conquering the virtual French Alps mountain, Alpe du Zwift, a tool to prepare for the Tour de France.

Apart from being a great training tool, Zwift included a few challenges, one of the most challenging being the hill climb up Alpe du Zwift following the sky route.

To give your best, you’ll need to prepare properly, develop the correct strategy, and improve your skill level. The storied climb, and gruelling twists and turns, will challenge even the most competent cyclist.

how to ride alpe du zwift

Key Takeaways: How to Ride Alpe du Zwift

  • For bragging rights, you need to complete the climb in under an hour.
  • There are no prizes, but you can qualify for badges.
  • You have to be very fit to succeed at the ice route challenge.
  • You need to train to improve your cardiovascular fitness for the climb.
  • Take the challenge seriously by warming up and staying hydrated.

Selecting the Route

To start, you need to find the correct route. To select the challenge and ride the Alpe du Zwift, you must first log in to the Zwift platform and select the Watopia course. 

Alpe du Zwift is found on this fictional island and the course map lays out the various options, from the shortest route to the longest. You must be level 6 to gain access to the Alpe.

zwift inride watopia avatar screenshot

Alpe du Zwift – distance, height, and gradients

Alpe du Zwift is one of the most popular cycling routes on the Zwift virtual training platform. It is a challenging ascent with an average gradient of 8.5% over a distance of 7.9 miles (12.2 km), equivalent to 21 hairpin turns up the famous Alpe d’Huez in France. 

You should aim to complete the challenge within the hour mark for bragging rights in Alpe du Zwift matches.

Starting the Climb

It’s better to warm up slowly to make sure that your body is fully prepared for the climb.

It’s important that you take the time to find your rhythm, making sure to focus on cycling at a steady pace. You want to maintain the same pace for the duration of the client.

Try to relax and control your breathing. This helps you to conserve energy and makes the ride much more enjoyable.

Know your ftp and don’t go in the red, unless you want to blow up early and have to hit the u-turn button

zwift events homescreen screenshot

What to expect

There are 21 hairpin turns on the sky route and a few very taxing gradients. The average gradient for the entire challenge is 8.5% increasing to over 14% towards the end, mimicking the Alpe d’Huez. If you want to improve your time you will definitely need to improve your fitness.

A few of the tips that we suggest below to help you conquer the mountain include, properly warming up before the climb, staying hydrated, and finding the right rhythm and cadence to maintain your momentum.

So, if you want to outperform your friends on a group ride on the Alpe du Zwift, follow along to get the tips, tricks, and strategies that will have you covering the treacherous 7.59 miles as quickly as a Tour de France pro.

What sort of time should I aim for?

If it’s your first climb and you’ve never done the Alpe du Zwift Tour de France version before, you should plan to take it easy and maintain a high cadence. Pace yourself otherwise, you’ll end up running out of juice halfway through.

To improve your time up Alpe du Zwift’s most direct route, these are some of the tips you can follow: 

  1. Warm up your legs before the French Alps climb
  2. Keep yourself cool, as the climb can be long and taxing. 
  3. Work out what time you’re aiming for and pace your effort with a negative split.
  4. Fuel up three hours before the climb. 
  5. Maintain a consistent pace.
  6. Rest and recover if you need to during the climb or reduce the trainer difficulty level.

Times range from 45 minutes to over an hour to complete the challenge. Based on your endurance, fitness, and cycling history, estimate your time realistically on your capabilities on the road. 

zwift riding up alpe du zwift

Climbing the Mountain

Once you hit the initial slope it’s important that you use proper technique. Make the proper gear selection, usually your lowest gear, and maintain a high cadence to reduce the strain that your muscles might be feeling.

If you find that you need to take a break to catch your breath it’s okay to stop and rest. Take the time to stretch your muscles and steady your breathing.

It’s very easy to become demotivated if you only focus on reaching the summit. It makes much more sense to keep yourself motivated by first focusing on smaller goals or the shortest route.

How to tackle the Alpe du Zwift for the first time

Preparation is the key to beating this challenge. You have to focus on your fitness and endurance, treating it like a time trial.

Your workouts must include exercises that increase your cardiovascular fitness and power along with your mental toughness.

What to do on race day

On race day, a thorough warmup is essential. Avoid injury by preparing your muscles for the challenge ahead.

Warm up properly first 

Before starting you need to make sure that your legs are well warmed up and that you are properly hydrated. Professional cyclists who have successfully completed this climb suggest you pace yourself with a negative split and then ride consistently.

Warm up slowly and gradually increase your pace for 10 or 15 minutes. Include a few intervals at a high cadence to get your fast-twitch muscle fibers firing.

Stay hydrated

It’s important that you drink water before you start your ride, taking regular sips to prevent dehydration. Staying hydrated is critical to your success as you’ll be sweating a lot, so it’s important to replace the fluids you’re losing. 

Your water should contain an electrolyte mix as when you sweat you lose electrolytes as well. You may need to eat one of two small snacks as you go, but it’s up to you and how you feel on the day.

Sports nutritionists suggest that consuming carbohydrates during exercise lasting longer than one hour has a significant positive effect on your performance. A suitable level of consumption of carbohydrates is 60 grams per hour.

cyclist drinking water

Choose a suitable pace 

The Alp d’Huez is a long and arduous climb, so you have to select a pace that you can maintain for at least an hour.

Rather take it slow, than run the risk of running out of energy before you complete the climb. It’s important that you take your time when you first try the challenge. So, forget about your speed. 

The important thing is to conserve your energy for the climb by pacing yourself conservatively.

Professional cyclists recommend that your power output should remain consistent throughout the climb. When you get to the steeper sections, more variation is acceptable.

Reaching the Summit

It’s absolutely vital that you maintain your pace when you near the summit. Resist the urge to sprint to the finish line, as you run the risk of depleting your remaining energy and not completing the challenge.

Prizes for completing the climb

It’s always nice to receive a medal but there are no official prizes for completing the Alpe du Zwift. However, Zwift does award several achievement certificates and badges for completing the Alpe du Zwift climb.

The Alpe d’Huez Badge is awarded to those riders who complete the full Alpe du Zwift climb from the bottom to the top. You can start on any of the routes, but you must complete the entire ride starting from the bottom. 

Gear and Equipment

You need a bike (or a smart bike) to access Zwift. Added to that, you must have a trainer or set of rollers for use indoors. These are connected with an ANT+ or Bluetooth measurement tool.  A power meter, smart trainer, or speed/cadence sensor all offer compatible functionality.

Zwift is available on a variety of devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets, and Apple TV.

While you may be riding your own bike and sending inputs to the Zwift training app, you can still upgrade your virtual bike; the Tron bike is awesome by the way!

For a more immersive experience, you can upgrade with additional equipment options. Look for additions that upgrade gear suitable for climbing.

Levels above 6, unlock bike upgrades, including bike frames and wheel sets. Aim to select a light bike and light wheels together with the appropriate hill-climb gear cassette.

For climbing steep hills you need a compact crankset. A wide-range cassette makes gear selection easier and you won’t be left in a gear that is too high for your strength and power.

You can also adjust the trainer difficulty to make the climb a little easier or more difficult depending on how you’re feeling on the day.

Power-ups are available to give yourself a little bit of a boost when you need it.

A man having an exercise using an indoor bike

When climbing hills it’s important that you wear the right clothing. You should choose clothes that are lightweight and comfortable with breathable material made from a moisture-wicking yarn to keep you cool and dry on the ascent.

Yes, I know you’re inside on a trainer, but you’ll sweat profusely when climbing these mountains.

Make sure that maximum effort is transferred to the pedals by wearing shoes with stiff soles that provide excellent traction for efficient peddling. Don’t forget that you can select pace partner bots to help you keep to a predetermined pace.

Improve Your Indoor Cycling with these Top Picks

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just starting, the right gear can make all the difference in your indoor training experience. We’ve curated a list of must-have accessories that will enhance your performance, comfort, and hydration levels. Each of these products has been selected for its quality and effectiveness, and help you make the most out of your indoor cycling routine:

  • Stay Hydrated Effortlessly: Keep your thirst at bay with the Zefal 164 Water Bottle. Its generous capacity ensures you have enough water for even the most intense workouts, without constant refills.
  • Optimal Hydration Support: Keep your electrolyte levels in check and replenish what’s lost through sweat with Nuun Sport Hydration Tabs. They’re essential for maintaining hydration by replacing key minerals during indoor workouts.
  • Cooling Mastery on a Budget: The Sharper Image FLY 01 Fan delivers a strong, even airflow to keep you cool during intense indoor rides, with a space-saving design and convenient remote control, all at a fraction of the Headwind’s cost.
  • Smart Power Management: Simplify your indoor cycling setup with the Meross Smart Plug Power Strip to remotely control your fan and other accessories. This smart power strip pairs with an app or voice commands, like “Hey Siri, turn on my fan,” making powering on or off your Pain Cave gear effortless.
  • Train Like a Pro: Experience the realism and precision of the Wahoo KICKR CORE Turbo Trainer. It’s the ultimate training companion for serious cyclists aiming to push their limits.
  • Seamless Cycling Transitions: With LOOK Keo Classic Pedals, effortlessly switch from indoor to outdoor riding using the same footwear. No need to change shoes or cleats, just pedal on with convenience.

Training and Preparation

Hill climbs are incredibly taxing and you will need to build exceptional endurance to be successful. Building up your fitness levels should be done gradually and your endurance training should include regular hill climbs.

Cardiovascular fitness training

For you to successfully complete the Alpe du Zwift, your aerobic fitness needs to be high. Aim for workouts that target your VO2 max, lactic threshold, and aerobic capacity.

The very popular 5X5-minute interval training session is a perfect way to increase both VO2 max and focus on threshold capacity. Focus on expending every ounce of effort with longer rests in between each interval, and you’ll enjoy a classic VO2 max workout.

Lower your effort and restrict the rest interval to 1 minute and you have a session that focuses more on threshold improvement. 

Endurance training

Long rides and endurance interval training are what build your endurance levels though.

Cycling training experts recommend that you plan for two good workouts per week. These entail riding at tempo for 60 to 90 minutes using a 2X30 or a 2X20 split. Once a week go for a much longer three to five-hour ride.

You need to practice your climbing technique, focusing on maintaining a high cadence in low gear and maintaining a good posture.

The biggest obstacle however will be mental. This is why mental preparation is as important as your road work. Make a point of visualizing yourself completing the climb successfully and this will help you to stay positive during the actual climb.


How long does it take to ride the Alpe du Zwift?

Beginners will take well over an hour as the average rider’s time is 1 hour, 11 minutes, and 30 seconds. If you’re super-fit and have the necessary endurance, then you may just clock in under an hour.

Can a beginner ride Alpe du Zwift?

After reaching level 6, beginners can open the route that leads to the Alpe du Zwift.

How do I navigate to the Alpe du Zwift?

You must first reach level 6 by traveling Zwift’s virtual road network. Once you’ve leveled up then you can open Watopia Island’s route to the sky which leads to Alpe du Zwift route.

Photo of author


Kier focuses on improving all things bike, and is always looking to take his ability to a new average (hopefully a higher one!). When not on the bike Kier is normally downing coffee and cake.
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