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Zwift’s New Giro d’Italia Course Released: First Ride

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Earlier this week Zwift announced that their new course would be a short time trial route mirroring the 2019 Giro d’Italia Stage 1, which starts today with the pros riding the real thing in Bologna. But it wasn’t until now that the course itself was actually available. As of now – you can go ahead and get your Zwift updated and subject yourself to 8KM of pain.

If however, you wish to avoid incurring such misery yourself, I’ve done it for you. Twice actually. In fact, you can watch the video below where I show off the full route, condensed down into a tidy 11 minutes of empty world riding.

If however, you’re more of the textual type – then read on for all the details on the new course.

The Route:

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The new course definitely isn’t long, but that doesn’t mean it’s not painful. It clocks in at 8KM (5mi), with the first 5KM being essentially flat. Then you’ve got a 1KM stretch of 1-3% gradual up, before the hammer drops for the last 2KM averaging some 9.7% during that section. Oh, and there’s some nice crispy 16% chunks in there too – just for good measure. Here’s the VeloViewer profile of the segment.

The Zwift stage starts just a few hundred meters prior to the official starting banner of the Giro stage, in a square near the Fountain of Neptune. And the tridents of the fountain were the inspiration behind the Maserati logo.

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However, we ain’t got no time for Rick Steves moments here – this is a time trial stage. So onwards through the banners we go:

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From there we head down the shop-lined Via Ugo Bassi, which in Zwift holds consistent with the flavor of what you’d find in real life. Or at least, so says Google Earth (more on that in a moment). Sure, there’s racks of bicycles:

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But there’s also flotillas of Vespa’s:

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After about three kilometers, we leave the core of Bologna city center and head out through some greener areas. In real life the sprawling cemetery lies just over these walls, along with some sports complex and eventually we cross over a large highway:

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It’s after this that we start our gradual initial climb of about a kilometer, passing the Arco Del Meloncello on a hairpin turn:

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And it’s immediately after that point at the 6.0KM marker that the incline monster awakens and you shoot up to 10%.

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In fact, on the left side you’ll find the Portico di San Luca, which now runs alongside for almost the entire remainder of your climb. This is the longest in the world, at some 3.8KM. Essentially, it’s an incredible covered walkway from the 1600-1700’s. Or, you can read a whole lot about it here.

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Realistically, you might not have much brainpower left to think about all that detail though, as during this climb the incline spikes at 16%. Eeks:

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However, this might be a fun time to mention how the Zwift crew built parts of the course. When I visited Zwift about a month ago, they were cooking away on this stage, and the team of graphic artists were using Google Earth side by side with the development tools to mirror much of the real world.

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This little section was about a month ago – but you can see how closely it mirrored then. Now, much more of the detail around it is also complete. Cool stuff.

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As you crest the top of the climb you’ve got about 200 meters of relative flats to get your sprint on as you try and nail your best finishing time.

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The top finishing corral features the most dense crowd area we’ve seen in Zwift yet, this course or otherwise. Though, that’s really my only critique of the course: There just should be way more people on it (spectators). There are small pockets here and there, but I’d have loved Zwift to go a bit outside their comfort zone and added dense crowds as well as aspects like bands and the usual random spectacles that you’d see in real life. For the remainder of the course, this is about it:

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Given the purpose of this course is almost exclusively event based, it stands to reason that an event like the Giro (as its partnership is modeled after) would have lots of people on it.

In any case, after you’ve climbed to the top, you can go ahead and loop around in a parking lot if you so desire:

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This will take you back down the hill where you can do it all over again, in the event you somehow want to do that twice. Or, three times in my case.

Going Forward:

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This certainly isn’t Zwift’s first race partnership. That honor was awarded to the much loved Richmond course for Worlds that year. After which we saw the London course come from a race partnership there, followed by the Innsbruck course last fall for Worlds. However, this is definitely Zwift’s most visible and biggest partnership to date, at least in terms of dance partners.  And all of this was also tied to an event held on Thursday having pro teams race the stages in Zwift as well.

It stands to reason we’ll continue to see such partnerships, and likely to see those relationships only get bigger. With Zwift’s sights set on inclusion in the 2028 Olympics (or possibly even 2024 Olympics), they’re going to continue to want to raise the profile of not just the brand, but indoor cycling in general.

In the case of this Giro stage though, the purpose is a bit different. Unlike the Richmond, London, or Innsbruck courses – this isn’t slated to become a regular guest world in Zwift. Instead, it’s going to be set aside for events. Primarily time trial (TT) style events, since that’s what it’s best suited for.  In fact, it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up the next few days with so many people likely set to try out the course – though I believe Zwift does some thinning of the crowds anyway.

Zwift says the course will be available during the Giro, including at least this weekend – though the exact schedule beyond that remains a bit fuzzy.  So, if you want to get your PR on, this weekend is probably the time to do it.

With that – thanks for reading!

(P.S. – Yes, I will definitely discuss my tweet(s) about Zwift’s Terms of Service change in the near future. I’ve had some good discussions with Zwift in the last 24-48 hours…so stay tuned on that front.)

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20 Comments

  1. Emanuele

    It’s “Portici di San Luca” and not “Portica”.
    Anyway it’s very realistic! I live at 100 km from Bologna an last year I did the same climb (but with car 😁). I’ll try it in zwift.

  2. David

    The run up Portici di San Luca is also worth doing if you ever get time in Bologna.

  3. Malcolm

    As a long time nearly-owner (on pre-order since Nov 2018) I’m interested to hear what Ray’s latest thoughts are on the Watt Atom and how well it copes with Zwift after it’s latest firmware updates. Hopefully that’s coming out soon?

  4. Scott

    Ahrrrrrrggggg. SPOILER!

    • Lay Zee

      I was gonna boot up Zwift and ride this today to see what it was like, but with this article, I don’t have to!

  5. Blair Oliver

    Hi, Ray,
    Good stuff, as always. Can you clarify what you mean by “Zwift does some thinning of the crowds anyway”? Do you simply mean they stagger event start times?

    Thanks,
    Blair

  6. Claude

    Hi Ray, indeed how do you feel about the Atom since the Sw updates? Did it get any better?
    Thanks in advance!

    • It’s definitely got better – without question – since I first tested it near launch. Back in those days, I just couldn’t deal with it from a Zwift standpoint – it was just frustrating. But I’ve used it as my primary Zwift bike the last month or so, and I’ve had no issues. Occasionally I brain fart on shifting (since I’m only riding it 1-2 days a week with all my outdoor riding now), where i press the shift-down versus shift-up, but that’s realistically a me issue.

    • Claude

      Thank you for taking the time to answer! Looks like it could be an option with the Tacx bike still under trouble water.

    • Malcolm

      Hi Ray

      Are you perhaps going update to your original Atom review review with your thoughts on the firmware improvements that have been made since then? I think many people were put off the bike by its inability to function correctly in Zwift. It seems your views have shifted a bit on that. People are more likely to come across your views on the Atom in the review post than they are to stumble across them in this article (unless they read all of your posts like some of us do!).

      It might not offer all the features of the Tacx Neo Smart Bike, but do you now think that the Atom is a viable alternative to it or is the Tacx a (potentially) far superior option? I assume it is noisier, doesn’t have road feel, but if the Zwift issues are resolved, perhaps it’s a good option? Have they sorted out the previous problem whereby one could not do a Zwift FTP test? I suspect many people (like myself) have been holding out for the Tacx, but one can only hold on so long. Interested to hear your thoughts.

    • Yup – on my super short list to do! Likely even this week.

    • Malcolm

      Thanks Ray! Something to look forward to (for us, not you doing the work :-)).

  7. BB

    So does that mean once the giro is over the course goes away ? Or will it stick around for those of us that actually go outside in the spring/summer/fall

  8. Neil Jones

    What I found more disappointing and unrealistic than the lack of crowds on the course was the fact that there were several attractive women walking through the Portici who somehow seemed to be TOTALLY IGNORING my Herculean snarling and grunting 300w output. Surely a bug?

  9. Anonymouse

    Was it just me, or is the “ETA” screen MIA in the actual Zwift event? Would’ve been nice to see even though I was way in the back. Might’ve inspired me to push a wee bit harder at the end (although I’m not sure I had anything left to give!).

  10. Charlie Anderson

    I’m not on Zwift, but why does your kit change through the ride?

    • If you become a segment/jersey leader, it’ll change mid-ride. In this case, since I was riding it prior to it being activated for everyone, it meant that once a few test accounts left the game, I became the defacto leader. 🙂

  11. Luca

    Hi,
    as anybody done this with the Kickr 2018 with 100% trainer difficulty setting?
    I’ve tried twice and twice at the same kilometer 7 where the street hits the max gradients I got that the Kickr stopped giving resistance and suddenly dropped the connection to the game!!!
    So first time I’ve done that I had to manually reconnect the Kickr to zwift and from that point onwards I’ve ridden with a dumb Kickr (no resistance).
    Is this somehow a problem of my unit? I think this should correlate somehow with the tough slope… I see a max value of 19.2% that is so near to the max slope that the kickr can simulate (20%).
    Of course an easy solution would be to decrease the trainer difficulty setting… but still… this should be manageble by the Kickr
    Thanks for any support!
    Luca