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Alpe du Zwift VS Alpe d’Huez: Preparing For Reality?

– A couple of weeks ago,
I was given the chance to come out to Alpe d’Huez, so of course, I jumped at the opportunity. They later told me it would be
at the end of the ski season, nonetheless, I thought it
would be a really cool idea. I mean, literally, a really cool idea, ’cause it is snowing right now. Anyway, today, I am going
to be comparing Alpe d’Huez and Alpe du Zwift to see what
the differences really are. [electronic Music] [Electronic Music] – Back in the spring of 2018, Zwift launched a major
new course extension, Alpe du Zwift, the longest,
toughest climb on the Zwift, and modeled on the iconic Alpe d’Huez, the famous mountaintop
finish in the Tour de France. The length: 12.5 kilometers. The gradient: 8.5%. And how many hairpins does it have? Well, it’s got 21, just
like the real climb. Apparently, Zwift took GPS
data from the actual climb and modeled Alpe du Zwift around that. The idea behind it was to give Zwifters a super tough climbing challenge and a target to aim for as
you need to be at level 12 or above to unlock it. But also, to extend on the
training element of Zwift, as who doesn’t get super fit by riding up super tough mountains. And some of us may need to practice for a sportif or Gran
Fondo that we’ve booked in the mountains, even though
we don’t live near any. Having never ridden Alpe
du Zwift or Alpe d’Huez, I thought I was the perfect candidate to see how the two really compare. Hence, why I was riding it in the snow, while it was still ski season. [Dramatic Electronic Music] The first obvious
difference is I’m wearing a lot more clothing out here, and that’s because cycling
season doesn’t really get going until around mid-May,
over here at Alpe d’Huez, and then it continues until October time. And the rest of the year, if
you haven’t already guessed, Alpe d’Huez is actually a ski resort, which means when I get
to the top in a minute, it’s gonna be pretty fresh. How about we check in with indoor Chris and see how he’s looking? Right. That is 6.9 of my
seven kilometer warm-up and I am good to go. Right. Well if you’re ready, I’m ready. Three. Two. One. Go! [Electronic Music] You certainly notice on the corners, it really backs off,
just like in real life. You get these brief moments of respite where you either have to change gears to keep up with your cadence, or you can back up and have, as I said, a little bit of respite. Which will really help me in real life. So, I’ve actually changed
one of the settings in Zwift. Which isn’t something I’d normally do. What I’ve done is up the
gradient effect 100%, and that will replicate my body weight almost exactly going uphill, and it will mean the Y to keep incline will be controlled to
really mimic that gradient that you’ll be feeling in real life. And I have to say, I’m changing gear quite
a lot because of it. And, you know, you can
tell I’m out of breath. [Electronic Music] (coughs) Right, I’m a fair way up the climb now. I’m starting to find it
pretty hard, to be honest. There’s a few things I’m
interested in though, indoors versus outdoors,
seated versus standing. Outside, I’m in the saddle
and out of the saddle, finding it hard to find that
rhythm that I’m looking for. And I’m in first, second, and third gear, so is that the same indoors? The altitude’s starting to
take its toll a little bit. I find it a little bit
harder to breathe out here. And then there’s the cool thing as well, I’m actually slightly overdressed. And, well indoors, I can
just crank the fan up. Anyway, let’s find out how
it’s going back at the studio. [Electronic Music] So I’m about 20 minutes in now, 21 minutes, to be exact, and I’ve averaged, within one watt of what I’ve managed to maintain outside. On the day outside, I
actually thought I was a little bit ambitious at the time. But, three two nine indoors, three two eight outside, after 20 minutes, is right where you want to be, really, for me, for this effort
to make it repeatable. One thing I’m noticing,
as I mentioned before, is the differences in the corners. You know, just like in real life, you build off a bit of
momentum, slingshot yourself into the next bit of gradient, and just like in real life, talking is getting really hard. Except here, it’s because of the effort, I’m building up a bit of heat and outside it’s because of the altitude. But, that makes it really
quite comparable, actually. That’s something I didn’t expect. I actually thought it’d be easier. It’s not easier at all. [Electronic Music] Right. I mentioned a
couple of corners ago, that I was starting to feel nice and warm, and that’s still the case. It has just started snowing, although that’s eased
off again a little bit, which means I’m really not looking forward to the descent anymore, so I think I’ll be jumping
into our hired car. What the snowstorm did do,
was add to the epic atmosphere that this mountain has. LeMond, Hinault, Pantani, Armstrong, even Geraint Thomas last year, it’s a phenomenal mountain
if you’re a cycling fan. You may not get that on Zwift, but what you do get is perfectly
controlled temperature. Something that, right now, I quite enjoy. (panting) [Electronic Music] So at this point in the video, I’ve been planning to tell you about why Alpe d’Huez is such a bucket list climb, if you will. But to be really honest, I’m gonna do that in a minute
when I’ve caught my breath because this is seriously hard. Alpe d’Huez is a bucket list climb, but what does that make Alpe du Zwift? Well, it doesn’t have the history, but the effort is so similar you definitely get the sense that you’re achieving
something by riding up it. I think part of what makes Alpe d’Huez a bucket list climb is because of how much
effort it takes to get there. If you live in Grenoble,
just down the road, you probably take it for granted, whereas it took me 10 hours to get there. Alpe du Zwift, meanwhile,
once you’ve reached level 12, which takes a little bit
of commitment on Zwift, is then on your virtual doorstep meaning you have access
to it whenever you please. So would it be good for you? Undoubtedly, yes. Sustained efforts like this one, which might take between 45
minutes and an hour and a half, depending on your fitness
level, are incredibly potent. All right, I’m in the final kilometer now, and just like in the real
one, I’m falling apart. Like, properly falling apart. Heart rate: 191. I started to question if
I’d ever make it to the top, or at least from here, I
know I should be able to because I’ve done it once in real life. [Electronic Music] (panting) And finally, I’ve made it
to the top of Alpe d’Huez. I’ve had a few minutes
now to catch my breath and recover from the effort because it was genuinely
really, really hard. I paced it a little bit ambitiously and with the altitude, I
really started to suffer in that final 15 minutes. But I’m gonna let you
in on a little secret, I’ve actually come a little
bit further up the climb than where Alpe du Zwift finishes, but I’m only gonna get
one chance to come here and ride in the winter and I wanted to see what the real finish was like where the Tour de France goes to. Anyway, how about we find
out how I’ve gotten on back in the studio? All right. As you see, I’ve made it to the top and one thing I noticed was the perception of time. On the left-hand side of the screen, I’ve got all the corners being
ticked off in front of me. Whereas, when I rode
it blind in real life, I had no idea how much further
it was to the next corner. Now, that’s all great, at one point I came undone, because I was like, oh, 500 meters, I can do 500 meters, forgetting that 500 meters
after 45 minutes flat out up a mountain, it doesn’t
last the short amount of time that flat sprint does, so I ended up really
clinging on for grim death, got my heart rate right up to 200, which is higher than I had outside, however, outside there’s less oxygen and I know from personal experience I can’t quite push that
high in high altitude. I need to recover now and
then we’re gonna update you on some of the stats from
inside versus outside. So the power numbers, cadence, heart rate, and you’ll see which one was fastest. (sighs) I’m now showered and changed
but what have I learned? Well, the difference in my heart rate was only one beat per
minute on the average. So 174 outside versus 173 indoors. Although, weirdly, my heart
rate indoors did creep up a little higher towards the end. That’s mainly because,
despite our best efforts with the air conditioning, it didn’t want to play with us at all. So we set it to 17 degrees but
by the end of Alpe du Zwift, my temperature indoors
was actually 24 degrees and I’m not a big fan of the heat. When we look at power numbers then, they again, near on identical, 328 outdoors and 327 indoors, which shows that the effort
was basically exactly the same, the only difference, though,
did come from cadence. So I had 83 indoors and I had 76 outside. When I’m indoors, I do tend to
pedal that little bit faster and I’m a little bit smoother, but when I’m outside, I often
shift it into the big ring, especially out in some of those corners, drop it down a couple of cogs on the back and then stand up for
about 30 to 60 seconds, mainly to give my muscles a bit of a rest. There was one difference
though, and that was the speed that it took to actually
climb Alpe du Zwift versus Alpe d’Huez. Indoors it took 47 minutes and 30 seconds whereas, outside it was
closer to 52 minutes. Now there are loads of reasons for this, not least the wind
direction, the air density, the wind speed, and the
fact that it was actually a lot colder outside,
so therefore I had on loads more clothing. I
had a bottle on my bike so that would make my bike heavier than my virtual bike which was, actually, if anything a little lighter than my real world one. But to answer a question that
I briefly touched on earlier, if I was heading out to
Alpe d’Huez in the summer and I only had Alpe du Zwift to train on, would it be a suitable
method for me to get fit for Alpe d’Huez? Well, absolutely. The demands are exactly the same. The only difference being
that you don’t lose oxygen on Alpe du Zwift. The physical exertion was, again, exactly the same. The experience and the feeling in my legs was identical. The only difference being I could get straight off my bike and go and have a nice warm
shower from Alpe du Zwift. If you enjoyed this video, do give it a big thumbs up and to check out more training
videos on the channel, click down here.

Reynold King

100 Replies to “Alpe du Zwift VS Alpe d’Huez: Preparing For Reality?”

  1. Amazing time(s)! In my opinion the only comparison between the two is the heat you tend to suffer from, as my trips to that region have all been during or around July's GF Marmotte.. ;D

  2. Chris, not too sure about a couple of your comments. "Altitude"? I thought that was only noticeable at, or from, about 1800m? "Tough climb"? In my opinion the climb is short and not too steep a gradient with plenty of recovery around the corners. I did it last year at the end of April (on my 60th birthday). I live in Andorra and climbing is what we do here. Very variable gradients which touch 14%, distances up to 25kms and max road asphalted altitude here is 2400m. Fascinating video though. Only yesterday on our club run we were speaking about Zwift and Alpe d'Huez. Keep up the amazing work!!

  3. I'm recovering from an ACL surgery and my goal is to ride Alpe d'Huez un August. I'll surely be riding it first on Zwift to prepare myself for the huge challenge that it will be!

  4. hey. how long to the pros warmup for on the stationary bicycles.
    also how o i measure the steep hill near me?



  5. I have done Alpe d'Zwift a couple of times on tacx flow smart. However, it says it only replicates upto 6% gradient. Although I set swift to 100% presumably I am getting away with murder when A'lpe de zwift ramps up behond 6%?

  6. You stopped 2 or 3 times on the way up on the real Alpe to do those film clips! Presumably stopping the clock? Cheating! 😉 And it still took longer than on Zwift..?

  7. Alpe d'Huez (along with many other famous climbs) has been available on Tacx's software for years (it doesn't even require level 12). I think the introduction on Zwift has been too hyped. You could do a third comparison with Tacx's version 🙂

  8. Its great that you mentioned putting the realism level up to 100%. That is a must imo to replicate the lower cadence efforts needed and resultant impact on the muscles. Also agree indoors is roughly 10% quicker than outdoors. Great comparative review! 👍👍😊😊

  9. I've made same exercice on Ventoux: 1h40 on my bike vs 1h42 on my BKool trainer. Quite real … except the win on the top that usually slow you.

  10. Another excellent video Chris. I love Alpe du Zwift, but haven't tackled the real thing yet so it's great to see the comparison. I've done plenty of Alpine and Pyrenees climbs so I do feel Alpe du Zwift is good preparation.

  11. So could Zwift simulate that climb for a 100 kilo rider who wants to see what it is like for a 60 kilo rider? That would be interesting. I'd have to put out a steady 500+ watts to get that time in the real world.

  12. Alpe d‘Huez in snow, Olies Everesting at 35C… Do you know this strange thing they call Internet? People say you can look up the weather forecast there 😉. Sorry for the bad joke. Great video!

  13. Nice video and interesting comparison ! But to go indoor you probably think about building or buying a rocker plate. This will definitely enhance your indoor experience !

  14. I can actually ride the video route of Alpe d'Huez with no "unlock" and a zillion other real courses on BKOOL … why downgrade to Zwift?

  15. Great video and definitely a route worth ticking off. Rode Alpe d'Huez last year and loved it, with a time of 1hr 5mins, then rode Alpe D'Huez on Rouvy this winter and achieved similar time. Looking forward to trying out zwifts offering when I get above level 12, plus have a new smart trainer (tacx Neo) so looking forward to the comparison.

  16. your lower indoor time makes me wonder about power loss through the upper body moving the bike and body about on corners etc. I know that when I relax my upper body, I move faster and relax more throughout, even if for a few moments. Do you think that is a contributing factor?

  17. I've always wondered about that. Cool video. I've never done swift but would consider doing it just for the sake of riding real world places that I haven't actually been to so I know the route before I actually go there.

  18. What about the difference in distance? Zwift is 12.44km while the real climb seems to be 14? Wouldn't that be explaining the bigger part of the difference?

  19. Excellent video, I’m riding the Haute Route Alps this year and there is time trial up Alp d’Huez! I do not use zwift but have a kickr linked to Rouvy, time to check out the climb!

  20. Every comparison has found the indoor version a few minutes shorter. Too bad Zwift didn't make the indoor version a bit more difficult

  21. And what about the air feel and the views? I have never tried Zwift and those because it is like the horse jump on Star Trek Generations: You don't feel it real

  22. New Wahoo product idea after you get the Climb? Wahoo altitude simulator mask with Bluetooth controlled variable suffocation levels based on actual Zwift altitude.

  23. Cheers Chris, very interesting comparison, I've ridden Alp du Zwift twice now and I feel pretty good about it… thanks to you and the GCN crew….

  24. I'm amazed at how high you can sustain your heart rate. At the moment if I do much more then 183 (sprint) I'm about ready to puke haha. Just did the alpes su zwift yesterday and was curious. Ride on! Haha

  25. Fair play Chris!! Serious effort on both, but certainly on Alp D'Zwift! Sheesh… that looked tough! 😥

  26. dude is strong! nice watts and great video! Now just put everything in perspective and pay homage to Il Pirata who climbed it (out of the saddle no less) in 37:00….still a record today…

  27. I imagine the increased cadence can also be due to the stability you have indoors. On that incline you are moving slower, requiring a slightly greater effort to stabilize.

  28. Is the effort only comparable on a smart trainer or is zwifts adjustment on speed for dumb trainers sufficient as well?

  29. I love videos like this because it's great to see all the physical effort the presenters put in to bringing us weekly content.

    It's genuinely inspiring.

  30. You look so happy and fulfilled on the real mountain, and utterly miserable on the indoor trainer. I love snow (ski tragic) so I would be thrilled to be riding on those alpine conditions as well.

  31. On the ground with Alpe de Swift, and the proper resources, you should be able to control for air density using a mask. However, I recommend consulting your medical provider or sports trainer as an extra measure of risk mitigation. Your thoughts?

  32. That was a proper effort there Chris, nailed the comparision and that was beautifully done.. The video did remind me of the previous Alp d'huez video by Matt and Tom in epic climbs ( one of my all time favourite really)…again kudos to people behind the camera, beautiiiiful work….cheers to awesome video!!!

  33. Hi I raced up alp du swift last night for the first time and came second in my D group but and averaged 203 watts I have a tacx flow smart trainer but I think the residence only goes to to 6or7% . So would I be able to train for the real thing ?

  34. Great video but my chances of ever riding up that are some way below zero.. 300 watts,, nope, 191 heart rate..? ambulance or hearse needed. I'd like to give it a go on swift though to see how far i could get.

  35. This was great 1. world experience vs computer simulation and 2. The video stayed on topic with the Title of the video…my biggest gripe with you guys.

  36. I trained for Mt. Ventoux climbing Alpe de Zwift. I felt perfectly fit when the real life Mt. Ventoux effort came.

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