The virtual training paradise known as Zwift Island (also called “Watopia”) has recently gotten a little bit bigger. On Monday, January 23rd, the Zwift island volcano expansion dropped. An entirely new route has become available, offering yet another training ground option for riders to conquer.
After riding the route several times, I've got a few tips to help you get the most fitness possible out of the volcano loop.
I'll start out by saying that I'm a huge proponent of using a smart trainer (like the Elite Drivo or Wahoo Kickr) with Zwift. One of the biggest complaints of riding a trainer is that it doesn't feel like riding outside. A smart trainer goes a long way towards mimicking the feel of outdoor training. By utilizing Zwift with a smart trainer, it also mimics real world conditions. This means even a “flat” road isn't really flat. Slight variations in gradient can change the type of training significantly. This is where a smart trainer shines, and you can read more detailed posts about training on Zwift with a smart trainer here.
That being said, click through the break to find out what kind of training I recommend on the new volcano expansion.
The new volcano expansion adds about another 3 miles to Zwift island. The loop itself, either clockwise or counterclockwise, is about 2.6 miles in length. Elevation gain is around 45 feet per lap. The connecting roads add another .2 miles each to the overall total. The overall flat nature and the circular loop means you can adapt the new volcano route to any number of different training methods.
One lap of the loop should take you between 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 minutes, depending on your speed. If you come at the expansion from the clockwise Watopia loop, you'll turn left before the sprint in the village. You'll descend a series of switchbacks and roll onto the volcano. Stay straight to head up a couple more switchbacks and a short rise. You'll enter the volcano then ride back out. Pass by the tunnel leading back to Watopia and climb onto the final rise before the start/finish of the volcano loop. Continue through the start/finish and drop back out of the volcano towards the start.
Training on the Zwift island volcano expansion loop
Because of the relatively flat nature of the loop, it's perfect for doing steady state work. Time trialists, this loop is a great place to complete your threshold intervals. The rolling nature of the loop (remember, there is still around 45 feet of elevation gain) mimics what you would find in a real world “flat” time trial. 4 laps at threshold should be about what you will find in the cat 5, cat 4, and sometimes cat 3 racing levels. Do 4 laps, take 10 minutes rest and then do it again.
You can very easily adapt the loop to over/under work as well. The idea of over/under work is to train your body to repeatedly work above your functional threshold power level, then recover below. The typical over/under interval is around 10 minutes in length, alternating 1 minute over, 1 minute under. Typical intensities are sweetspot for the under part of the interval and VO2 max for the over part. The volcano expansion is great for doing over/under work, both scripted and organically. The “organic” way involves attacking the short ascents on the loop while riding the rest of the loop just under FTP. On the volcano loop, the gradients aren't that steep and the rises are relatively short so you'll be set for some good training.
Because the loop is relatively flat, it's one of the best places on Zwift island to do neuromuscular work. Superspin work and spinups are easily accomplished on this flat terrain. You can even do single leg drills, which can be difficult at best elsewhere on the island. For superspin work, the flat and downhill portions of the loop are prime real estate. Use the flattest parts for spinups and single leg drills. You can also use the volcano expansion loop to do a variety of singlespeed workouts. Just complete the loop in a single gear, then change gears and repeat the loop. You can get a ton of different cadence ranges by doing this kind of workout.
With the 2.6-mile loop taking between 5.5 and 7.5 minutes, it's also the perfect VO2 max interval. Doing the entire loop is perfect for a “long” VO2 interval. This type of interval is generally performed on the lower end of the VO2 max scale, around 105%-110% of functional threshold power. Alternatively, you can split the volcano expansion into two parts and do shorter VO2 intervals. Ride the loop either clockwise or counter-clockwise starting from the start/finish banner. Ride the first half of the loop at around 120% of functional threshold power, then ride the second half at recovery pace. It should take around 3 minutes to get through the first half, give or take. The recovery half should be around the same time. Repeat up to 9 times for a super hard workout.
By chaining together a clockwise loop from the Italian village, through the volcano start/finish and right back towards the Italian village you sprint repeatedly. From the start, turn around to do the typical Zwift island loop counter-clockwise. Ride through the esses and into the village, sprinting as you go through. Turn right onto the volcano expansion, then make the first right to ride towards the volcano start/finish. Sprint up the incline to the start/finish banner and roll down the other side. Take the right through the tunnel and back to Watopia, then make the right to do the loop again. You'll get two sprint points in each loop with around 5 minutes in between each. The 5-minute recovery should ensure you are completely recovered between sprints. Sometimes incomplete recovery can be beneficial, but with sprint training like this, full recovery is appropriate.
Training variance is the key to continued improvements
I've given you about five different ways to utilize the new Zwift island volcano expansion. Zwift is pushing the boundaries of training by giving us more virtual training options, and more options means more varied training. That is exactly what your body needs to keep improving. Doing the same thing day in and day out will make your body stale and your fitness will plateau. By incorporating these different training techniques into your weekly training program, you'll see your fitness start to climb and you'll be a more rounded cyclist.
If you don't want to build your own training program or you're not sure how to do it effectively, I've got you covered. Just check out my downloadable training plans, especially my full season training solution and advanced full season training solution. I incorporate these concepts and a ton of others into my training programs, guiding you to the biggest possible fitness gains in the shortest time. If you