Training With the Zwift Mayan Expansion

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Training With the Zwift Mayan Expansion

Zwift continues to expand their offerings with the new Mayan expansion to Watopia.  Yes, the south pacific island wonderland just got a little bit bigger and unlocked yet another set of training options.  With the mountain, the volcano, and now the Mayan expansion, Watopia has a huge variety of training possibilities.  You can do a little bit of everything in a single 26 mile loop or you can focus on smaller loops and more specific training goals.

For more information about Zwift training, check out these links first:

Once you're up to speed on the different training options Zwift offers you, click through the jump and get the low down on the new Mayan expansion!

What?  Level 10 only?

Yes, Zwift capped the Mayan expansion at level 10.  What does that mean?  It means if you're under level 10, you can't actually access the Zwift Mayan expansion.  You'll be redirected up the reverse epic KOM route.

If you're already level 10, how do you get to the Mayan loop?  From the dockyard area, turn as if you were going to tackle the reverse epic KOM route.  After the first small island with the series of 8%-10% switchbacks, you'll cross a bridge.  Immediately after the bridge, turn right and you'll enter a “high alpine” style terrain.  Think something that looks like the Sound of Music and you'll understand.

What does the Mayan loop look like?

Before you get to the Mayan ruins, you need to tackle the alpine plateau.  The alpine terrain is a gradual climb of around a hundred feet.  Then it drops you into the Mayan loop.  One thing to note is that there is a roadblock right before you hit the Mayan expansion.  Perhaps we'll see another route option in the future?  It would be nice because right now the Mayan expansion is just a “lollipop” route: ride out, ride the loop, ride back.  It would be nice to have a contiguous loop to ride.

The entrance of the Mayan Expansion

The entrance to the Zwift Mayan Expansion.

The Mayan roads are akin to doing hill repeats.  No matter which way you go, you'll have to drop into a descent to get to the caverns, where the start/finish banner sits.  From there, you'll climb up a gradual (3-4% average) climb out of the caverns.  Depending on which way you go, you'll have a gorge crossing right before the crest or right after the crest.

Whichever way you go, you'll get a short and punchy climb off the bridge over the gorge.  The average grade on that short punch is around 7%, and it's only around 150 meters in length.  It's not long, but for tired legs, it will surprise you if you're not careful.


The bridge on the Zwift Mayan Expansion is a sharp kick

The bridge on the Zwift Mayan Expansion is a sharp kick up at 7%.

Visually, the designers have done a beautiful job at creating an exciting route to ride on.  Zwift did an incredible job of detailing the (mostly) dirt roads, with ruins, jungle and the occasional sloth hanging from the canopy.  Honestly, the Zwift Mayan expansion is probably the most graphically impressive release to date.

The Zwift Mayan Expansion is beautifully rendered.

The Zwift Mayan Expansion is beautifully designed.  Check out that sloth in the branches!

Now that you know what you're getting into, what's the best training to perform on these Mayan roads?

What training suits the Zwift Mayan expansion the best?

Assuming you're using a smart trainer, you'll experience changes in resistance according to the virtual terrain you ride on.  With that in mind, what's the best training to do on the Mayan expansion?

VO2 max intervals on the climbs

Because the Mayan expansion consists of a climb and a descent, it offers a few different training options.  The climbs (except for the punchy climb over the bridge) are great for muscular endurance work.  The length and consistent grade make it great for VO2 max work as well.  Depending on how long the climb takes you, it's the perfect length for 4-7 minute Zone 5 efforts.

The short, punchy bridge climb is a good way to practice finishing a hard effort too.  Ride the loop counterclockwise and finish with a hard kick up the bridge.  Not only will you get a solid VO2 effort, you'll practice sprinting in a depleted state.

Superspin the descents

If you're riding the Mayan loop multiple times, you can practice neuromuscular intervals on the descent.  Descents are great for superspins, allowing you to keep the pressure on and the cadence high for extended periods of time.  Forcing your body to spin faster and keep the tension on the pedals will build neuromuscular coordination and increase your efficiency.

The Mayan Loop is perfect for single speeding.

The Mayan Loop is perfect for single speeding.

Singlespeed the loop

The terrain also makes the Mayan expansion perfect for singlespeed work.  By setting your gear and cadence in the caverns you can do a really awesome singlespeed workout around the loop.  In this case, find a gear that you can push at 90 RPM.  The intensity you choose depends on what your workout goal is.  You can do sweetspot work, FTP work or anything else your training plan calls for.  Stay in that gear and simply change your cadence, pedal tension, and power.  At the end of the loop, your average power should be right around the target intensity you set in the caverns.

About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.