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The Hardest Climbs on Zwift

Liam Hallam is a Sports Science graduate, a competitive cyclist, and runner who loves to travel to Europe in search of great adventures.

Improve Your Cycling Climbing on Zwift's Toughest Climbs

Climbing on the Zwift Virtual Cycling Platform up the Yorkshire KOM, Harrogate

Climbing on the Zwift Virtual Cycling Platform up the Yorkshire KOM, Harrogate

The Toughest Climbs on Zwift

The Coronavirus Pandemic and advances in online cycling training have lead record numbers to the Zwift cycling training platform recently. Zwift features an ever-evolving set of courses for cyclists to hone their skills through virtual group rides, races and specifically devised training workouts alongside the interactive nature of using a smart trainer to recreate the effects of climbing and descending almost as closely as on the real road.

Like being out in the real world Zwift features a myriad of different climbs to allow cyclists to target improvements and maintenance of their fitness. Here's a selection of the hardest climbs on Zwift for you to master.

How Does Strava Classify Climbs?

Have you ever wondered when checking Strava how they classify a climb in terms of difficulty

Calculation= Length of Climb (In Meters) x Grade of Climb (%)

  • Category 4 climb= 8000 or above
  • Category 3 climb= 16000 or above
  • Category 2 climb= 32000 or above
  • Category 1 climb= 64000 or above
  • Hors Categorie climb (Beyond categorization)= 80000 over above

From the above, it should be easy to correctly classify your nearest hill or mountain.

The Hardest Climbs on Zwift Ranked

  1. Ventoux (France) Hors Category Climb
  2. Alpe Du Zwift (Watopia) Hors Category Climb
  3. Innsbruck KOM Reverse (Innsbruck) Category 2 Climb
  4. Epic KOM Reverse (Watopia) Category 2 Climb
  5. Innsbruck KOM (Innsbruck) Category 2 Climb
  6. Epic KOM (Watopia) Category 2 Climb
  7. Bologna TT Course Climb (Bologna) (Only available for race events) Category 3 Climb

The Alpe Du Zwift (Hors Category Climb)

The Alpe Du Zwift mimics Alp D'Huez in the French Alps

The Alpe Du Zwift mimics Alp D'Huez in the French Alps

The Alpe Du Zwift Climb- Hors Category

Introduced in April 2018 as a further expansion of the popular land of Watopia. The Alpe Due Zwift is only available on the map once you hot Level 12 within the game giving newer users an incentive to keep progressing through the levels.

The climb is modeled very closely on the French Alpine climb up to the Ski resort of Alp D'Huez often used in the Tour De France and is currently the hardest climb on Zwift with an Hors Category status.

Climbing a gigantic 1032 meters across 12.22 km with an average grade of 8.2% it's clear that the Alpe Du Zwift is no easy climb but for those out there training for sportives like the Etape du Tour or La Marmotte it is a great way to focus your training.

What's at the Top of the Alpe du Zwift?

As your legs start to crumble towards the top of the iconic ascent of Alpe Du Zwift you're treated with a set of high bicycle statues similar to those seen along the coast of Watopia.

You're 1,036 meters in the air high above Watopia and the camera will zoom outwards to showcase the top of the mountain automatically as you ride around the top circuit.

Expect some awesome views on the way back down from the Alpe.

Alpe Du Zwift with Team Ineos

The Innsbruck KOM and Innsbruck KOM Reverse

The 2018 World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria was generally a route that favoured good climbers. The course featured a solid climb up to the Patscherkofelbahn ski station of Igls up Römerstraße.

The Innsbruck climb on Zwift is a second category climb ascending 400 vertical meters across the 7.4-kilometer length.

The reverse of the climb is a little tougher and takes you from Innsbruck through the ski-resort town of Igls. It's a much more challenging proposition at 5.7- kilometer long with an average gradient of 7% and subsequently ranks as currently the second hardest climb on Zwift

The Innsbruck KOM on Strava

The  Innsbruck KOM on Strava

The Innsbruck KOM on Strava

Protect Your Bicycle From Sweat Whilst on the Trainer

Climbing the Volcano- Sadly Only a Category 4 Climb

Climbing the Volcano on Zwift.

Climbing the Volcano on Zwift.

The Epic KOM and Epic KOM Reverse

The Epic KOM was Zwift's original climbing masterpiece featuring 9.4 km of tough climbing at an average gradient of 4% before you turned back around. It was added in March 2016 as part of an extension to the virtual world of Watopia

The climb has a total elevation gain of 364m, with an average gradient of 4% and a maximum gradient of 9% for brief periods.

It's snaking nature resembles a more traditional Alpine Climb however it's base somewhat tropical. You pass through an Alpine village about a third of the way up the climb and once you climb above around 250 meters the snow starts to fall.

The EPIC KOM Reverse takes riders up the newer reverse route to the Epic KOM.

Zwift’s Epic KOM Reverse is the second toughest climb in Watopia. This climb is 6.2km long, which is over 3km shorter than the Epic KOM with an average gradient of 6%.

Making the Epic KOM Tougher- Add the Radio Tower Climb

If you want to add an extension to the Epic KOM you can take the turn off at the Top of the Epic KOM up to the Radio Tower. It's not an official Zwift KOM however with grades kicking up to 17% it offers a very different experience to the Epic KOM when your legs might already be screaming.

The Radio Tower also offers great views over Watopia and towards the Alpe du Zwift

The 1.1 KM Radio Tower Climb itself averages 13.7% with max gradients a shade under 17%. If you have one of the latest smart bicycle trainers be prepared to suffer.

The Bologna TT from the 2019 Giro D'Italia

Two Kilometers of Pain- Bologna TT Climb

The Pro's made things look pretty easy climbing at the 2019 Giro D'Italia. The Prologue really made the city look magical and we all know that Grand Tours are effectively giant tourism adverts. Italy has a charm that the Tour de France struggles to emulate despite its superior status.

The climb of the Via di San Luca really showcased the beauty of Bologna resplendent in the spring sunshine.

The climb on Zwift only features as part of the 8 kilometer Bologna TT so you'll have to enter a race to be able to get access. The climb itself is a shade under 2 kilometers long but features a 10% average gradient to move it to a category 3 climb. It really hurts at the end of a race.

The Bologna TT on Strava

The Bologna TT on Strava. 5th toughest climb on Zwift

The Bologna TT on Strava. 5th toughest climb on Zwift

The Ultimate Trainer for Zwift

July 2020- The addition of Ventoux

As part of the virtual Tour de France we've seen the addition of the new Ven-Top route featuring the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux. Except in Zwift terms, it's actually based on New Caledonia where the new France virtual world has been set.

The climb of Ventoux is 19 kilometers in total length for the KOM with an average of 8%.

The climb has been mapped as close to reality as possible just like the Alpe du Zwift and features the memorial to Tom Simpson who died climbing the mountain during the Tour de France.

So What's Your Hardest Climb on Zwift?

We'd love to know your feedback? Is the Alpe Du Zwift really the hardest climb? or does the Bologna TT climb reduce you to a blubbering sweaty mess?

© 2020 Liam Hallam


Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on May 11, 2020:

Thanks Daniel. This piece has been put together based on Zwift's KOM's however I'll certainly look to add an additional section on the radio tower climb

Daniel Connelly on May 11, 2020:

The Epic KOM ending with the Radio Tower climb, which really form a combined climb (although not considered a timed segment within the game) is part of several routes and should perhaps be considered. the reverse Epic KOM can also be combined with the Radio Tower.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 18, 2020:

It's good to see how technology helps us at a time like this when outdoor pursuits are limited.