This is a quick run down of what a clockwise lap of Richmond Park on the bike holds in store for you. It’s mostly to help novices and people coming from out-of-London who have not had a chance to actually race the course.
I reckon, with fresh legs, if you can do a 20 minute 5k run then you can do a 20 minute lap of Richmond Park on a bike – providing you train equally at both. But doing those times as part of a duathlon is another kettle of fish totally of course.
The course has hills but would best be described as undulating rather than hilly. It is absolutely suitable for a TT bike with tri-bars. A mountain bike works too but more slowly :-)
I’m coming from the angle of a competent triathlete/duathlete who can do >>250w for half an hour. If you don’t know what that means then you will certainly find all the undulations and hills to be NON-trivial. As I say, it’s undulating. I’m assuming you are going to go for this as a race and therefore IMHO you should be trying as hard as you can sustain for the full duration of the race – at that level of anyone’s performance the hills will hurt more than they otherwise would.
If you are treating this as a bit of fun then only one hill will cause you problems…sit back and enjoy the view instead. The park is great.
Before I start; the 10km and 5km RUN laps are straightforward. Each only has one hill of note. The hill on the 10km run is significant but you will have fresh legs at the start of the race for that.
Back to the bike…
The bike mount area on the road is next to a grass verge we you can use to help yourself hop on. The road is flat and the surface is good here and you will get up to speed pretty quickly. However be aware of cyclists overtaking you who themselves are starting a second lap much faster than you.
You soon join up with the runners running in the opposite direction so this is one of the most dangerous/narrow part of the course and you really need to be aware of faster cyclists; some of whom MAY be coming past you here at over 30mph.
The surface remains good and you climb a slight incline and you will probably have to only shift into the next larger cog up. Keep accelerating as much as you can, you need to gain time here. There’s a few more bends on a good surface as the mini-roundabout near Robin Hood Gate looms. You don’t need to slow down much, if at all, for this roundabout.
After the roundabout the road surface deteriorates for the cyclist. Choose a good, smooth line. They do exist! There is a very gentle incline which will get progressively steeper. Then steeper and steeper and then to the steepest point of the course. Broomfield Hill. This is where your heart will max out the most on the bike leg. Most of you will be in 1st gear going up the steepest section (if you have an 18 or so speed road bike). Some of you will walk. If you faff around on this bit you will waste LOTS of time so get up it as fast as you can to the point of exhaustion, the pain won’t last for too long.
Once the worst bit of Broomfield Hill is over there is still a short bit with more incline albeit shallow. Attack this as best as you can; there’s an undulating downhill bit coming up very soon just after the car park on your left. You will get some respite on the undulation but again you really want to get down it as fast as you can so you get the speed to get up the other side as fast as you can!
Once you are up the other side of the undulation it’s flat for a while. So again maintain the best speed you can, ideally accelerate as much as you can to a speed you can maintain on the flat. There’s another downhill bit coming in a few minutes so you will get a little rest on that.
The road ahead appears to disappear into some trees ahead -this is Dark Hill and I think from memory there is a noteworthy road sign saying beware of a bendy/hilly road. Take note. There is an S shaped downhill (right bend then left bend) bit with a nasty bump on the left hand side of the road when you are going fast half way down around the left hand bend that is part of the downhill S bend. You will speed up through the S and after the S. Go down here as fast as you feel comfortable in doing. A competent cyclist will go flat out.
A mini roundabout approaches after a car park on the left. You have to do a 90 degree right turn at the roundabout leading to Queens Road. This is the roundabout at Kingston Gate. You WILL have to brake for this. I brake at the start of the car park normally. A hill immediately follows so you have the dilemma of not wanting to lose any momentum at this turn. Choose a good line.
You are now on part of the Olympic Road Race route. Yeah! You should definitely have your cycling legs ready now after that run. Push up this hill perhaps even getting out of your seat at the start if you need to regain some speed quickly after the roundabout.
Another VERY short downhill bit follows before another not too tricky incline beckons. This goes on for a few hundred metres as well. A few bends ahead mark what you think will be the summit of the hill. It isn’t.
There is a steep, short downhill bit followed by a short steep uphill section. The speed you gain going down will take you easily up the other side. You probably won’t want to brake here. The road off to your left go down to Ham gate and the path to your right is where the 10k runners will recognise as part of their course from earlier.
You now have a long uphill slog of probably 1km leading up to the car Park at Pembroke Lodge. Again this uphill bit gets progressively more challenging and at the top (by the car park) many of you will be struggling. Don’t worry this really is the last hard part of the entire lap. Again do the best you can up here and keep going once you summit the hill. Only when you are up to speed on the flat should you relax a little.
Thankfully the road soon goes downhill towards the mini roundabout at Richmond Gate (Bishop’s Gate). You will have to brake at this roundabout. This is where the pro’s crashed in the Olympic Road Race. It will be a painful crash if you come off here no doubt. And embarrassing as the runners on the other side of the road will see you.
So get a good line and brake as late and safely as possible. Don’t think about overtaking as EVERYONE will cut the corner going round the roundabout. Don’t think about zooming past someone leading up to the roundabout if that will compromise your line..slow down and waste 2 seconds…it beats falling off.
After the roundabout, get out of your seat and get up to speed as soon as possible on the short uphill that is coming. This is followed by another very short downhill bit before a small incline to the top of Sawyers Hill. Really go to your limit here and get as much speed as you can. Once over the top there is a very fast and long downhill section. Get your legs spinning here as you reach maximum speed. Some people will be going past you at 40mph. Remember the more aero you are here, the faster you go. The faster you go…the further you go without effort.
You will do the hill in your fastest gear. You will change up one or two gears approaching the mini roundabout which serves Sheen gate to your left. You go straight over this at speed. Watch out for the bumps and the runners on your right turning off to their left for the 5k circuit.
Keep your speed going here BUT keep your spinning cadence high as well. Say upwards of 100rpm. Get all that lactic acid out of your legs for the run to come.
If this marks the end of your lap then the dismount is just after the roundabout so get your road positioning , speed and shoes sorted out before the roundabout.
Those of you taking the roundabout at speed will probably still have to brake a bit. Just keep your wits about you here and there should be no problems. If you are on your flying lap you need to be VERY aware of slow cyclists joining on the first lap as you pass transition.
The course is significantly affected by wind as those competing last year found out. The best prevailing wind direction for the bike lap is probably from the South and strong, blowing you up Queens Road. But don’t worry about things you can’t control.
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