ITU Long Course Recce

I recently spent a week in Vegas on a friend’s stag/bachelor party. Knowing that I was returning a month later for the ITU Long Course World Championships and to get out in the fresh air (smoking is allowed in the casinos!), I took my bike so that I could recce the course.

There is a lot of information (some more useful than others) about the course and what to expect, here:

2011 ITU Long Course World Championship website

The 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championship was held on most of the course and useful info can be found here:

Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Lake Las Vegas

Also, YouTube has a collection of useful videos:

Ironman 70.3 World Championships YouTube clips

In addition to this I thought I would upload my own thoughts on the course having done a recce last week.

Swim:

This is a straightforward out and back course, entering from T1 and swimming under the arches to the start line. Keeping to the left of the bouys, it’s about 1.8km to the first right turn, 225m to the final right turn, then return to the Novella, under the arches and exit on the left with a run around the bottom of the lake in to T1. Flat, non-tidal but could get some wind chop depending on the strength of the wind.

T1:

Not that much to say on top of doing your own walkthrough of entry to your bike station, exit, etc. Quite a sizeable, flat run into transition and a good flat section to get your feet in after the mount line.

Bike:

A small loop around Lake Las Vegas, a climb from the roundabout near T1 all the way up to Lake Mead Parkway. We turn right initially and it would be worth doing a recce of the layout of the tunnel that will take us under the road to avoid making a left hand turn back towards the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Watch out for sand and rocks if it rains

Watch out for sand and rocks if it rains
Underpass to get on to Lake Mead Parkway

Underpass to get on to Lake Mead Parkway

At about 10km you’re at the highest point (about 2500ft) of the Lake Mead section, which is a thunderous descent for about 7kms.

Note: The whole lake section is very exposed and susceptible to gusting winds. When I recce’d I was into a head wind (and from the left) going along Lakeshore Road to the first turn point managing about 25km/h in some sections. Then after turn one, with the wind behind me, I was sat up and travelling at 70km/h+. Think Ironman Lanzarote and be prepared to change your kit on race day (make sure you can control that deep section front wheel!). Northshore Road is also exposed, helpful on the way out but after turn point two it was a grind in places.

Wind aside, the two sections around the lake are a time trialer’s delight, rolling hills, nothing steep, fast smooth tarmac surface…enjoy. The main drag (which is steady) comes from the bottom of Northshore Road, right back on to East lake Mead Drive and back to Lake Mead Parkway.

Northshore Road descent, climb up to Lake Mead Parkway, Lake Las Vegas (left)

Northshore Road descent, climb up to Lake Mead Parkway, Lake Las Vegas (left)

Now for the interesting bit. We have to join the River Mountains Loop Trail (seriously worth recce-ing this section), something Alexander et al did not have to do during the 70.3 World Championships.

This is a very narrow eight-mile desert section taking us towards Henderson and T2. It has about three or four short sharp climbs early on, some fast descents with sharp corners worth noting, then mainly open and wind exposed long false flat sections. The field should be strung out by this time but bunches could form and passing will be interesting (pick your moments and be vocal, Brits remember that it is ‘on your left’ over here). Also, if it has rained or rains on race day, sand and stones do get washed on to the course.

These should give you an idea…

Sand on course, first short/steep ascent

Sand on course, first short/steep ascent
Sand on course, fast descent in to sharp left.

Sand on course, fast descent in to sharp left.
Tyre selection...some deep tarmac cracks in places

Tyre selection…some deep tarmac cracks in places
Second short/steep uphill section

Second short/steep uphill section
Fast decent, chicane then third short/steep uphill

Fast decent, chicane then third short/steep uphill
Third short/sharp uphill

Third short/sharp uphill
Steep descent with short/sharp hill

Steep descent with short/sharp hill
Fast descent with chicane, caution: sand on bend

Fast descent with chicane, caution: sand on bend
Very fast descent with sharp left

Very fast descent with sharp left
Pylon alley: Not my idea of a beautiful course

Pylon alley: Not my idea of a beautiful course
Long, long, long straight. If it's windy this will be very slow.

Long, long, long straight. If it’s windy this will be very slow.
Take a right off the trail

Take a right off the trail
Trail exit

Trail exit

After the desert section, we join the main roads, which get more and more suburban as we get closer to T2 (the only part that will attract the public’s attention).

The course goes along another trail for a short period, roll out the blue matting…

Let's hope they finish the course..! Left on to another trail before a railway crossing

Let’s hope they finish the course..! Left on to another trail before a railway crossing

The final section is made up of flats, some gradual inclines/declines, with a notable fast descent at 109kms for about 3.5kms before steadily rising again to the bike finish with plenty of time to get your feet out and spin.

T2 is a 21km drive away from the start and T1, map. Nothing much to add other than to recce as usual.

T2, Henderson Pavilion

T2, Henderson Pavilion

Run:

The most notable thing about the run course is that there is very little flat. We will be running either up or down on about a 2% grade. There is little to no breeze and when I ran it in 36-degree heat, I found it very draining. Don’t go out too fast, pace well as the incline and decline will add up over four laps. It doesn’t look much at first but it will be interesting to see how it takes its toll on athletes.

First turn out of T2 area on to Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

First turn out of T2 area on to Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
First turn point...it's all uphill back to T2 and towards turn point 2

First turn point…it’s all uphill back to T2 and towards turn point 2
Back up Paseo Verde Parkway

Back up Paseo Verde Parkway
Up Green Valley Parkway (as far as you can see and then some) towards turn point 2

Up Green Valley Parkway (as far as you can see and then some) towards turn point 2
Down Green Valley Parkway

Down Green Valley Parkway

Running around a new neighbourhood – it’s not going to be the most memorable of run courses, but may attract some spectators other than those you brought with you.

Overall:

A spectacular desert course that will be especially striking to European competitors.

An unusual eight-mile narrow track that will make things interesting.

The weather will be a massive factor on race day (wind and heat) and you will need to choose kit wisely (difficult with excess baggage charges these days).

You will not need a compact on this course. I’m not a strong cyclist and recce’d the course in a large compact chain ring easily. So, 53/39/25 but stronger riders may want to go bigger.

Wheels: If there is high wind, deep dish rear only. No wind, deep dish wheels or disc rear.

Time trial setup, aero helmet, etc. All the wind cheating accessories you own, you will need it on this course.

Plan how you will get to and from T1, T2 and team hotels. Swap mobile numbers with someone staying at the team hotel or the team manager so you don’t miss any notices going up on team noticeboards. I once turned up to race and the start time was put back an hour, I wasn’t staying in the team hotel so no one told me..!!!

I’m looking forward to the event, have a great race. If you have any questions drop me a line.

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