The London 2012 Olympic Games course preview

by Merryn Sherwood on 30 Jul, 2012 09:59

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Explanation of the London 2012 course

It always plays a part in deciding the podium in any triathlon race, and the course for the triathlon event at the London 2012 Olympic Games is an interesting one, with a long one-lap 1.5km swim, a technically demanding 43km bike leg and a deceptively tough 10km run. Here is an overview of the course and its pressure points.

So far, the triathlon courses at the Olympic Games have all offered something different. Sydney had a terrain that included a number of rises without any major hills, while Athens is widely regarded as one of the toughest ever courses, with a steep hill capped off with a hairpin turn at the summit. Beijing also offered a tough bike course, and added in hot weather. This year downtown London is the background for the triathlon events at the 2012 Olympic Games.

In London, the swim takes place in The Serpentine and the pontoon start is on the north side of the lake. As in last year’s ITU World Triathlon Series London event, it is one long lap, similar to the 2008 Beijing Olympic course. Last year there wasn’t a huge break in either pack after the swim, and many athletes said it was one of the toughest on the circuit. The USA’s Laura Bennett said that it was the hardest part of the course. “The swim was the most difficult, it was hard to get away from everyone.” This year, with both fields packed with the sport’s best swimmers, led by Great Britain’s Lucy Hall and Slovakia’s Richard Varga respectively, a breakaway could emerge directly out of the water. Another added question this year is whether the swim will be a wetsuit one. Last year neither the men’s or women’s race was a wetsuit swim, although athletes did complete a warm-up swim in wetsuits, but London’s cooler than average summer may mean the Olympic race could be. According to ITU Competition Rules, any water temperature under 20 degrees Celsius is a designated wetsuit swim.

When athletes hit the exit ramp, it’s a 200m run into transition in front of the grandstands. From there, the world’s best will quickly be onto the flat, fast and technical bike course. The 43km seven-lap ride starts on Serpentine Road and athletes head out in the direction of West Carriage Drive. Athletes will then cycle via South Carriage Drive towards Hyde Park Corner where the loop leaves Hyde Park to hit the incredible backdrop of Consitution Hill and Buckingham Palace. In front of Buckingham Palace athletes turn to go back up Constitution Hill and across Hyde Park Corner into Serpentine Road, where the race pack will then pass the transition area and grandstands on every single loop. Athletes will do seven laps of 6.137km for an exact total of 42.959km.

The course is flat and technically demanding but last year proved breakaways were possible, with New Zealand’s James Elvery and Alistair Brownlee rocketing off the front, and then Russia’s Alexander Bryukhankov and Spain’sIvan Rana bridging up to join them in last year’s race.

Triathlon at the London 2012 Olympic Games: At a glance
Swim - One-lap, 1.5-kilometre swim in the Serpentine, with a pontoon start on the north side of the lake.
Bike - Seven-lap, 43-kilometre cycle leg that starts with transition on Serpentine Road, then down South Carriage Drive towards Hyde Park Corner. From there the loop takes in London icons like Constitution Hill and Buckingham Palace. The course is generally flat, with no climbs, but is technically demanding and has over 100 turns.
Run - Four-lap, 10-kilometre run on a flat course, that runs along the side of the Serpentine.

At the end of the bike athletes will then come back through transition to finish the course on the 10-kilometre four-lap run, which circles the Serpentine again. The lead out is the same as the bike, but before reaching the corner of West Carriage and South Carriage Drive they will need to turn back and run down towards the southern edge of the Serpentine. The elite athletes will run along the edge of Serpentine, passing the Lido, and then run counter-clockwise around the eastern part of the Serpentine before coming back on Serpentine road. From there it’s approximately 750m straight on into the transition area.

One of the most interesting parts about the run is that while it appears flat, it actually isn’t. Plenty of athletes commented after last year’s London races that the undulating road had been a nice surprise. And none more so than Alistair Brownlee, “I was quite surprised that the run was good, it had different surfaces and corners and hills and stuff so I quite enjoyed that,” he said. It’s still very fast, last year five men ran under 30 minutes for the 10km and three women beat the 34 minute mark.

The final finishing straight where the 2012 Olympic Gold medallists for triathlon will be crowned is in front of the grandstands on the western edge of Serpentine Road. Overall the course is designed with fans in mind, as athletes will pass through the finish area a total of 12 times.

Triathlon will also be one of the only Olympic sports with free viewing points, available along all segments of the race. For more on how to travel to the venue and where to watch, visit the London 2012 website here

Click here to view the interactive course map

Article gallery
Related Event: London 2012 Olympic Games
04 - 07 Aug, 2012 • event pageall results
Results: Elite Women
1. Nicola Spirig SUI 01:59:48
2. Lisa Norden SWE 01:59:48
3. Erin Densham AUS 01:59:50
4. Sarah True USA 02:00:00
5. Helen Jenkins GBR 02:00:19
Results: Elite Men
1. Alistair Brownlee GBR 01:46:25
2. Javier Gomez Noya ESP 01:46:36
3. Jonathan Brownlee GBR 01:46:56
4. David Hauss FRA 01:47:14
5. Laurent Vidal FRA 01:47:21
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