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Route of the Month: Wimbleball
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 16th June 2010


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With UK Ironman 70.3 ahead of us this weekend in Wimbleball, it is a great time to re-visit one of our Garmin Route of the Month features from the bike course!


This month’s Route of the Month is the UK Ironman 70.3 course at Wimbleball in Somerset. The course was ridden for us as a training exercise by Mat Cowdrey and Richard Merry who kindly carried the Garmin Edge 305 unit to get the route data for us.

Mat and Richard Matthew is an experienced triathlete at both Ironman and ITU Long Course (the good old fashioned Nice-distance type) and is currently sponsored by Tri-UK. Richard is a member of East Grinstead Tri Club who is making his first step up to Ironman 70.3 from a number of years at Standard distance. Neither had ridden the course before and the following gives their account of the route. Matthew was riding a Giant TCR Trinity with Reynolds DV UK wheels, Oval A900 Upgrade tri bars and an Ultegra 53:39 and 11:25 setup. Richard was riding an Argon 18 Helium with Ultegra 53:39 and 12:27 setup.

The numbers in square brackets [x] refer to locations on the map and represent the major identification points on the route map. You can match these very easily to the map on the MotionBased system which we have included below. Because both riders were wearing their own HRM units we did not record a heart rate trace on the Edge.

Wimbleball route

Transition [1]

Leaving transition

M: As soon as you come out of transition you start going uphill. This sets the scene for the next 20 minutes of riding so make sure you’re in a nice small gear and just spin up the first couple of hundred metres. As you hang a right at the end of the lane you start to descend and you’re able to pick up a fair bit of speed as you cross the lake. Immediately you’re across the lake you start your first sharp climb of the day. I was able to spin this reasonably well in 39/25 and although I stayed seated, the HR did rise a little. From here the road rolls up and down for the next two miles until you get to the junction with the B3190.

R: The initial climb proved a little harder for me although I did remain seated and tried to spin my 27 (a very suitable addition for the weekend!) We did gain over 300ft in this opening section.

Turn left [2]

M: You turn left and have a short hop to the A3224. The road is a little bumpy in places, but nothing out of the ordinary. Just as the road flattens out you take a very sharp turn left [3].

R: An uneventful opportunity to put some air back in my lungs after the first couple of miles.

Left turn [3]

M: After this left turn you can just get it in the big ring and work. Even the uphill pieces feel quite smooth and the rolling nature of the road means that you can maintain good speed as you climb. I spent this entire stretch of road on the tri-bars

As you approach the last piece of this top road you can stay in the big ring and work the bike out of the saddle to the top of the slope before you do a sharp left turn.

R: Overall a pretty flat leg of the loop, no real time lost by not being on a TT bike set-up here and a chance to catch your breath after the initial climb and get some food and drink onboard.

Turn left towards Dulverton/Tiverton [4]

Turn 4 signpostTurn 4 signage

M: After the turn you have a good half a mile of downhill where you can pick up speed nicely, whilst at the same time keeping an eye out for some uneven road surface. You face three short climbs on this stretch of road that it’s perfectly possible to take in the big ring although I’d probably err on the side of caution and spin up them. You can let the bike go on all of this stretch of road giving you a good lead into the uphills as the road continues to open up in front of you.

R: This 9 mile stretch of the route drops the best part of 1000ft, there are some short, sharp hills but the speed gained means they are just a “spoiler” to what would be a fantastic descent.

Downhill into the mist

M: The end of this stretch of road is met with a very sharp and descent where you just bleed speed as you have no choice but to be on the brakes. You’ll see the descent coming to your right as you ride through some heavy tree cover so you should have fair warning. At the bottom of this descent you take a 90-degree left turn.

R: This downhill and the turns to negotiate at the bottom mean you have no choice but to cover the brakes, any speed gained on the drop down will have been lost by the time you reach the turn onto the A396 so sit back and enjoy.

Steep downhill then sharp left [5]

Turn to the A396Turn to the A396Turn to the A396

M: Once on the A396 you get to enjoy what is probably the only truly flat piece of road on the course. Enjoy it while it lasts.

As you come in to Exbridge you approach a very small village with a pink/orange sided house on the other side of the road. As you get level with the house you have a blind left hand turn to make at Wilson’s farm.

Sharp, hidden left turn [6]

Wilson's Farm turnWilson's Farm turnWilson's Farm turn

M: Ahead of you is the first of the real climbs. You can see the hedge line ahead of you as you start to climb and it’s the pylons at the top that you’re aiming for. I was able to spin this one to start with but was soon out of the saddle with a 39/25. Although steep it’s over pretty much as soon as it started and you’re on the downhill.

Pylon climb

R: The first real shock to the system, I was spinning away happily under the crackling power cables when the road kicked up a little more, maybe for only 4-500m but enough to get me up out of the saddle and my heart rate up to 180bpm, about 90% HR max. The first real climb of the day.

M: After what is a very short downhill you get to a T-junction where you turn left. You’re soon into a slight incline that goes on for half a mile or so and again I was able to spin this out with a 39/21.

Left towards Morebath [7]

Morebath turn Morebath turn

M: As the road progress round to the right you pass a driveway with two birds of prey at the end. This is a good place to take in some nutrition as you have about two minutes to the main climb of the day. The road bends left and then left again and over to your right you get to see the 14% hill that everyone’s told you about.

Time for a quick feed

M: It starts out pretty steady, and as you go past the 14% sign there’s a short piece of out the saddle work before you’re back seated again and spinning it out. Then the road bends left and the real hill starts. The steep bit comes in two waves with the second part being slightly less severe than the first, but as it naturally comes after the first it doesn’t feel a lot better. My max HR on the bike is 179 and I hit 175 and 176 respectively on my two laps. Once the steep stuff’s over you continue to climb, but now you’re just spinning away.

R: The mere sight of the 14% sign had my HR climbing however it’s the pitch that kicks up that is that steep I am guessing, more time out of the saddle on the 27 got me hauled up to the top. With a highest HR recorded of 189 (95% MHR) 500ft of altitude has been gained back. Like the first main climb it’s the steep pitches that catch you out.

That climb

14% climb14% climb

M: Once on the downhill you can pick up speed quite quickly and again the road just opens up in front of you, but as soon as the road starts to climb, get in the small ring and start spinning or you’ll get caught out (as I did on the first lap). You get to the top of this incline at Haddon Cross and then you’ve got a nice long downhill piece coming up. The worst is over.

The downhill gets as steep as 17% and unfortunately you don’t get to take full advantage of it due to the narrow nature of the bends and poor road surface. Then you’re left with about a 3km climb to the end of the lap. There’s nothing nasty about this last climb, it just comes at the end of the lap after a lot of hard climbing and you’ll need to get spinning again.

At the end of the second lap you turn back down the road to the lake. You obviously already know this piece of road from the other direction, but it’s a lot more fun on the way home. The lake road was a little unstable at speed as there was a bit of a crosswind, then there’s a short climb and you’re back at the entrance to transition.

R: Make the most of the downhill run into the lake (you drop around 500ft again) Enjoy the views, get a drink, but don’t however switch off. There is one final climb before transition, which will shake you from your revelry.

Left turn [8]

Left turn. The sign kind of gives it away.

M: In all I found the course quite good. The road surface was poor in places, but the majority was OK. The first two thirds of the lap are pretty quick and I was able to stay in the big ring for a very long time that came as a nice surprise. The last third is hilly and nasty and needs to be taken gently the first time round. The hills are definitely steep, but with the exception of the 14% climb they’re all pretty short. Oh, and if you get the chance to look, the scenery’s wonderful.

R: I finally realised I had not bitten off more than I can chew! I will get round this course, lumpy though it is. The road conditions are no worse than those around the Surrey Hills lanes and the scenery is stunning. Be prepared to work hard on the second half of the lap and if, like me it’s your first attempt at a 70.3 maybe pack a 27, or even a compact. They won’t suffer from lack of use!.


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