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Nokia Windsor Triathlon: Garmin Route of the Month
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Tuesday 25th May 2010


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With the Nokia Windsor Triathlon coming up shortly (13th June 2010), after a wonderful ride in the Sunday sun I was reminded of what a fantastic bike course Windsor is. Perfect timing to revisit one of our most popular Garmin Route of the Month features as you fine tune your preparations for the big day.


This month we take in a classic ride round the Berkshire countryside: the Nokia Windsor Triathlon bike course. Starting and finishing at the foot of Windsor Castle, it seems a deceptively easy ride but there's over 900 feet of elevation to be gained along the way which can put a dent in those legs before you tackle the run up Castle Hill three times!

The route was ridden for us by Tri247's editor, John Levison, along with Hillingdon Triathletes club mates Dave Wardle and Steve Gardner. Because the event has both a full distance and a sprint distance race they broke the bike route down into three sections using the Garmin's lap function so while the standard distance course is all three 'laps', the sprint distance is only lap 1 plus lap 3.

A full map of the course is available on the Human Race website as a downloadable PDF and we have also processed the Garmin route into a KML file that you can load into Google Earth for a full "fly through".

Section 1 (all)

The bike route starts on a mount line in Goswell Road, immediately outside the main gates to Alexandra Gardens and goes under the Slough to Windsor railway bridge to the King Edward Court roundabout. During the race riders returning from the course will be coming across the roundabout as well so you will need to watch the other approach for oncoming bikes. Turn right at the roundabout heading away from the town down Arthur Road. There are two sets of lights along here, both will be controlled on race day, before you reach the Windsor Relief Road. Go across the roundabout and pick up the A308 Maidenhead Road.

100 yards into the road, just past the petrol station, there is a mini roundabout with a raised kerb which needs to be taken sensibly.

Approaching Drift RoadOnce past this you can put the hammer down and head out past the Windsor Racecourse, the Squires garden centre roundabout and then on past Bray Studios towards the M4 and Maidenhead. This section is slightly up hill all the way and is fairly open and exposed -- you are heading into any prevailing wind. Once through Bray there is a mini roundabout under the M4 and then you come to the roundabout at the end of the A303M spur. Take the first exit which is the A330 Ascot Road. On race day the roundabout is often coned to allow bikes a clear run through but obviously traffic coming from the right does have priority!!

The road rises at this point to cross back over the M4 and then drops down into Holyport. The road is fairly narrow here and there are several bends where you might be tempted to pass using the "wrong" side of the road - remember that the course is open to traffic and if you can't see what's coming then it's foolish to be tempted. Leaving Holyport behind the road climbs gently through Stud Green and then crosses the ridge to drop back down to the end of the section at the Drift Road roundabout.

Section 2 (full only)

Full distance athletes will go straight across here on the A330 while the sprint distance course turns left into Drift Road and heads for home. If you look left during the race you will see other bikes approaching the roundabout coming up Drift Road but you have about 7½ miles to go before you get to that point!

The full distance course is now heading to the top of the hill and, although it's hardly a climb in any real sense, there's a definite feeling that Windsor's course is nowhere near as flat as you may have first thought. After the first climb there's a great downhill section with an 'S' bend at the bottom and then it's straight into a second short climb before dropping down into Maidens Green. This section is like a roller coaster and you want to be carrying momentum rather than struggling so keep the cadence going rather than backing off on the two descents.

Prepare for a hard leftAs soon as you see the Maidens Green sign on the left-hand verge get ready to turn hard left into Winkfield Lane. If the road conditions allow, you will benefit from being as near the centre line as is safely possible to open up the turn but do remember that you need to stay on the left-hand side of the road after the turn -- ending up as a hood ornament on an oncoming car won't be any fun...

Winkfield Lane winds through more countryside and has the interesting quirk of not having a central white line for much of its length - however, with numerous properties and small turnings on either side it's best to keep clearly on the left. Like much of the road around the area it has suffered over the winter and a recent programme of maintenance has left a patchwork of repairs and different surfaces. At the end of Winkfield Lane you will come to a T junction with bikes passing from left to right in front of you. They are on their way home, you will be turned left to head into the infamous Drift Road section.

Turn into Drift Road Drift Road rollercoaster

 

180° turn coming upDrift Road gets its infamy from the fact that, if groups are going to form then this is where it will happen! The road is now generally descending and it's easy to pick up free speed -- although there are a couple of nasty tight bends -- and, because there are bikes now coming towards you on the other side of the road groups tend to form and then disperse down this section. Because of this, the referees often set up static draftbusters along the road and will catch you both coming and going -- the penalty boards are usually well populated at Windsor!

As you reach the bottom of the slope it becomes very obvious that you're going to have to pay back that free speed as the road now climbs in a series of small humps before flattening out on the approach to the roundabout that you passed just over 7 miles ago. About 50 metres before the roundabout there is a small layby and here you will be turned through 180° and sent on your way back down Drift Road.

Section 3 (all)

Anyone doing the sprint distance course and all the full distance riders are now on the same route heading back first down the humps and then up the steady drag towards the end of Drift Road. At the T junction you will make a left and about 100m later you will enter a roundabout. The sight lines here are not brilliant and although the whole roundabout is marshalled you need to be aware that the major traffic will becoming from your right and has the right of way. Taking care not to cut too close to the central island (that will put you on completely the wrong line for the exit and you'll clip that nasty little kerb) you take the second exit and head up the last climb of the day, Mount Hill. Once again, this really isn't much of a climb in real terms but. once it's done you know that it is, literally, all downhill from here to the end of the bike section.

Back down the rollercoaster This really is the end of the road!
The sign... The reality...

Taking the first exit from the roundabout the road slowly opens out into the Great Park and, if you have the time or the inclination, you can see right across to the Castle, Heathrow, Slough and, on a clear day, pretty much into Central London. The road starts to drop away and you can build up an impressive speed down this section. There is a set of traffic lights here for horses to cross the road so don't assume you'll have the right of way if they go red! The road does kick up slightly but you should be going fast enough that you don't even notice and then it flattens out heading straight into the town with the Castle dead ahead. At the 'kidney shaped' roundabout you keep to the left, sweeping past Princess Margaret's Hospital before entering the tricky one way section. As soon as it's safe you need to move to the right-hand lane as it curves up and round the flats and through another set of lights before dropping back to the Alma Road roundabout.

Cracking downhill into the Great Park Through the tunnel to finish.

Take the second exit off the roundabout into Alma Road and go past the Police station to the traffic lights where you will be directed right into Clarence Street and then left into Charles Street. You are now approaching the King Edwards Court roundabout and will have other cyclists on the roundabout going right to left in front of you. You need to effectively go straight across and back under the railway arch in Goswell Road.

The bike course doesn't end on the road, however, as on race day you will turn hard left into Alexandra Gardens on the pavement (there is a ramped entrance) and then follow the tarmac path round the outside of transition to the dismount point at the far end.

Aftermath

Windsor has loads of nice little coffee shops to revive you after the ride; Barry's Café in Barry Avenue by the River Thames on the other side of Alexandra Gardens is also a traditional meeting place for people doing the route.


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