New Ironman UK bike route a “tough nut to crack”, says tester

Pro triathlete Paul Hawkins spills the beans on the new 2014 cycle course, which he says offers little respite for weary riders and has a 'nasty sting in the tail'

Triathletes cycling in Ironman UK

We chat to pro triathlete Paul Hawkins about what to expect at the new bike route for this year’s Ironman UK, which has been changed to accommodate more athletes this year and now includes a climb up Hunters Hill.

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Paul is a Manchester-based former Royal Marine who placed third at Ironman UK 2012, and was invited by the organisers to try out the new route before it was finalised.

So Paul, what’s the new bike course like?

The new course has everything, it’s not your typical European Ironman where you spend the entire time aero. Bolton has a good variety of hills, steep and gradual, some nice fast parts and some great technical tight roads to really test everyone to the limit.

The new course will be a tough nut to crack – it still includes the now infamous Sheep House Climb, which is only tackled twice now, but is far more rolling than before. It has a nasty sting in the tail towards the end of the lap with a steep climb up Hunters Hill which will really test the legs in the second lap.

What were the trickiest sections for you?

I think the trickiest part of the course will be the middle section between Sheep House and Hunters Hill, where the terrain is constantly up and down all the way with little respite. It will be difficult to find a rhythm with so many twists and turns, so a complete cyclist will come out on top of this course.

It has less total vertical ascent than the old bike route – did you notice the difference?

The new course has less total climbing, but I wouldn’t say it is easier, a good part of the course is very rolling and there are some good tough climbs thrown in there.

What advice would you give to riders this year?

If possible familiarise yourself with the course and get to know it, it’s a fantastic course and a great place to ride round the moors – take the chance to figure out what gearing you want for race day. 

Without doubt it’s a TT bike course, but I would ride a 27 or 28 cassette on the back as the second time up Hunters you will be grateful and still have a not-so-flat run to do. Bolton is a well supported event and the locals enjoy their sport so use their energy to help you up the climbs! 

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For more information on this year’s Ironman UK head here