Last weekend a group of triathletes rode the bike course for Ironman Boulder, scheduled for August 3, 2014. Computrainer organized a group from D3 Multisport, the four-time consecutive national champion University of Colorado Triathlon team and others in order to video it for a Computrainer program, to be released soon.
It’s a fine course that shows off much of what cycling in Boulder has to offer. Starting from Boulder Reservoir and heading west to 36 then north to Carter Lake, then east on the prairie and back into Boulder, this 112-mile course has about 4000 feet of climbing and has some spectacular scenery.
The Carter Lake segment is a classic that will be well familiar to Boulder athletes. The switchbacks on the climb up to the dam average about 6.5% (according to my Garmin and some live-time averaging while I was huffing and puffing). From the lake you head north past the store and down the big descent to county road 18E. Flatlanders and others who don’t like descents will be on the brakes, but there are no sharp turns and good descenders will be going fast.
The route east from Carter Lake takes a few turns to get you out along Colorado Highway 60 and past familiar roads that let you know you are on your way to Kansas. You cross US 287, then I25 before turning south to the east of Firestone and Frederick.
After a nice tour of the farm country and some nice rolling terrain, the course heads west, giving the athletes fine views of the Front Range peaks. Passing to the east and then north of Erie, the course takes a few turns to gain Colorado Highway 52 toward the mountains. You know you are coming back into town when you cross from Weld into Boulder County, then cross US 287 and eventually turn south on 79th Street, familiar terrain for many local athletes.
The route from 79th into town is anything but a straight shot. The hill on 79th from CO 52 to Lookout Road has a short 10% climb and a longer 6.5% upgrade, with two false summits (sorry about that!), before you hit the west turn on Lookout and take the booming downhill toward town, hitting 75th south, then again west onto Jay Road.
Some inspired route finding avoids having to contend with traffic on the Diagonal. The route goes south on 57th, west on Independence, then north on the Diagonal for a short stretch before accessing the bike path and its underpass under the Diagonal. Not having to interrupt traffic on that road will generate fewer enemies in the motor vehicle community.
The route heads north again, back to Jay Road, then south on Folsom, now newly paved and void of the previous crater-sized potholes and as smooth as a smoothie. Before you turn west on Arapahoe Road, start thinking about your transition and about getting ready to run. T2 will be at Boulder High School, a fine place to commence your final leg.
Here are a couple of Garmin courses if you want to download them to your device and ride the course. This first one takes you on the course all the way to the intersection of CO 60 and county road 19. Due to massive road construction, our group missed the turn at 19 and headed all the way to US 85 (not recommended—lots of debris on the generous but cluttered shoulder. At least four flats ensued.). This course takes you back into town on CO 52, then close to but not precisely on the IM course.
The following course traces the route of the final 27 miles of the bike course, from near Erie to Boulder High School, precisely on the IM course.
The overall IM Boulder bike course will be challenging with a bit of climbing, some bacon-strip rollers and lots of right-angle turns. It has a nice mix of mountain and plains vistas, and avoids crossing some of the major highways that would create massive traffic jams for motorists. While there is a good amount of climbing in total, it’s not tragic. Videographer Kevin Lynch, who is capturing the course for Computrainer, said, “They could have done a lot worse. They didn’t throw in any really nasty climbs.” Kevin had just completed a week of video coverage for the Pro Cycling Tour, where they most certainly did throw in a lot of nasty climbs, so he was in a position to voice his opinion.
Best of luck to everyone training for the inaugural Ironman Boulder, just 11 months away. Enjoy the bike course. The official course map is here if you want to look it over.