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Cali 70.3 Bike Course Review

Posted By: KP
Date: Monday, 16 March 2009, at 12:39 p.m.

Cali 70.3 on Camp Pendleton is a challenging bike course. There may be quite a bit of wind to consider early as you ride up the coast and out to Christianitos where you turn inland. As well, there are some extended false flats. Once inland, three short climbs and three sets of rollers highlight the backside of the course. A usually solid head wind along with slight inclines, mark the trip back to T2 from near the mile 48 mark and your final return along Vandegrift.

Within the first 2 miles of leaving T1 you will turn left onto Stuart Mesa. This is a 500-600 meter climb. This is the perfect spot to begin your mental efforts to control your early intensity. There will be lots of athletes with high HRs out of the water on this hill and you'll hear heavy breathing and see athletes firing up this section. I recommend keeping things controlled at this point. I get into an easier gear and spin up with a high cadence.

At the top of the hill you begin the flat to rolling to gentle incline section up the coast. The wind will probably be in your face or coming across from the left and the ocean. The next 20 miles are generally slower than most would like them to be as there are some false flats. Be prepared for this. I would consciously control your efforts until you are up to Christianitos Road. Trying to maintain a previously determined average pace into a cross/headwind and up a false flat will make the last 34 miles of the course, and the run, more difficult for many athletes. Use your HR and wattage caps as a governor, not your speed.

At mile 10 (on base and about half way up to Christianitos where we turn inland) there is an out and back. As you turn right and ‘out’ the winds at your back will help push you along. Things can get quite a bit faster on this stretch, even with consistent efforts. Turn around and get the headwinds. You’ll be out and back in 20min. So, somewhere around 50min you resume heading up the coast. At this point there is a short steep roller. Control efforts in an easier gear. Then, you leave the base on a short steep descent. At the bottom of the hill is a 90 degree right hand turn that may have loose gravel and sand. Navigate carefully.

You will proceed up the coast on an extended false flat. It is a 2% incline into the wind. Average speed drops if you are smart. Then we ride some faster flatter miles of state park, past the San Onofre power plant, over a couple of short rollers and up a surprisingly steep bike path to Christianitos Road. If you have gotten this far and are feeling good after controlling urges to burn up your legs, you are well on your way to a good split. At the top of that path some riders will realize their mistake.

As we turn inland (right) on Christianitos, after a short incline, the rollers are such that a fairly strong cyclist can stay aero and really move along quite well. There will be bike traffic and slower riders to navigate who have gone out to hard.

Just past half way into the course you re-enter the base at the end of Christianitos. Turn right over a short roller and into some fast flats leading up to the first climb. The first climb is the steepest climb and is about .6 of a mile long or 1k. This is at about mile 30 or 31. It’s pretty steep. Get into your easiest gear (a 39/27 for me), control your power and HR at pre-race targets, and then work over the very top and early descent. I drop my HR as I descend the backside.

There are a series of rollers over the next 4-5 miles before climb number two. Be careful not to expend too much energy here. The second climb is close to a mile (1.6k) in length if you count the slight incline leading to the meat of it. Not as steep as the first but slightly longer. Over the top you’ll descend some steeper hills that require paying attention to bumps, some pot holes, slower riders and sharp turns. Then, it is only a couple of fast miles until the third climb.

The third climb is similar to the second but less protected by trees and headwinds come into play. Once you crest this climb, you’ll have a gradual incline for about a mile into what may be some significant headwind. Over the top of this gradual rise are some downhill rollers that most athletes will stay aero over and reach speeds in the lower to mid 30mph.

This stretch will bring you back the populated part of the base and the helicopter landing area and the intersection of Vandegrift and back toward T2. There is still some work to do back to transition. Some athletes will now be mentally challenged after going out too hard over the first 60min from T1 and then the climbing that follows. A smart ride can see you put several minutes into your competition from Vandegrift back to T2.

In general, my average speed and efforts are raised over the backside of the course (the three climbs and rollers during the trip to Vandegrift). Some parts of Vandegrift (the final stretch back are flat and some have a gradual incline, but most of it has a brisk headwind; sometimes harder. The surrounding hills make for a wind tunnel along this stretch. If you have not saved a bit of gas you could drop time to your competition. My pace along this stretch varies greatly if efforts remain constant (17mph to 25 mph). It is not flat and the wind does gust and move around some. This is usually an uncomfortable part of the ride.

I have noted conditions in the past. They range from rain and cold (50s) to sunny and hot, near 90 degrees F; maybe some of both. The ocean will be 57 to 63 degrees. On race day most riders will be on the course early enough that it will be cooler and there will be less wind to contend with. It may actually be a bit cold once you are out of the Pacific Ocean and head up coast. This is a great bike course – definitely the signature part of the race. Feel free to ask any questions you might have.

coach KP

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