Less than two weeks out from Ironman 70.3 Muskoka in Huntsville, Ont., triathletes from all over are checking out the new bike course. The change comes because of construction along Highway 35, on the east side of Lake of Bays. The old course was 94km with lots of climbing. The new route is now 90km, and though it is an out and back, it still offers excellent views of Lake of Bays and many climbs.
The scenery in Muskoka is stunning. During your race, try to keep your eyes from wandering over the landscape. But, if you need a distraction from the pain, take a look around.
Pain—yes this course leaves a nice sting in the legs. Early into the ride, you hit the punchy climbs of Brunel Road. It is a tough start to the bike course, so try not to burn any matches early. It is in the middle section that you can make up time and build momentum going into the final 15km.
Approximately 18 km into the bike, you get a nice ‘flat’ section leading into Baysville, before taking a left onto Muskoka Road 117. In this section, you can get into a nice rhythm and tackle the gradual climbs on the 117. If you manage your efforts wisely on the 117, you will be able to settle into a nice rhythm. On the way back, you return on Brunel Road. The climbs on Brunel may come as a shock to the legs, but it is ‘all downhill,’ and you’ll find you can maintain your speed through this last section.
I and other triathletes riding the course, found the road surface to be pretty impressive. There is only one section in the course where you will have to exercise caution: 14-18 km into the course. Here the pavement changes to a rougher surface. The road has some ‘road snakes,’ tar strips that fill cracks, and a few potholes. On a sunny day, the potholes easily hide in the shadows, so you have to have your head up: call your passes and holes. For the most part, the size of the shoulder is adequate, but beware of sand on the shoulder. On the day I was pre-riding, there was municipal staff cleaning the shoulders.
Rough section on Brunel Road, lasting approximately 4km. Photo Cam Mitchell
Sand being cleared by municipal staff. Photo Cam Mitchell
If you’re racing and have the time, I recommend you drive out to Huntsville or get a ride out there to pre-ride the course. It will give you an idea of what to expect, as well as what the conditions may be like on race-day. On your pre-ride, do exercise caution. Take the time to view the road surface and make mental notes. You can also map the route out on Starva so you turn around at the right point.