Originally used by King Henry VIII as a hunting reserve for deer (the King acquired the land in 1536), Hyde Park was opened to the public by King James I in 1637. The park is typically brimming with activity of all kinds – cycling, running, horseback riding along with people just out enjoying a walk – but this August things will heat up as the famous park plays host to the Olympic triathlon.
The swim takes place in the lake inside the park known as the Serpentine, which was created in 1730. The athletes will start on a pontoon on the north side of the lake and do a one-loop 1,500 m swim, turning just in front of the Serpentine Bridge, which separates Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens. Once they complete the swim, the athletes will fly into transition, which will be, as always in ITU draft-legal racing, one of the most exciting points to watch the race.
A quick transition is critical, especially on this London course, because of the flat, fast and technical bike course. The 43 km bike course consists of seven 6.1 km loops. Each loops takes the athletes through the park and down Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace. The course turns around in front of Buckingham Palace and heads back up Constitution Hill into the park. The athletes pass the transition area and grandstands on every single loop. There really aren’t any climbs on the course – the challenges come from a few speed bumps and the tight turns.
The four-lap, 10 km run circles the Serpentine again, including a short out-and-back section after the athletes cross the Serpentine bridge. The course is perfectly set up for an exciting finish – there’s basically a 750 m straightaway into the finish.