Thursday, August 2, 2012

IM Louisvile Bike Course Review

Last weekend, Sarah, Jason and I headed out to Louisville to train out on the IM bike course. We’d heard mixed feedback on the course – Tons of hills! Never flat! Easy! No climbing! – and wanted to have a good idea of what we were in for come race day so that we had one less thing to worry about.

Turns out that there are hills, but they aren’t terrible, and there are only a couple of tight, technical turns.

Commence sigh of relief from all involved.

Here’s what we found out in Kentucky.

Out of Louisville, to the loop

Miles 0-10: River Road
  • The course starts off very flat and straight. This will give you a good opportunity to settle in on the bike and lower your heart rate after the swim.
  • There are a few rough sections with potholes and cracked pavement, as well as railroad tracks around mile 4, that could cause flats or water bottle ejections if you aren’t careful.

Miles 10-17: US-42 (until the out-and-back stick)
  • After turning onto US-42 from River Road, there is a ¾ mile climb with a moderate grade. It’s not steep or long, but it would be easy to burn out your legs trying to keep pace going up it. Don’t; there are still 102 miles to go.
  • After the climb, you gradually gain elevation for the remainder of this section. It is a low enough grade that I was able to do almost all of it in the big ring.
  • There are some strong winds on this section – notably some crosswinds. Be sure that you have confidence in your ability to keep your bike stable in wind.

Miles 17-27: Highway 1694 (the out-and-back stick)
  • Soon after turning on to Highway 1694, you will descend about 150 feet over a mile and a half.
  • Then you spend the next mile and a half climbing another 150 feet.
  • After that, you turn around for the reverse - descend again, then climb again.
  • None of the climbs are steep, but they are relatively long.

Miles 27-31: US-42 (from the out-and-back stick to the start of the loop)
  • This section is relatively flat.
  • You may again encounter some wind here, as the road is fairly exposed.

The loop (You’ll do this twice; I’m listing the mileage markers for both loops)

Miles 31-35.5/61-65.5: Highway 393
  • There is a gradual elevation gain this entire section. Your average speed will probably drop, but you can get it back on the descent on the back of the loop
  • The hills roll a bit, but aren’t steep anywhere.

Miles 35.5-43/65.5-73: Highway 146
  • More gradual elevation gain as you come into LaGrange, which is where spectators catch some of the biking action. Enjoy the crowd!
  • The road flattens out and even descends a bit

Miles 43-45.5/73-75.5: Ballard School Road
  • A nice, clear road…with a not-so-nice steep hill followed immediately by a false flat. It’s discouraging to see your speed drop on the false flat if you aren’t aware that you’re actually gaining some elevation. Don’t be. Just pedal away.
  • At the end of this section, there is a downhill followed by a sharp right turn. Be careful here, nobody wants crash-induced DNFs.

Miles 45.5-47.5/75.5-77.5: Old Sligo Road
  • After that sharp right turn, you’ll be going back uphill almost immediately. Shift to an easier gear in advance, since you can’t see this hill before the turn.
  • There is one hill that is short but very steep – the one hill that I got out of my saddle to climb. It’s short enough that it’s not a quad-eater, but you’ll have to push a little to get up it.

Miles 47.5-50.5/77.5-80.5: L’Esprit Parkway and US-153
  • Fairly flat and straight before heading back down US-42

Miles 49-61/79-91: US-42 (Loop section)
  • This section is a net descent, and you should pick up some speed without any extra effort.
  • There are two short hills, but you go into each of them with some downhill momentum, so they won’t take much out of you. 

Back to Louisville from the loop

Miles 90-102: US-42 (Loop to River Road)
  • Remember how you had to climb up to the loop? Now you get to enjoy the steady descent back into town.
  • However, it’s only a gentle descent, and you’re 90+ miles into the bike leg, so you won’t feel as if you are going easy. You will, however, notice some speed increase.
  • There could be some wind here. Crosswind/headwind/tailwind – be prepared for any of it.
  • You will NOT be doing the Highway 1694 out-and-back stick. You save yourself those hills this time around.

Miles 102-112: River Road
  • More flat riding to finish up the bike leg. Don’t hammer, you’ve got a marathon waiting for you at the end of this.

Overall, the course offers a good balance of hills and flat sections, without any demoralizing climbs. I’m not exactly the strongest cyclist out there, and was able to finish the ride on pace for a seven hour bike split without depleting myself. Just be patient on the hills and let your speed drop so that your legs are ready to take on the run at the end.


  1. I am still so glad we got a chance to go. I feel a ton better now, but I'm still nervous. ugh.