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‘Harder than it looks on paper’ – Joe Skipper on World Champs bike course in Nice

'It's just relentless,' says Brit of the Nice bike circuit.

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Joe Skipper has underlined just how challenging the bike course could prove to be at next week’s men’s IRONMAN World Championship in Nice.

Bike-handling skills will be to the fore on the up-and-down 180.2km circuit, with descending arguably just as important as climbing prowess.

It should be right up Skipper’s street and talking to Tim Ford in the latest Talking Triathlon podcast which is embedded below, they both agreed it’s going to be both tricky and spectacular – and if the same ruling which saw Lionel Sanders disqualified from the IRONMAN 70.3 Worlds last weekend is applied, that will add a further layer of difficulty.

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‘It’s relentless’

The popular Brit, who is one of the leading contenders having finished seventh, sixth and then fifth in his last three Kona appearances, said: “It’s a really honest course isn’t it?

“You’ve got the big climb [which starts around 40km in], but then once you get to the top of the climb, it’s not flat. It’s like a little bit of downhill for about two minutes, and then it’s just constantly up and down.

“It’s not until you’re about 120 kilometres into the race that you actually really get the proper descent from the climb.”

But it’s soon after that initial descent that the riders head back up for what Skipper feels could be a hugely significant climb that late into the race.

He explained: “It’s a ten k climb, which no one really talks about. It’s not that steep, which is actually probably good for me. But the wheels are going to come off for some people.

“That’s because you can’t blag it. It’s not like you can go hard for five minutes. It’s a good 20 to 25-minute climb, I’d say, even if you’re pushing it hard. So that is really going to hurt some people and end some people’s races.

“And I think if you’ve got enough in the tank when you get there, you can really make some good progress and catch a lot of people up who have gone out way too ambitiously earlier on in the ride.

“So, yes, it’s definitely harder than what it looks like on paper, or when you see the profile. It is just relentless.”

What goes up must come down

Much has been talked about the climbing but the pivotal moments could come when descending.

Skipper said: “The descent is not one where you can relax and get energy back. You’ve got to really concentrate, haven’t you? Otherwise you just crash.

“It’s not an enjoyable descent because of that. It’s one that you just want to get down, it’s not one that you actually would want to do if you’re out training to have fun, because it’s just so sketchy.”

Ford, who took in much of the recce with Skipper and American Matt Hanson admitted he had been “surprised by is how poor the road surfaces are” and added that any rain would make things even tougher.

“Oh, if it rains, it is definitely going to be horrific,” was Skipper’s response.

Challenge Geraardsbergen 2023 - Photo Credit José Luis Hourcade
[Photo Credit: José Luis Hourcade]

And turning his attention to what happened to Sanders in Finland and his DQ for crossing what in that race was an ‘imaginary’ centre-line, Skipper adds: “I wonder if that’s going to be the rule for the pros in Nice? Because I think it’s going to be impossible to stay inside the white lines on some of those corners.

“Especially with the speed you’re going and how technical and difficult they are.

“And some of the corners, you’re not going to be able to help yourself because you can’t know what every corner is like in advance. You’re racing, you’re full on, you’re in the zone.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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