Windsor Duathlon offers three distances and takes place at Dorney Lake which was the location for the Olympic rowing event at the London Olympic Games in 2012. The flat, quiet lake is the perfect place for multi-sport events and as such there are several events held here throughout the year. The Autumn Classic event is the last race of the year and sees a super-sprint, sprint, and standard duathlon in the morning as well as a 10k run and half marathon later in the day.
All three duathlon distances start together at 08:30am. This is fairly early for a race (especially in November when sunrise isn't until 07:30!) and as such means that anyone travelling to the area from any sort of distance has to get up very early. Travelling in from Essex, I had to get up at 5am to make it there on time! If the race were to start even just one hour later this would be better for people who might want to travel from other areas for the race. The race takes place at the Eton College rowing centre and this means the race hub is away from any roads and there is plenty of space for parking which is great. The event appears to be sponsored by Costa and so there were hot coffees and snacks on offer as well which was well received, especially by the competitors' chilly family and friends!
The transition area is fairly small and it was a free-for-all with regards to where you rack your bike. At previous events I've done, bike racking is done according to race number. Having no set space for the bikes meant that someone squeezed theirs next to mine at the last minute and nearly knocked it off the rack. The race briefing was quite quick and the person giving it did not have a microphone which meant a lot of people couldn't actually hear what was being said.
At no point were any British Triathlon rules enforced or specified, which means that if this had been my first duathlon I would have felt a little lost and clueless.
The course was around the stunning lake which had people rowing on it which really added to the charm. It is dead flat which means you're pretty much guaranteed a PB, but it also got a little boring towards the end. I never thought I'd wish for a hill! The course is well planned out and you don't have to do too many laps - it's 2 for the run and 4 for the bike for the sprint distance which is the one I did. The standard distance racers do have to do 8 laps for the bike but this isn't unreasonable. It's a very exposed course so if there had been a cross-wind it would have been horrendous, but as luck would have it, it was a perfectly still day which meant for perfect race conditions. There were zero hazards around the course which was great and meant I could just get my head down and race without having to keep slowing down for sharp bends or cattle grids which I've had to in previous races.
This was quite a small event and I would describe it as "no frills". There was no event photographer which I found quite surprising and not much going on pre- or post-race. There were a few portaloos on site and the Costa van for refreshments. There didn't seem to be many marshals around and I was not asked for ID or any sort of entry confirmation to get my race numbers. There was no one enforcing any transition rules which I found quite surprising the race briefing was a little rushed and brief which meant first-timers could have felt a bit lost. Finally, there were no signs upon leaving the car park and as there were still people racing we were worried we'd gone the wrong way. There was absolutely no way of knowing where to go and we ended up driving around the lake a few times!
All that said, it was still a great event and I really enjoyed myself. It maybe wouldn't be ideal for a first-time multi-sport athlete but it's a great course and you're guaranteed a good time.