Challenge Philippines: Course Review, get ready for the 2016 race!

By Vinnie Santana, Coach, ironguides.net

Challenge Philippines in Subic Bay has been run and won. We watched two former professional cyclists winning the race on which is a statement of a course that can be challenging on the bike. Domenico Passuelo, the men’s winner had a bike split of 2h24 which is almost twenty minutes slower that we can expect him to go on a flat and fast course, this translates more to forty minutes to one hour slower to a less skilled and fit age grouper triathlete.

It’s unlikely you will have super fast splits at Challenge Subic Philippines, if that’s your goal, you are better with Challenge Camsur in June, but if you are looking for a challenging, hilly and technical course, with close to zero drafting problems, then Subic is a perfect race for that

1.9k Swim

There’s only so much a race organizer can add to their swim courses but Challenge Philippines made sure they had one of the nicest, under the water views a triathlete can experience.


On the first half of the course, there is a large section of corals and marine life, then on the last half, the athletes swim over a ship wreck, making it a very unique experience. The water is warm and calm.

90k Bike Course

There was a big debate before the race on which type of bike would have been more appropriate, road bike or time trial. The eventual female winner, Emma Pooley, who is a silver medalist at the Time Trials in the Olympics, opted for a road bike even though she didn’t have the information that the course had changed and the most aggressive hill was taken off it and replaced for a flatter section, it didn’t stop her from smashing her competitors on the bike.

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Some notes on equipment

On a general note, high performance and skilled athletes would benefit from a time trial bike, while beginners and less technical riders could go faster on a road bike.

Domenico Passuelo won the men's race on a time trial bike, he is a former cyclist and has the skill to ride that on that type of course
Domenico Passuelo won the men’s race on a time trial bike, he is a former cyclist and has the skill to ride that on that type of course


There are some very long and straight downhill sections on the course that may take as much as 10min, if you prefer to ride at a lower cadence, consider using a bigger chain ring otherwise you may run out of gears since the downhills are steady and safe enough so you should still be riding.  On the flip side, you may need to balance that with a bigger cassete to deal with the uphills sections of the course.

Good brakes

To have a fast ride you need to be confident with your equipment especially that you have the ability to slow down or stop suddenly. Several of the new time trial bikes have new brakes systems that aren’t as effective as the standard road bike brakes, you may also opt for a training wheel rather than a carbon racing wheel if that means you have an aluminum braking surface which will add safety and better braking.


The surface can be very rough at times, and a fragile wheel with thin tyres will make you bounce quite a lot on the bike, especially the lighter athletes. If anything, go on the side of a tyre that’s alittle too wide, with not full on inflated since science has proved a full pumped tyre makes you actually go slower on rough surfaces.



Female winner Emma Pooley, opted for a road bike frame and bars
Female winner Emma Pooley, opted for a road bike frame and bars


21k Run

The run course is mostly inside a national park which means that you are in the middle of the jungle for most of the run. It’s one of the nicest and most fun run courses I’ve seen and while it’s rarely flat, the trees make it a nice and shaded run, so even on a hotter day the temperature on the run course would have been reasonable.

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Be ready for ups and downhills, surrounded by nature
Be ready for ups and downhills, surrounded by nature

If you are based in a flat city with limited uphills options, make sure you use the gradient option on the treadmill to simulate the course and gain specific strength, and add some fast stride rate sets at the back end of your long runs to simulate the increase in cadence you will need from the downhills later in the race.

Part of the course is on single track trails
Part of the course is on single track trails

Enjoy your training and see you in Subic 2016!


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