Many of us are guilty of picking triathlon events for less than exciting reasons. They might promise a good shot at a PB or just be convenient to get home from with all your kit. But triathlon is built on the idea of challenge and adventure.
When you start travelling for triathlon, you will see places you would never have expected to visit. Why race around your local lido when there is a world of triathlon destinations out there hosting incredible events?
From historic towns to imposing terrain, and a few things that are a little bit strange, we’ve picked some of the top destination triathlons we think should be on your bucket list for 2019 – or maybe 2020, as some of these are so popular that they have already sold out!
Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, 17th August 2019
Aurland, Norway: 1.9km Swim – 98km Ride – 21km Run
Not for the faint of heart. An Iron distance triathlon would seem like an enormous challenge for most on its own, but to spice things up a little, the Norseman takes place from sea to summit on a Norwegian mountain. To put everything in perspective, the current course record stands at 9 hours 52 minutes from 2017. Good luck.
After swimming in the perfectly clear, but cold Hardanger fjord, the bike leg takes competitors up 1,320 meters to the top of Aurlandsfjellet over the 98km course. As for the run, the event guide helpfully advises that “the first 2km are flat, the remaining 19km are not.” Buckle up as you ascend roughly 1,100 meters on rocky and narrow terrain.
There is no support along the course so being well equipped with a backpack of nutrition is mandatory on the run, as is running lights the entire time you’re cycling due to the potentially foggy conditions. There are strict time cut-offs to ensure safety as you don’t want to be out in the valley after nightfall. Unfortunately all 250 slots are filled and the waiting list is also full so if you’re feeling brave enough then get it in your diary to enter for 2020.
Challenge Roth, 7th July 2019
Bavaria, Germany: 3.8km Swim – 180km Bike – 42.2km Run
Challenge Roth gets a huge amount of kudos from the triathletes on mainland Europe, as well as the Brits who have managed to find their way over on race day. It’s not just a great race, but a destination you won’t forget.
The race starts with an out and back swim along the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal just outside of the town. The bike leg then runs through the rolling fields of the surrounding countryside with two trips up a particularly draining hill, before the marathon brings the competitors back into the centre of town for a stadium finish.
As well as taking place across beautiful postcard of Bavarian countryside and rural towns, the race has become a must-do thanks to its incredible atmosphere. The triathlon is hosted in the midst of Roth’s annual festival with thousands visiting the town over the weekend. You can enjoy the firework finish as you stumble over the finish line, and take your mind off the struggled as you’re cheered on by more than a quarter of a million spectators who line the marathon course.
Alpe d’Huez Triathlon, 25th and 26th July 2019
Rhône-Alpes, France: 2.2km Swim – 118km Ride – 20km Run
Not many triathlons can boast holding their swim at 700 meters. The Alpe d’Huez triathlon begins in the Alpine lake ‘Lac du Verney’, a reservoir it is impossible to take a bad photograph of. The run is made up of road and trail around the Alpe d’Huez resort hotel, but of course, it is the ride that draws the competitors in. Taking in three iconic climbs of the Tour de France and culminating in the 21 hairpins of the most famous cycling hill of them all, the 118km course is formed of some of the most popular roads in all of cycling.
Patagonman extreme triathlon, December 2019
Patagonia, Chile: 3.8km Swim | 180km Bike | 42.2km Run
The Patagonman is a partner of the Norseman which should give you some indication of how much of a challenge this triathlon is. The inaugural race last month received rave reviews and lottery entries open for 2019 on 28th January; with only 300 places available globally you can guarantee you’ll be racing against the toughest of the tough. The big British names took their places at the top of the leader board in 2018 with Mark Livesey and Lucy Gossage placing 4th and 6th respectively.
A daunting 10ft jump into the icy waters of the Aysén Fjord kicks off the swim, before participants ride the Cerro Castillo mountain range, gaining over 2,000m in elevation. One of our favourite parts of the pitch for Patagonman is the variety of wildlife in the region – nothing like an encounter with a wild puma to make you pick up the pace!
Craggy Island Tri, TBC
Oban, Scotland: 550m Swim – 14km MTB Bike – 8km Trail Run
The only off-road triathlon on our list this time around. X-Terra, or cross-triathlon is a growing branch of the sport, and we have some info here if it is an event you are interested in.
The Craggy Island Tri begins on the mainland of Scotland, but rather than your typical out and back around a buoy, the first leg has you swim across to the tiny uninhabited Isle of Kerrera. The bike and swim leg may seem short compared to the other races listed here, but with no roads on the island of any kind, it is more than enough of a challenge. The bike will see you taking on challenging cross-country mountain bike trails, and the run will have you scrambling up steep banks of sphagnum moss to reach incredible views of the island.
Another reason we’ve picked this race is for the unpredictability of the weather, as last year’s races show. Day one was blessed with beautiful sunshine and calm waters while the second day was a total wash out, leaving marshals and competitors alike to battle the elements. You never know what you’re going to get!
Laguna Phuket Triathlon, 24th November 2019
Phuket, Thailand: 1.8km Swim | 50km Bike | 12km Run
More than just a home to Full Moon Parties and backpacking students, Phuket also hosts the triple award-winning Laguna Phuket Triathlon.
The swim takes you through two separate bodies of water with a quick sprint over the beach to get to the second lagoon, while the ‘new and improved’ bike leg (due to the increased motor traffic on the resort’s roads) leads you through a wondrous glimpse of rural Thailand – rubber plantations, pineapple fields, temples and small local villages.
This tropical triathlon is another one that’s great to add a holiday onto, with humid weather and average temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius. You can race individually or as a team, or if you’re making a holiday of it why not enter the kids into the charity fun run?
Escape from Alcatraz, 9th June 2019
Calfornia, North America: 2.4km Swim – 29km Bike – 13km Run
Fancy something further afield? We’ve looked primarily at European events but if you were willing to make the trip to San Francisco, this one really is out there. Only three people ever escaped from Alcatraz prison after breaking their way through the rear wall of their cell and setting off across the San Francisco bay in a homemade rubber dinghy. Since they were never seen again, the authorities assumed they didn’t survive the crossing. Perhaps you and the 2000 other competitors will have better luck?
The triathlon begins on a ferry close to the Alcatraz prison island with competitors swimming the 2.4km across the bay to the mainland, avoiding the great white sharks where possible. The bike leg sees you ride out the Great Highway and through the Golden Gate Park, with the run finishing in the Marina Green. At $750 entry fee it’s quite an investment to enter, but a unique experience that you won’t find elsewhere.
Challenge Wanaka, 16th February 2019
South Island, New Zealand: 1.9km Swim – 90km Bike – 21.1km Run
If you liked the sound of Challenge Roth then jet off to the other side of the world next month and enjoy the fun festival atmosphere in New Zealand. Pitching itself as ‘the world’s most scenic middle distance triathlon’,
The swim is a lap of the beautiful Lake Wanaka before you cycle off into the surrounding mountains. Being less treacherous terrain than some of the others on this list means you have more of a chance to appreciate the scenery and temperatures around 26-28 degrees celcius offer a warm but not dangerously hot ride out.
Ironman 70.3 Goa, 20th October 2019 and Ironman 70.3 Marrakesh, 27th October 2019
Goa, India and Marrakech, Morrocco: both 1.9km Swim – 90km Bike – 21.1km Run
Both these events are new to the Ironman family for 2019 so watch this space for reviews. Marrakech is pitched to have one of the fastest bike legs in the Ironman 70.3 circuit and a reasonably flat run also awaits you at the end, while Goa will offer a tropical setting for those who like it hot. Each venue is steeped in rich culture and will make a fantastic holiday destination once the hard work is out of the way.