Top Destination Triathlons


17.01.18 at 9:00 am

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Many of us are guilty of picking triathlon events for less exciting reasons. They might promise a good shot at a PB or just be convenient to get home from. 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 look at some of the top destination triathlons in (mainly) Europe.

The swim at Norseman is notoriously chilly

Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, August 2018

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 all-time course record was set in 2016 at 10 hours and 22 minutes. Good luck.

After swimming in the perfectly clear, but bitterly cold Hardanger fjord, the bike takes competitors up 1,200 meters over the 98km course. ‘Run’ doesn’t seem like a particularly good label for the final stage of the race, as competitors are effectively required to climb the nearby mountain of Gaustatoppen, the summit of which is 1,850m above sea level.

There is no support along the course, and with competitors already exhausted before the run begins, all of the competitors are required to have a friend complete this section with them. There are strict time cut-offs to ensure safety, and if you are looking as though you won’t reach the summit within the time limits, you will be sent off on a separate course at a lower level on the mountain. Each year, only around half of the competitors make it to the ‘official’ finish line.

If Norway feels a little out of the way, the Celtman in the Scottish Highlands offers a similar challenge on more local mountains. Our own David Burrows has written on the event here.

Challenge Roth, July 1st 2018

Germany: 3.8km Swim – 180km Bike – 42.2km Run

The Roth triathlon 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 takes place in the midst of Roth’s annual festival with thousands visiting the town over the weekend. You can take your mind off the struggle by gazing up at the ballooning festival which takes place at the same time, enjoy the firework finish as you stumble over the finish line, and appreciate the throngs of spectators who line the marathon course.

One of the many hairpins on the Alp D’Huez triathlon

Alpe d’Huez Triathlon August 2nd to 3rd 2018

France: 2.2km Swim – 115km Ride – 22km 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 115km course is formed of the most popular roads in all of cycling.

Craggy Island Triathlon
This is definitely not your average triathlon run leg

Craggy Island Tri, October 6th/7th 2018

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.


escape from alcatraz tri swim start
It’s not every day you get to jump out of a prison at the start of a triathlon


Escape from Alcatraz, June 3rd 2018

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 dingy. Since they were never seen again, the authorities assumed they didn’t survive the crossing. Perhaps you would have better luck?

The triathlon begins on 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 and run both take place through the streets of the San Francisco bay area and into the Golden Gate Park.

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