Middle-distance triathlons: the 13 toughest?
Ironman 70.3, Half Iron, Middle-distance. Whatever you want to call it, 113km racing is on the rise. But which is the world’s toughest course? We crunch the stats to pick our 13 hardest from around the globe…
The Westernport Wall, the Big Savage Mountain and the Killer Miller. Since 2006, this ultra-tough Maryland cookie, SavageMan, has entered triathlon folklore for its satanic ascents and hair-raising descents.
The brainchild of event founder and course architect, Kyle Yost, the middle-distance race began life in 2006 in Garrett County, located in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains in Western Maryland, USA. The 1.9km swim takes place in the crystal clear waters of Deep Creek Lake before the fun and games begin with 2,000m of elevation gain on the 90km bike route.
After a taste of things to come on the 16% gradient ‘Toothpick’ just 1km out of transition, the route features a long, fast descent to reach the Westernport Wall in Allegany County at 28km. At just four street blocks long, it’s far from the longest climb in triathlon but it’s one of the steepest, with an average gradient of 25% building up to a maximum incline of 31% on the final stretch. A passage deemed so steep it’s long been closed to cars and one that has its own rule book.
If the climb itself isn’t diabolical enough, the road surface is decidedly dicey with potholes galore and the organisers also throw in a posse of pitchfork-wielding devils to line the route. Any athlete who makes it to the top without putting their foot down, gets a special engraved brick laid into the wall.
The run then concludes the unique experience on a mix of trails and lakeside roads.