Embrunman © Trimax Magazine

World's best triathlons: 31 to do before you die

So you want to go out in style? You want to say, yep, done that and, without doubt, got the T-Shirt? But with so many races to choose from, how will your tri racing CV look when it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil? Well, look no further! Here's our list of the world's best triathlons...

30 Embrunman, Hutes-Alpes, France/Italy border

Proof that St Croix doesn’t have the exclusive right to call a bike climb ‘The Beast’ is Embrunman, a race that positively drips with French triathlon history and is infamous for its unforgiving climbs on both the bike and run courses.

The inaugural Embrunman was held in Embrun, in the Hautes-Alpes near the France/Italy border, on 19 August 1984. That event consisted of a 750m swim, 30km bike and 10km race walk, but already present in the bike section was the Cote de Chalvet climb, which is still tormenting triathletes today.

Just a year later the race became the standard distance championships of France, with the rare race distances of 1.5km swim/70km bike/21km run attracting 280 athletes and some 20,000 spectators to the small south-eastern commune (pop. 6,000). The event would go long in 1986, with a format of 4km swim in the sheltered lake, a 131.5km bike and a hilly 42.1km run punctuated with ferocious climbs introduced by the organisers with the claim that it would be tougher than Ironman Hawaii.

In 1990 the route was changed for a final time with the introduction of the ascent of the Col d’Izoard on the bike course. The new 186km route came with increased difficulty, contributing to a total of 3,600m of climbing on the course: over 1,000m more than the infamous Ironman Lanzarote.

Away from the long-distance event, in 1988 the organisers added an Olympic-distance triathlon to the schedule that would attract 520 competitors. The race hosted a quartet of ITU World Cup events throughout the nineties, drawing nearly 100,000 spectators to the 1991 edition, won by Mark Allen. Simon Lessing took the title a year later, and in 1993 a record 1,500 athletes would take on the various formats of the Embrunman, again in front of a crowd numbering 100,000 people.

Like the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon, the present incarnation of Embrunman is a multi-day affair, with a duathlon held over the weekend, and events for youth and beginner athletes. The event, however, will most likely remain infamous for its challenging slopes on the bike and run (not to mention the chance of extreme heat) that put it very near the top of the list of the world’s toughest triathlons. In fact 220 named it the 10th toughest Iron-distance triathlon in the world

Continue reading our guide to the world's best triathlon (3/31)


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