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...
A swim ringed by the mountains of Snowdonia. A bike course teleported from the Tour de France. A trail run past a power station and up a disused quarry; this has to be the UK’s best and most bonkers Olympic(ish)-distance triathlon.
Set in the pleasant tourist town of Llanberis in North Wales’ Snowdonia National Park, the Slateman started with 450 competitors in 2011 but has already expanded to 1,700 triathletes competing over the Slateman Full and Half courses.
For the Full athletes, the 63km Snowdonian adventure kicks off with a 1km swim in the 14°C waters of Llyn Padarn with the foreboding mountains of Snowdonia, soon to be tackled on the bike course, looming above.
After T1 the relentless, leg-sapping Llanberis Pass takes you up to the 360m-high Pen-y-Pass where the most welcome aid station is located. After that an exhilarating 60km/h (faster, if you have more nerve than us) descent to Capel Curig follows, with the waters of Lynnau Mymbyr adding to the epic scenery. If the bike route fails to scale these highs again (and what highs they are), the support is relentless, with enthusiastic cries from passing cars and families offering refreshments, and plenty of flag-waving, from outside their houses.
After the 51km route takes athletes back into transition via the western side of Llanberis, the incomparable, frankly bonkers 11km run/ power walk begins. The first kilometre passes the entrance to the Dinorwig Power Station and follows a circular bridge, but the real ‘fun’ starts with the ascent into the Dinorwig Slate Quarries.
Comically steep climbs lurk after each corner, with athletes choosing to succumb to the challenge and walk, or to power up the slopes with a view to taking the Quarryman title awarded for the fastest time up the infamous zig-zags of Dinorwig quarry.
After 330m of climbing, the course enters the Coed Dinorwig woodland for some classic single-track trail running of leaping logs and sliding on stones. A spell-binding view of the finish line some 300m below precedes a 2km descent to the finishing arch. Like the crowds and cowbells throughout the course, the race’s final throes are accompanied by a raucous atmosphere, akin to another Welsh wonder, Ironman Wales, with deep throngs lining the chute until the final athlete comes home after about five-and-a-half hours.
As for evidence of the race’s tough credentials, a quick scan of the results list shows even the top athletes don’t have it easy at the Slateman, with the full-distance winner home in 2:20hrs, with plenty of DNFs littered around the Welsh mountains (this author added an hour to his usual Olympic-distance time).