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...

23 SavageMan, Garrett County, western Maryland, USA

The Westernport Wall, the Big Savage Mountain and the Killer Miller. In less than a decade, the ultra-tough SavageMan has entered triathlon folklore for its satanic ascents and hair-raising descents. So much so six-time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott was even forced to unclip his bike shoes on its most notorious stretch.

The brainchild of its founder and course architect Kyle Yost, the middle-distance SavageMan began life in 2006 and is held in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains, in Garrett County, western Maryland, USA. Its name alludes to the Savage River State Forest (named after an 18th century surveyor) through which the course runs, as well as to the tough terrain.

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 short, 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, the Wall is far from the longest climb in triathlon but it’s reportedly the steepest, with an average gradient of 25% building up to a maximum incline of 31% on the final stretch – a stretch deemed so steep it’s long been closed to cars. If the climb isn’t diabolical enough, the road surface is decidedly dicey with potholes galore and the organisers also throw in a posse of officials dressed as pitchfork-wielding devils to line the route.

The Westernport Wall has claimed plenty of scalps over its short lifespan, with falls aplenty, and Ironman legend Dave Scott is just one man forced to unclip and walk to the top. Anyone who does conquer the climb receives a brick engraved with their name laid into the Wall itself. Never mind giving athletes a respite after Westernport, the climbing continues with the 10km Big Savage Mountain ascent, which has 600m of elevation gain and extended sections in excess of 20%.

Here, if riders have the energy to look up, the panoramic vista of the Allegheny Mountains is a sight to behold . . . before a swift, technical descent snaps athletes out of their comfort zone once more.

The final stretch of infamy is the short, sharp Killer Miller at 64km, the culmination of quite possibly the toughest 40km passage of cycling in all multisport and yet another ascent involving gradients of over 20%. The route then returns to T2 in Deep Creek Lake State Park, before the 21.1km half-marathon run course takes in three more significant climbs as it heads towards the Appalachian Mountains.

The SavageMan middle-distance race takes place every September with entry capped at around 500 competitors (an Olympic-distance version is also available), with the non-profit event giving all proceeds to the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation.

Continue reading our guide to the world's best triathlon (10/31)


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