18 of the world’s best triathlons – that you’ve probably never heard of

Missed out on Alcatraz, Roth and Tenby in 2020? Fear ye not triathletes, because here are 18 of the greatest under-the-radar multisport challenges for the season ahead

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HARLECH TRIATHLON

Harlech, Wales

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400m swim | 21km bike | 6km run

April

From the organisers of the unparalleled Slateman comes Harlech, a race with appeal for both multisport newcomers and grizzled tri’ers looking for an early-season test of racing fitness. After a 400m pool swim and 21km bike loop, it’s the run that’ll linger in the memory, with a 1.5km beach segment and a finish within the sizeable shadows of Harlech Castle (site of the longest siege in Brit history, Early Renaissance-era fans). 

See also: Cholmondeley Castle Triathlon, Leeds Castle Triathlon

YORKSHIREMAN TRIATHLON

Ripon, North Yorkshire

3.8km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run

June

For a county famed for its grit and athletic prowess, the lack of full iron-distance races on the Yorkshire calendar is an oddity. Gamely holding the fort is the Yorkshireman from Freebird Events, which returns to Newby Hall and shares some of the Dales roads used in cycling’s Tour of Yorkshire and 2019 world champs. Entry is a wallet-friendly £290 and camping is available onsite, ensuring this ticks plenty of beginner and budget iron boxes. freebirdevents.co.uk

See also: UK Ultimate Triathlon, Lakesman, Hardman Ireland

CROYDE OCEAN TRIATHLON

Croyde, North Devon

July

1.5km swim | 38km bike | 12km run

Okay, many of you will have heard of this event that sold out its 500 spots in 2019, but it’s simply so much fun that it deserves further recognition. The action starts with a clear Atlantic Ocean swim on Putsborough Beach before a country lane out-and-back ride. But it’s the mixed-terrain run that blew us away in 2019, taking in the South West Coast Path, a Croyde Bay beach run and arguably UK triathlon’s greatest view from the Saunton Down headland over Saunton Sands at the 3km mark. 

See also: Perranporth Surf Triathlon, Llandudno Sea Tri, Wales Triathlon

  

ALPE D’HUEZ DUATHLON

Alpe D’Huez, France

July

6.5km run | 15km bike | 5km run

The long edition of the Alpe D’Huez Triathlon is a classic of the calendar, uniformly drawing thousands of athletes to France each July for its unique swim, bike and run challenge. Less well known is the AdH Duathlon, which kicks off the week of racing in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and still contains the legendary 21 hairpins of Alpe D’Huez on the 15km bike leg (elevation gain is 1,170m, more than many Ironman races manage over 180km). The concluding run, meanwhile, takes in the Col de Sarenne for further high-altitude pain. 

See also: Duathlon de Douai, Powerman Embrun

  

CHALLENGE PRAGUE 

Prague, Czech Republic

1.9km swim | 90km bike | 21.1km run

July

Dodge the stag parties and Prague is one of Europe’s finest cities, with some of the continent’s finest buildings, bridges and beer. It’s also one of Challenge’s most inviting races, prettier than Roth, more spectators than Samorin, and much closer to home than Wanaka. The big sells are the spectator-lined swim and run routes in the heart of the old city, and a ride away from the crowds into the countryside of Bohemia south of Prague.

See also: Challenge Heilbronn, Chiemsee Tri, Allgau Triathlon

  

HALFX

Windermere, Cumbria

1.9km swim | 90km bike | 21km run

July

The Helvellyn Triathlon is widely (and rightly) known as one of the hardest challenges in planet tri, a major examination of technical skills, endurance reserves and, yes, the size of one’s cojones. The fellow Lake District-set race, HalfX, ramps things up by a notch of three, however, with a higher, steeper and longer route where even the place names (Hardknott, Nab Scar, Heron Pike) sound intimidating. At least to this sourdough-eating southerner… triathlonx.co.uk

See also: Helvellyn, The Brutal Half, A Day in the Lakes

  

MAN VS COAST

St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

37km running | swimming | jumping

July

Whether this 37km running event from Rat Race technically counts as multisport we don’t know (let’s agree to call it a swimrun with a heavy emphasis on run), but it sure looks like a bucketload of fun. The course breakdown is essentially an on-foot journey across the Cornish peninsula from St. Michael’s Mount to Land’s End via the Penwith Heritage Coast, broken up by short swims, beach runs, cliff jumps and scrambling on coastal rocks. ratrace.com

See also: OtillO Isles of Scilly, Breca Loch Lomond

IMMORTAL HALF EXMOOR

Wimbleball, Somerset

1.9km swim | 90km bike | 21.1km run

July

The original Ironman 70.3 UK in Exmoor (the world’s first Ironman 70.3) was a classic toughie on the middle-distance circuit. Too tough perhaps, with Ironman cancelling the race due to falling athlete numbers in 2017. Thankfully, Immortal stepped into the Wimbleball-shaped hole and have created this firm fixture in Somerset (and a bit of Devon), with a lake swim giving way to hilly, single-loop bike and run legs through 
Exmoor. immortalexmoor.com

See also: Titan Brecon, Cotswold 113, Owler Triathlon

  

SWEDEMAN

Åre, Sweden

3.8km swim | 202km bike | 41km run

August

While Swedeman lacks the ferry leap of its Nordic neighbour, it’s a darn sight easier to secure a race spot than at Norseman. And you still get that famous mix of Scandi scenery, bracing waters and climbing, plenty of climbing, as both bike and run legs boast 2,000m of elevation gain. There’s also a swim that finishes under Sweden’s biggest waterfall and a finish at the Åreskutan mountain’s peak. swextri.com

See also: Canadaman, Slovak Xtreme, Iceland Extreme

  

PORTISHEAD SPRINT TRI

Portishead, Somerset

400m swim | 25km bike | 5km run

August

Everyone remembers their first tri and there are few better places to do it at than the charming Portishead Lido, one of our happy places not far from the M5. After 12 lengths in the 57-year-old outdoor pool, the 25km bike route is a rolling one on the town’s coastal roads before a 5km run flanked by the River Severn and with a finish on the brilliant Battery Point headland. The cake at the community-owned café comes highly recommended, too. dbmax.co.uk

See also: Black Country Tri, Henley Fun Triathlon, GoTri nationwide

  

AVIEMORE TRIATHLON

Glenmore Forest, Aviemore

1km swim | 18km MTB | 9km trail run

September

This Durty Events staple will again host the Scottish Cross Champs in 2020 and what a corker it is. There’s a lake swim in what is essentially melted mountain ice (still bracing in a mid-August heatwave in 2019) of Loch Morloch, a technical bike route on forest paths and root-strewn trails, before a trail run route that peaks with views of the mighty Cairngorm National Park. And the post-race beer and bacon combo is pretty good, too. There’s also a shorter route and a non-competitive event. durtyevents.com

See also: Xterra Croatia, Keswick Mountain Festival, Starman Night Tri

  

ELBAMAN

Elba Island, Italy

3.8km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run

September

The Elbaman has been running since 2005 and for a very long time was the only Italian Iron-distance race. When the 2017 race was cancelled due to flooding (and Ironman and Challenge hosting irons on the mainland) Elbaman’s days looked numbered, but it returned as strong as ever in 2018. And with over 40% of race spots already sold, the 2020 edition looks set to become another classic of golden sands, rolling hills and coastline-running in the Tuscan archipelago. elbaman.it

See also: Embrunman,  Altriman, Challenge Almere-Amsterdam  

  

TOUGHMAN NEW YORK

Lake Welch, New York State

1.9km swim | 90km bike | 21.1km run

September

With races in the southern states of the USA and Chile, the Toughman Series of middle-distance races 
has been steadily growing as a grassroots alternative to the Ironman 70.3 series across the Atlantic for the last couple of seasons. The annual championship event is held north of NYC in the Hudson Valley, with all three disciplines taking place in Harriman State Park. There’s also an 1.9km swim/90km bike aquabike. toughmantri.com

See also: Grand Rapids Tri, Goose Pond Half, Best in the West

  

AMAZIGH XTRI

Ouarzazate, Morocco

3.8km swim | 180km bike | 41.6km run

October

Ouarzazate, South Morocco? Check. A battle of Saharan heat and intense sunlight? Check. A point-to-point adventure of a lifetime? Yes siree bob! Sharing the same starting point of Ouarzazate as the iconic ultra-run that is Marathon des Sables, the Xtri Series’ African debut looks set to become an absolute classic on the hardcore iron circuit. But Amazigh takes things higher than Sables, into the Atlas Mountains on the bike before a marathon in the Hollywood hot spot of Ksar Ait Ben Haddou (see Gladiator, Game of Thrones). amazighxtri.com

See also: Patagonman, Karakoram Xtreme Triathlon, Sahara Tri 226

OCEAN LAVA LANZAROTE

Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote

1.9km swim | 85km bike | 21km run

October

Kenneth Gasque is a legend of tri, the Dane who organised the first Ironman Lanza in 1992 and has been the race director ever since. In 2010 he created Ocean Lava Lanzarote, and it’s since developed into a low-key race series alternative to Ironman, specialising in events in nascent tri nations (see races in Montenegro, Romania and Slovenia). The Grand Festival is still held in Lanzarote, with a sea swim off Puerto del Carmen, a 90km bike course that heads north into the Mars-like topography of Los Volcanes National Park and a half marathon run along Puerto del Carmen’s coastline. oceanlava.com

See also: Ocean Lava Montenegro, Spirit Tri Series Portocolom

  

SPIRIT OF 78

Porto, Portugal

4.2km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run

October

This tribute to the first-ever Ironman race in Hawaii in 1978 will return to lovely Porto in October. Unlike the behemoth that is Kona today, the Spirit of 78 is free, actively encourages athletes to race in Speedos and has a ban on aero helmets, tri-bars and all-things carbon. And the ‘Mandatory Moustache’ rule (male only) is the icing on the retro cake. The highlight of the 226km course is the point-to-point swim in the mighty Douro river. spiritof78.com

See also: Wildflower, Superfrog

  

CHALLENGE ANHUI

Anhui, China

November

3.8km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run

*Under their Chinese owners, Ironman have the middle-distance market sewn up in China with four 70.3 races across the nation. But it’s Challenge who offer the only full iron-distance event on the mainland, with Challenge Anhui drawing 1,200 athletes and 30,000 spectators to the city of Guangde (220km west of Shanghai) on its debut in October 2019. The aim is to make the event “the Oriental Roth,” says race director Kent Wong, only minus the salted pretzel overload we’re guessing.

See also: Challenge Taiwan, Ironman 70.3 Xi’an

* Pending travel advice from WHO regarding the Coronavirus

  

ESCAPE TO AFAN OFF_ROAD DUATHLON

Neath, Wales

5km run | 24km MTB | 5km run

November

We finished our 2019 season in Afan and it left us a crumpled mess, but we’re already wanting to sign up for 2020. That’s because of the relentless bike course on some of South Wales’ best mountain bike tracks, which switches from fire trails to dense sludge, lung-busting climbs and all-too-swift descents. There are three race options, with the sprint hosting the Welsh Cross Champs in 2019. toughrunneruk.com

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See also: Bowhill, Hop Farm Du

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