15 incredible triathlons that you’ve probably never heard of

Missed out on Alcatraz, Roth and Tenby in recent years? Fear ye not triathletes, because here are 15 incredible triathlons across the world that often go under the radar

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Events such as Challenge Roth, Escape from Alcatraz and Kona are understandably lauded as some of the world’s best triathlons by many age-group athletes. But competition for entry is fierce.

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Harlech Triathlon

  • Location: Harlech, Wales
  • Distance: 400m swim | 21.5km bike | 5km run
  • Date: March

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

Alpe d’Huez Duathlon

  • Location: Alpe D’Huez, France
  • Distance:6.5km run | 15km bike | 5km run
  • Date: July

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

Half X

  • Location: Windermere, Cumbria
  • Distance: 1.9km swim | 90km bike | 21km run
  • Date: July

The Helvellyn Triathlon is widely (and rightly) known as one of the hardest challenges in planet triathlon, a major examination of technical skills, endurance reserves and, yes, the size of one’s cojones.

The fellow Lake District-set race, Half X, 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…

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

Croyde Ocean Triathlon

Croyde Ocean Triathlon
Credit: All About Dave Photography
  • Location: Croyde, North Devon
  • Distance: 1.5km swim | 38km bike | 12km run
  • Date: July

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

Man vs Coast

  • Location: St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
  • Distance: 37km running | swimming | jumping
  • Date: 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 Exmoor Middle Distance

  • Location: Wimbleball, Somerset
  • Distance: 1.9km swim | 90km bike | 21.1km run
  • Date: 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.

See also: Titan Brecon, Cotswold 113, Owler Triathlon

Swedeman

  • Location: Åre, Sweden
  • Distance: 3.8km swim | 202km bike | 41km run
  • Date: 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 Triathlon

  • Location: Portishead, Somerset
  • Distance: 400m swim | 25km bike | 5km run
  • Date: August

Everyone remembers their first triathlon 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.

That’s followed by a 5km run flanked by the River Severn, before the Portishead Sprint Triathlon comes to a close on the brilliant Battery Point headland. The cake at the community-owned café comes highly recommended, too.

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

Aviemore Triathlon

Aviemore Triathlon
Credit: Andy Upton
  • Location: Glenmore Forest, Aviemore
  • Distance: 1km swim | 18km MTB | 9km trail run
  • Date: 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.

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

Elbaman

  • Location: Elba Island, Italy
  • Distance: 3.8km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run
  • Date: October

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.

The 2022 edition looks set to become another classic of golden sands, rolling hills and coastline-running in the Tuscan archipelago.

See also: Embrunman,  Altriman, Challenge Almere-Amsterdam

Toughman New York

  • Location: Lake Welch, New York State
  • Distance: 1.9km swim | 90km bike | 21.1km run
  • Date: 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.

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

Amazigh Xtri

  • Location: Ouarzazate, Morocco
  • Distance: 3.8km swim | 180km bike | 41.6km run
  • Date: TBC

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). It’s debut has been postponed twice now, so we hope to see it take place in 2022.

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

Ocean Lava Lanzarote

Ocean Lava Triathlon
Credit: James Mitchell
  • Location: Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote
  • Distance: 1.9km swim | 85km bike | 21km run
  • Date: 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 triathlon 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

  • Location: Porto, Portugal
  • Distance: 4.2km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run
  • Date: 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.

See also: Wildflower, Superfrog

Escape To Afan Off-Road Duathlon

  • Location: Neath, Wales
  • Distance: 5km run | 24km MTB | 5km run
  • Date: November

We finished our 2019 season with Escape To Afan and it left us a crumpled mess, but we’re keen to sign up again.

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 over varying distances.

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See also: Bowhill, Hop Farm Du