Racing in the Heat: Challenge Vichy

Racing Vichy or any other sticky Ironman race this year? We show you how to beat that challenge...


Location: Vichy, France

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Date: 1 September 2013

Held deep in central France and originally staged in mid-August, Challenge Vichy is well known for its searing, cauldron-like heat. Although it’s been moved back to the start of September this year, prospective entrants can still expect a particularly warm welcome.

“We hope for temperatures of 22-30°C,” says Gregory Bouttier, official coach for the race. For those of us more used to training and racing in the UK, that means a full-tilt, iron-sized effort on something like the hottest day of the British summer.

“For hot races, you need to keep really hydrated,” says BTF coach and hot weather specialist Darren Elliott. “In the days before the race, keep a water bottle in your hand at all times and try not to walk around unnecessarily. Just relax and stay fresh.” He also suggests leaving the razor at home in the heat. “Hairs help protect your skin from the sun,” he explains. “Even if you just leave stubble, I’d advise against totally bare arms or legs.”

In the cooler waters of the Vichy swim, it’s situation normal as temperatures don’t rise enough here to ban the use of wetsuits. But when it comes to the bike, aero is the way to go. “Regular bikes and time-trial bikes are both welcome here,” explains Bouttier, “but Vichy is the perfect course for a fast time-trial bike and aero helmet. It’s a great place for a PB.


“If your budget doesn’t stretch to a dedicated TT bike, we would seriously recommend aerobars. For anyone not used to these, make sure you spend time getting comfortable riding with them well before the race, and have your position set properly for stability, control and maximum power. If you’re struggling here, time with a bike set-up expert will be time well spent.”

But, cautions Elliott, beware of cooking in your aero lid. “Aero helmets are great, but it’s really easy to overheat. I’ve drilled a lot of holes in mine over the years. You can sweat too much in them and it drips all over your glasses, which affects your vision and concentration.

“Consider an aero bottle, too. It’ll save you having to take your hands off the bars while riding which can help confidence and control if there are any sidewinds.”

When it comes to nutrition, Elliott recommends a chilled approach. “Consider freezing, or at least chilling, half of your nutrition to use in the second part of the race. This will prevent it from melting too much. I’m also a big fan of boxes on the top tube rather than stashing food in your shirt in the heat. Shirt pockets get way too hot, then your food melts, you don’t want to eat it and suddenly you’re short of calories.

“Finally, make the most of the aid stations. Pouring cold water on your legs on the bike can help revitalise them, and sponges down your collar or ice cubes in your hands can really help survival on the run.”


Abu Dhabi International Triathlon March 2014

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Leap out of the murky British winter and into 25°C in the shade in Abu Dhabi for a baking welcome to the United Arab Emirates. At full distance here, you’re in for a benign 3km sea swim, a whopping 200km bike and then a comparatively chilled 20km run. Flat, scorching and fast, this is TT bike central, but make sure to take note of any tailwinds – sitting up not only relaxes your muscles and makes eating and drinking easier, your back will also act as a sail giving you more speed for less work. Result.