The best mountain triathlon races to do this year

Presenting our ultimate mountain multisport events for climbing your way to success in 2023…

helvellyn-triathlon-2016-JNewsome

It’s here, a new year and that means… a new race season! And the UK and global triathlon calendar is chock full of epic challenges to suit all budgets, skill levels and strengths. 

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In the first of five race features (also see the fastest, best open-water, best off-road and best multisport races), here we pick the best hilly triathlon events from across the globe that will leave you breathless… in a good way!

Hair-raising descents 

A turquoise lake swim flanked by jagged peaks. A bike leg through verdant valleys untouched by modernity. A skyline run where you can touch the clouds. It’s strange to think that much of society used to consider mountains as pretty darn ugly up until about the 18th Century.

But yes, mountains can still arouse facial pain, yet for triathletes that comes from the calf-shredding climbs and hair-raising descents, with the widescreen views and soothing air just two of the payoffs of taking on the demands of a mountain triathlon.

Similar to their cheese-making prowess, the French excel in mountainous triathlons, with the famous trio of Ironman France (25 June), Embrunman (15 August) and, especially, the Alpe D’Huez Triathlon (28 July) certified classics of the genre.

The latter, held in late July, boasts a swim in a mountain reservoir that’s open once a year, a hairpin-ridden bike course that’s played a mighty role in the Tour de France, the world’s highest transition area and a run that takes place at 2,000m above sea level.

The best of British

Similar to our own fromage-making skills (Cornish Yarg, anyone?), British mountain races shouldn’t be discounted.

While they can’t compare to the Alpine metres-above-sea-level stats, the likes of the Xtri Series’ gruelling long-distance triathlon of the Celtman (17 June) in Wester Ross, Scotland; the long-standing classic of Helvellyn (3 September) in the Lake District; Snowdonia’s Olympic-distance-ish belter The Slateman (10-11 June); and its fellow Llanberis-set The Brutal (9 September), all load up on the elevation gain, widescreen views and tri torment.

The Brutal, which had a glorious return in 2022 after pandemic-enforced cancellations and which we voted the second toughest tri in the world, tasks triathletes with running up Wales’ highest peak of Snowdon – and, almost as painfully, back down again – at the finale of the run leg for the Half and Full distance events (a Double Brutal is also on offer – we’ll let you take that one on!), where both the views and physical demands will leave you gasping for air.

But the satisfaction of completing a mountainous triathlon is possibly without equal in multisport. Just remember to cut your toe nails…

3 of the best mountain triathlons

Alpe d’Huez Triathlon, 28 July 2023
alpetriathlon.com

Cyclists ascend one of the 21 hairpin bends during the bike leg of the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon. (Credit: Cyrille Quintard)

Helvellyn Triathlon, 3 September 2023
trihard.co.uk

After a crystal-clear Ullswater swim, it’s a 1,489ft ascent to the top of the Kirkstone Pass before a final 3,118ft run up and down Hellvellyn, England’s second-highest peak. (Credit: CSansomPhoto)

The Brutal, 9 September 2023
brutalevents.co.uk

The Full Brutal plunges its athletes into the chilly Lake Padarn for 3.8km before subjecting them to over 3,000m of climbing on the 180km Snowdonian bike leg. 1,394m of climbing on the marathon run completes this epic task. (Credit: That Sport Photo)
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Top image credit: Jason Newsome/Helvellyn Triathlon