A massive sprint and super sprint triathlon taking place in Winston Churchills’ gorgeous Oxfordshire back garden. Closed roads, big crowds and great support make this a brilliant race for first timers and celebrities!
Where: Woodstock, Oxfordshire
Distances: Sprint, Super Sprint distance triathlon
When: June (reviewed in 2011 and 2012)
Size: Approx 7000 triathletes
Average finishing times: 1hr 35 for the Sprint, 48 mins for the Super Sprint
Click here for official website.
- Get to the event nice and early because it is huge and there are hundreds of runners
- ·racking bikes up at the same time
- Read the instructions! This is a lapped triathlon so you’ll have to do a certain number of laps on the bike or run depending on the distance you’re doing.
- To help you keep count try attaching strips of tape to your handlebars/ wrist and discard as
- ·you go
- Save a bit of juice at the end of the swim for the very steep climb to Transition 1
- Watch out for other cyclists as this is a massive race that can be quite crowded so
- ·shout as you overtake on the right
- Beware of the downhill stretches on the run – they can be just as painful as the climbs if
- Look out for the long hill towards the end of the run loop in front of the palace
- Ignore the mileage signs on the bike and run course. They’re meant to be helpful but the
- ·looped nature of the race make them quite confusing
- Save some energy for the final 200 meters. There are tons of spectators who want to see a sprint finish!
As the second biggest triathlon event in the UK (first being London) it has to be well-staffed to run like clockwork and it is. The pre-race paper work and instructions are thorough and there are tons of stewards about to help on the day. The safety briefing guy also gets a nod for getting everyone g’d up superbly before the swim. Out on the bike there are TA volunteers on every corner who are great for support and, presumably, to help if anyone crashes. There are also regular water and nutrition stations.
Overall the Saturday and Sunday are described as a ‘triathlon festival’ and it really is.
What’s the course like?
The whole course takes place at Blenheim Palace and is therefore pretty amazing. You’re essentially swimming, cycling and running in Winston Churchill’s back garden. The grounds are gorgeous and the walk from transition to the swim start is down a massive hill with a brilliant view of the lake.
The water is clean and not that cold but it does get churned up as the day goes on so visibility isn’t great. It’s a wet start and waiting in the water with hundreds of other swimmers for that buzzer to go is very exciting.
Transition is really well managed in the impressive courtyard of the palace.
Once out on the bike the course gets even better as you bomb it round the downhill straights with cracking views of the grounds and loads of support along the main concourses.
In order to get the mileage you have to do a number of loops on the bike and run which, although repetitive, actually adds to the fun as
you look forward to that downhill bit, or the corner with your girlfriend/ boyfriend on etc. The bike has a couple of windy downhill sections that are a particular treat. The run course is a short 2.5km loop that you do twice for the sprint and again it’s very picturesque.
How’s the atmosphere?
This is where the size is a big bonus. There are lots if racers which means a lot of people to cheer you on and the course is very spectator friendly with free-reign around the stunning grounds. This is probably the best race in the UK for supporters. As well as the standard food trucks that come with big events like this, the grounds cafes are open too so everyone can make a day of it!
As a sprint and super-sprint course a lot of people are first timers as well so they’re up for a laugh which is great. There aren’t many tri-hard idiots spoiling the fun! There’s also music blaring out along the course and the stewards keep everyone’s chin up brilliantly and this race is popular with celebs – click here to see an interview Joe (editor of TriReview) did with F1 racer Jenson Button at the finish line.
How difficult is Blenheim Palace Triathlon?
There’s talk about the 2/3 killer hills on the run but to be honest the course isn’t that hard. Save a bit of juice on the swim for the run to transition 1 as it’s up a steep 400m hill. On the bike course there is one large but not massively elevated hill about 1/3 of the way in which slows a lot of cyclists right down.
What is there to do after the race?
Blenheim Palace is a gorgeous place to visit so it’s worth a look around after the race. Likewise Woodstock (the village it’s in) is a very pretty part of Oxfordshire with a number of nice cafes and pubs. If you want to make a weekend of it though, you’re better off staying 20 mins up the road in Oxford where’s there’s a lot more to do.
Blenheim Palace official website here.
Click here for Woodstock info website.
My Race Diary
Tri no.: 3, 7
Place: DNQ, (2010), 900/4201 (2011)
Time: Unknown, 1hr 27mins
The first time I ran here I messed it up. Forgot to read the instructions and was distracted by reporting during the race so missed a lap on the bike and Did Not Qualify. So in 2012 it was revenge and I had a good race. I was really pleased with my 12mins swim and my bike was OK. Could have tried harder in the transitions but it was my first time with my new bike and clip ins so I was just pleased not to have fallen on my bum! My run was OK at 25 mins but should have been a bit quicker.
Overall it was another great experience. It really is an awesome little tri and always attracts massive crowds and even bigger names. This year the Brownlee brothers raced the course (sub 1hr!) and so there was a really good buzz as normal. RECOMMENDED!