A rock hard iron-distance triathlon suited to cycle specialists with a love of hills and pain. It’s an expensive trip for many but the warm waters and alpine setting make it a gorgeous place to put yourself through hell.
Where: Nice, south France
When: June (reviewed 2011)
Size: around 2500 triathletes
Ironman distance: Swim 3.8km, Bike 180km, Run 42.2km (26.2)
Difficulty: Challenging | Tough | Rock Hard
Organisation: Basic | Good | Perfect
Official race website here.
- Book early as this is difficult to get onto
- Don’t enter unless you are a very very strong cyclist
- Train for tree-trunk legs and sweat it out on the biggest hills you can find
- Get your bike serviced beforehand – grease on wheels etc to make sure it’s in tip top condition for race day.
- Bring spare innner tubes and practise tube changes in case you get a flat halfway up a mountain
- Don’t bring tri-bars. Most novices don’t need them as it just adds to complicatons on the uphill stretches
- Train for technical gear changes and tight turns.
- Advice on swim – go outside of the pack because the group is so big you’ll struggle to break away at the start
- Split up the run into simple 10km races to get through it!
Official race video (2012)
What’s the set up and organisation like?
The organisation on this race is flawless and goes above and beyond expectations. That’s probably because there’s a lot of money sloshing around this event. It costs 400 Euros to enter.
There’s a big Expo and the whole town is taken over by the race with a fairground, music and tannoy announcer. The security is also superb with photo-id and micro-chips on your bike. The pre-race information was superb with all the course details, safety information you could ever need.
During the race there is as much support as you can have on such a massive course.
There are also some great touches like the wrist bands they give out on the run loops to make sure everyone does the right amount.
The course is pretty much gorgeous throughout. The swim takes place in the still, warm waters off the south of France coast. The transition takes place on the beach promenade then the bike heads out and up into the alps for some incredible views and amazing little Alpine villages.
The downhill stretch is 100km onwards so gliding along down the hills with a few steep dips is great fun. The run is flat as a pancake which is good and you run up to Nice airport and run a 10.5km lap four times.
How’s the atmosphere and support?
At the start, finish and transitions there are spectators everywhere. The whole town comes out to support triathletes and the night before there are dinner and drinks amongst the thousands of triathletes. There’s music on the day with carnival atmosphere and if you’re lucky enough to finish there are big stands either side of the finish for crowds to cheer. In the alpine villages people line the streets with cowbells and there are spectator shuttles running up and down the mountain throughout the day.
For an amatuer you feel like you’re in the Olympics.
You can’t get harder than a mountainous bike ride! The swim and run are fine because the water is calm and the run is flat. The bike is so tough it claims a lot of cyclists through collisions or tiredness or punctures.
From 5km to 75km its all up hill and then its a winding, fast descent that can be quite technical. A lot of people get out of control and accidents do happen.
What is there to do after the race?
The weather in south of France makes the whole experience an absolute pleasure for triathletes and their spectators. The town of Nice is a big, busy one with tons of people always enjoying beers or coffees outside restaurants.
It’s easy to get to as well so a lot of people drive from other places in Europe and make a holiday of it. Nice is also only 10 minutes from Monaco so you can kill too awesome holiday spots with one stone.
Tourist info for Nice here.
Some info about Monaco here as well.
My Race Diary
Stuart Sturgess – Ironman triathlete
Tri no.: First Ironman
My swim was very good. I spent about 10 minutes looking for space in amongst the chaos but I managed to finish in 90 minutes. The hills really were tough for me and I had a crash at 105km on the way down that finished my race. I was free-wheeling along and the guy in front wobbled a bit then I collided with his bike. The gear system on my bike was irreparable so I ended my race disappointingly.
I then had the very annoying wait for 2 hours until the bus could pick me up and a further 3.5 hours on the bus with the other non-finishers because we had to stay behind the slowest cyclist.
I watched the rest of the race from the sidelines and it didn’t take long to get over the disppointment and enjoy the atmosphere. In the end I had a great time and a great holiday and don’t feel that bothered by the fact that such a tough tri got the better of me. After all I wasn’t the only one!