With thousands of notable races to choose from—many occurring simultaneously on a single weekend—how can an athlete carve out the best possible calendar to suit his specific wants and needs? Through an array of research techniques—our own reader survey, advice from industry insiders, queries sent to a pack of professionals and assessment of our own race experiences—we’ve compiled a collection of worthy events which serve to satisfy a wide variety of triathletes. Here are our top recommendations for 2011.
1. The Kona Hopeful
Ironman China May 22, 2011, Jixian, China
With 50 qualifying slots and no more than 900 projected participants, the odds of qualifying for Kona at Ironman China are tipped in your favour. 2011’s race moves to a new fast-course venue and a temperate date in May, making race conditions more agreeable than ever. Sure, it’s a long haul to China, but that won’t deter those folks obsessed with earning a spot on the Kona start list.
2. The Beginner
The Blenheim Triathlon, June 4/5, 2011, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire
The Blenhiem Triathlon is the ideal place to take part in your first triathlon. Set in the grounds of Blenheim Palace it’s a stunning backdrop for a race. Transition sits right in front of the Palace, which is home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and was also the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill. The swim takes place in a freshwater lake with a steep climb up to T1. This is followed by a bike course that involves undulating laps on a closed circuit making it ideal for beginners. It’s all topped off with a rolling run that takes in Woodstock Gate and crosses Vanbrugh’s Bridge, and along with lots of spectators it’s a special place to earn those multisport stripes. Both sprint and super sprint distance races take place over the weekend of fun. There’s also a pro elite race that attracts some of the fastest Olympic distance racers in the UK.
3. The Young Triathlete
Human Race’s Young Racers Triathlon, June 26, 2011, Dorney Lake, Eton
Human Race have a reputation for putting on some of the best organised races on the planet. Along with all their adult races they offer a range of events for budding younger athletes at their home venue of Dorney Lake, Eton. The day is packed full of fun with a scootalthon for the youngest racers between the ages of four and eight, and an open water triathlon for both youth and junior racers up to the age of 19.
4. The Strong Swimmer
Perranporth Surf Challenge Triathlon, September,18, 2011, Perranporth, Cornwall
This is a triathlon with a swim that’s not for the faint hearted and is famed for its big surf. Now in its 24th year the event that takes place on Cornwall’s north coast surfing beach looks set to be toughie, even after the swim. The race involves a 800-1000m swim – depending on race day conditions, followed by a 35K bike before finishing with a 7.5K run along the beach shoreline and along the cliffs. There’s always a good after party and plenty of provision for camping.
5. The Single Athlete
Nautica New York City Triathlon, Aug. 7, 2011, New York City
The sheer numbers at any big city triathlon make it a best bet if you’re an athlete on the prowl. But one reader confided that New York City holds a special magnetism, as several of her friends met their soon-to-be significant others at the Nautica event. Perhaps it has something to do with the Jamaica Underwear Run, held the Friday evening before each year’s race. What better opportunity to size up the playing field and secure a date for a hot summer night in the city?
6. The Royal Triathlete
Challenge Henley-on-Thames, Septmeber 18, 2011, Henley, Oxfordshire
The Challenge Henley iron-distance race will take place at the same location as the world famous Royal Regatta that attracts the best oarsman from around the globe. The swim will take place in the River Thames while the hilly ride in the surrounding countr
7. The Athlete with Wastern Promise
Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, March 12, 2011, Abu Dhabi
After just one year this race has become an instant classic taking in some of the most spectacular sites Abu Dhabi has to offer. The non-wetsuit swim takes place in a stunning lagoon over looked by the amazing Emirates Palace Hotel. This is followed by a bike that takes athletes out through the desert on fast flat roads before completing a lap of the recently built Yas Marina Formula One circuit. The race finishes with a run that passes along the Corniche, Marina Mall and Heritage Village. Along with the middle and long distance events a sprint race has been added to the line up for 2011. With $50,000 up for grabs for the winner of the long distance triathlon this race attracts the deepest field outside of Hawaii.
8. The Landscape Lover
Aurlandsfjellet Xtreme Triathlon, Aug. 13, 2011, Aurland, Norway
A new race for 2011, and limited to 150 lucky participants, the half-iron- distance Aurlandsfjellet Xtreme Triathlon promises to serve up postcard-come-to-life panoramic vistas. Cycling through the majestic fjords of Norway and running the area’s steep and scenic valley—logging a combined climbing total of more than 3,900 metres—is a challenge reserved for only the most robust among us. But surely any race-induced pain will be numbed by the beauty that abounds in this pastoral paradise.
9. The After-party-Goer
Ironman World Championship 70.3, Sept. 11, 2011, Lake Las Vegas, Nev.
Even though the Ironman World Championship in Kona and the Xterra World Championship in Maui both boast legendary after-parties, there’s little doubt that the new Ironman World Championship 70.3 venue of Las Vegas will top them all. There’s nothing quite like a group of otherwise intensely focused athletes, finally unfettered at season’s end. A built-in Vegas bonus? The happening hot spots are ample and open 24/7—with no VIP party passes required.
10. The Caribbean Athlete
TriStar Nevis, April 2, 2011, Nevis, Caribbean
Set in the heart of the West Indies this is the event for those who like to race and chill Caribbean style. The TriStar team offer 111K, 33K and 11.1K triathlon races along with their StarMile 2.5 mile sea swim across to the neighbouring island of St Kitts. This year two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack and 2009 Challenge France runner up, Oliver Marceau, will be racing the 111K event.
11. The Swag Hound
Rev3 Costa Rica, Feb. 19-20, 2011
Every race in the Rev3 series has a reputation for loading athletes up with a cool, quality swag bag. Racers receive two custom shirts, a hat or visor, sweet sponsor goodies and, where applicable, amusement park discounts. But participants in the new Rev3 Costa Rica event will be especially fortunate, taking home a unique (and as of now under-wraps) item honoring the exotic locale, in addition to the traditional Rev3 haul.
12. The Foodie
Xterra Sardinia, May 29, 2011, Orsei, Sardinia, Italy
A hungry athlete’s haven, Sardinia features a host of hearty cuisine: locally raised meat, freshly baked bread, abundant pasta and the island’s gastronomic specialty, pecorino cheese yielded from Sardinian sheep. The food is fabulous and bountiful at the various race functions, plus dozens of quaint trattorias and ristorantes dot the surrounding area, with strong and flavourful Sardinian wine accompanying every meal. The scenery is equally amazing around this Italian coastal isle, with steep marble mountains, fertile valleys and idyllic olive orchards aplenty.
13. The Team Player
National Club Relay Championships, August 26/27, 2011, Holme Pierrepont, Nottingham
Originally started by One Step Beyond in 1991, this event is legendary and there’s nothing else like it. It has grown from 120 competitors in 1991 to over 1800 athletes in 2010. Originally a one day event it will be held over two days in 2011 making it a weekend triathlon festival. Teams of four athletes all swim 500m each before heading out on the bike for 15K of pedalling and then all running 5K. With so many teams on the course at the same time it’s organised chaos, but in a good way. It’s one of the most fun events on the calendar and most clubs from around the country enter teams of all abilities, often mixing it up for good measure. This year the event will include Olympians and World Champions. Camping is available and it looks set to be one big triathlon party.
14. The City Slicker
Virgin Active Health Clubs London Triathlon, July 30-31, 2011, London, United Kingdom
London is one of the most iconic triathlon events in the world. The course passes by a variety of landmarks, including Big Ben, the Tower Bridge and the London Eye, and caters to athletes of all levels, from beginner to elite. You’re sure to find plenty of pubs worth visiting once the day’s activities are complete, and with 13,000 fellow athletes (it’s the largest triathlon in the world) you’re guaranteed to be in good company.
15. The Forever 21
Wildflower Triathlon, April 29-May 1, 2011, Lake San Antonio, California.
With its party-like festival of camping, revelry and—oh yeah—racing, the Wildflower Triathlons Festival wins this category hands down. Known for its brutal courses and hot, dry conditions, made tolerable by the entertainment of drunk, at times naked, but always good-humoured volunteers from nearby college Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the event is a must-do on any triathlete’s bucket list.
16. The Tough Triathlete
Ironman 70.3 UK June 19, 2011, Wimbleball Lake, Dulverton, Brompton Regis
Ironman 70.3 UK set in the heart of Exmoor has a reputation for being on of the hardest middle-distance races on the circuit. It kicks off with a mass start in Wimbleball Lake before taking athletes out on a tough two-lap 90K bike course that takes in 52 hills. If the bike hasn’t killed your legs then the run will with its ups and downs that take in a mixture of trail and pavement running. This well organised race is set in stunning surroundings and anyone who crosses the line will have more than earned their medal.
17. The Strong Cyclist
Alpe d’Huez Triathlon, July 26-28, 2011, Oisans, France
You’d be hard-pressed to find a race more suited to cycling virtuosos than the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon. Cycling the legendary climb made famous by the Tour de France is certainly a dream come true for Lycra lovers. It’s not for the faint of heart or leg, however—three-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington labels the race “sheer masochism,” and loves it for precisely that reason.
18. The Strong Runner
Ironman St. George, May 7, 2011, St. George, Utah
While Wildflower has long been a contender in this category, with its brutally hilly trail run and predictably hot and dusty conditions, the newly launched Ironman St. George instantly gained fame as having the toughest Ironman run on the circuit. Just looking at a the online course profile is intimidating enough, much less traversing the steeply sloped loop two times through. One strong-running competitor in the inaugural 2010 event called the course “pure evil” on her way to a hard- earned Ironman PR.
19. The Intrepid Traveller
Xterra Saipan, March 12, 2011, Saipan, CNMI
On a tiny island (120 square kilometres) on the far side of the globe lies Xterra’s “crown jewel” course in Saipan. The race starts on the same beach where Marines attacked during 1944’s Battle of Saipan. The bike course traverses nearly every inch of rugged island terrain, peaking on top of Mount Tapotchau (elevation 1,545 feet). A 12K trail run takes competitors through thick jungle, past World War II relics and into secret caves. Three-time Xterra world champ Julie Dibens dubs Saipan “one tough-ass race, well worth the trip to one of the most beautiful islands in the world.”
20. The Luxury Traveller
Laguna Phuket Triathlon, Laguna Phuket, Thailand, Nov. 27, 2011, and Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship, December 2011
Whether you prefer the WTC’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship or the classic (and shorter) Laguna Phuket Triathlon, it’s hard not to choose Laguna Phuket, Thailand, as our No. 1 luxury race destination. Pros and age-groupers alike laud the amazing beaches and lush accommodations of this idyllic island locale. The renowned Banyan Tree ranks as a favourite resort, and while far from cheap, the digs are so indulgent you might be in danger of missing your race morning alarm.
Compiled and written by Holly Bennett
FILED UNDER: All / Features TAGS: Abu-Dha / Abu-Dhabi-International-Triathlon / Alpe-D'Huez / Aurlandsfjellet Xtreme Triathlon / Challenge Henley / Ironman-70.3-UK / Ironman-China / Ironman-St-George / Ironman-World-Championship / Laguna Phuket / london-triathlon / New York-City-Triathlon / Rev2-Costa-Rica / tristar nevis / Wildflower / XTERRA-Saipan / Xterra-Sardinia