Best Triathlons: Alpe d’Huez Triathlon
The Alpe d’Huez Triathlon returns this July for what will be the eighth edition of this classic race.
The Alpe d’Huez Triathlon quickly made a name for itself in the world of triathlon after its inaugural running in 2006. Its combination of a stunningly beautiful location, courses to test even the most iron-legged of competitors and the chance to ride up the iconic Alpe d’Huez itself, the 21-hairpin climb made legendary by the Tour de France, have created one of the most famous events in the sport.
The thirst for long-course triathlon has grown exponentially over the last decade, and with the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon being organised by 2002 ITU Long Distance World Champion, Cyrille Neveu, you know you’re in safe hands. Indeed, the race has been lauded every year for its inclusive nature, friendliness and excellent athlete treatment.
The event offers age-groupers the opportunity to tackle a unique race format comprised of a 2.2km swim in Verney Lake, a 115km bike ride taking in some of the area’s classic climbs and a 22km run on the top of the peak at 2000m above sea level. Those wanting to go hard and fast aren’t forgotten either with a 1.2km swim, 30km bike and 7km run option also available.
It’s not just age-group triathletes who are keen to take on this incredible race and its magical course, some of the world’s best pros have taken part too.
Chrissie Wellington, Jodie Swallow, Cat Morrison, Nicola Spirig and Mary-Beth Ellis are all female superstars who have taken victories on the Alpe. James Cunnama took the men’s title in 2010 with Victor Del Corral sealing victory for the last 2 years, while Britain’s Tim Don took the short course victory in 2011, all proving it’s a favourite among the sport’s heroes.
The race has certainly captured the imagination of triathletes all around the world with the event being penned in on many athletes’ must-do lists.
The swim takes place about 15km from the event’s titular mountain in EDF Energy’s hydroelectric lake, EDF du Verney Lake in Vaujany, which is exclusively open to triathletes for the event. With genuinely crystal-clear water and situated in lush forested surroundings, it’s as idyllic a triathlon setting as you’ll find anywhere in the world. As the event is held in the middle of July, the swim – at 15 to 16 degrees – is also likely to be the only time you’ll be comfortably cool until getting the drinks in after finishing the race.
The race has split transitions, so once out of the lake, and stripped of your wetsuit, it’s immediately out onto the smooth French roads as the temperatures begin to rise.
The 30km short-course bike leg is primarily concerned with tackling Alpe d’Huez and its 21 hairpins, with the flat roads from the lake to Bourg d’Oisans, the pretty little town sitting at the foot of the mountain, serving as a warm up to the main event.
Long-course athletes have more of a wait before reaching the iconic ascent, which provides only the end to a long climb-filled ride. Over the 115km leg, athletes first take on the Alpe du Grand Serre (topping out at 1375m) and the Col d’Ornon (a challenging 1371m pass), making the magical climb of Alpe d’Huez all the more challenging and impressive.
Luckily – and sensibly – race organisers have 9 aid stations along the way, meaning you never have to worry about running out of fluids. You can even provide your personal nutrition to the event staff, who will return it to you at the 68km station.
Once at T2, situated in the plush ski resort atop the mountain, it’s trainers on for either a 7 or 22km run, with the latter being three laps of the short course’s mixed Tarmac and path terrain. Running at altitude can be a tricky business at the best of times, but is all the more difficult after the body is stripped of energy by the bike leg. Again, the organisers provide more than ample nutrition, with coke, water, energy drinks and food available at four stations along the loop.
Then it’s just a case of finding your feet and holding on until the finish line, where you’ll be greeted by crowds of supporters as competitors complete this gruelling and exceptional race.
There’s plenty of local accommodation for the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon too, either on the mountain’s ski resort or below in Bourg d’Oisans where there are hotels and camping grounds aplenty – not to mention a plethora of restaurants to get in that all-important carb-loading leading up to the event.
Now firmly established as one of the world’s great triathlon events, the race has grown into a 5-day extravaganza of triathlon with a buzzing race village. There’s also a children’s race and a duathlon event which, despite being overshadowed by the triathlon, is short and sharp with a 5km run in Bourg d’Oisans, a 15km bike course that goes straight up Alp d’Huez and a 2.5km run around the ski resort.
The Alpe d’Huez triathlon surely deserves the accolades it frequently receives; it’s a grand race that’s as visually striking as it is physically draining and as daunting as it is satisfying.
Find out more at http://www.alpetriathlon.com
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