From iconic cityscapes to tropical islands, we’ve hunted down the best river triathlons…
Where Windsor, UK
When June 2011 (date TBC)
Winner of the British Triathlon Association’s (BTA) Event of the Year seven times, the 2010 race a few weeks ago marked the 20th anniversary of this much-loved tri. The spectacular course takes in Windsor Castle, Eton Bridge and Eton College. Swimming in the River Thames, competitors start upstream then turn. The first five miles of the bike section is straightforward, but after this, terrain becomes undulating, with a steep one-mile climb up to the Great Park. On the way down, the towers of Windsor Castle rise up over the horizon. The three-loop run takes you past the castle and Eton College. Finish on a high as you run through the cheering crowds on Eton High Street.
Quelle Challenge Roth
Where Roth, Germany
When 18 July, 2010
One-hour’s drive from Munich, the world’s largest longcourse triathlon takes place on 18 July in the hamlet of Roth. This year Chrissie Wellington returns to defend her title and behind her is a queue of triathletes hoping to get a slice of the famously fast times on offer here. The straight, narrow and well-supported swim in Donau canal (OK, not strictly a river, but close) gets you off to a good start. The two-lap bike course winds through Franconian villages, but beware the steep climbs atSonar Hill and Kalvarienberg. Crowds of spectators cheer you on at the start of the run, but soon quieten to nothing. You’ll then encounter the dreaded long straights. Take a good book – they last 30km!
USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships
Where Tuscaloosa, USA
When 25 September, 2010
The USA champs are into their second year at Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s a spectator-friendly race steeped in history – the swim takes place in the Black Warrior River, close to a former Native American settlement, dating back to 1580. Expect water temperatures of around 22-23C during the swim with moderate visibility. Just watching? Then grab a seat on the Bama Belle Riverboat, docked at the old port. This is the best place for swim spectators. The rolling bike section is fairly challenging. Set on closed roads with long stretches of hills and tall trees, the course lies along the river, with beautiful views. Most of the run takes place along the Riverwalk, with some steep climbs around the old capital ruins.
Where Haikou, Hainan Island, China
When 22 May, 2011
This one’s got ‘race of a lifetime’ stamped all over it. Known as the Hawaii of China, Hainan Island sits amid pristine beaches and the vivid blue waters of the South China Sea. Nandu River is the setting for the Y-shaped swim, chosen to give strong swimmers the best chance of a PB. Expect warm, flat, moving water in this four-lap race. The two-loop on-road bike course takes you through wide, open roads to the airport. Soon after you’ll encounter gentle, rolling hills before a downhill ride on a rural road. As you head up narrow roads to Crater Park you’ll tackle sharp climbs past mud brick and rock buildings. The two-loop run is almost entirely flat apart from two bridges.
Chester Deva Triathlon
Where Chester, UK
When June, 2011
The city of Chester is the setting for this club-run tri. Starting at a picturesque bandstand on The Groves (a riverside promenade) you’ll swim 700m upstream before turning back for an 800m swim, passing under the Queen’s Park suspension bridge twice. Temperatures are a cool 14-16C, making this a wetsuit-compulsory event. It’s not the toughest course ever, so it’s a good one for the less experienced. The flat and fast bike course leaves Chester through the scenic village of Eccleston, entering Wales on quiet rural roads before returning via Rossett. The run passes through Grosvenor Park, where a tricky but short hill awaits you, before heading over the suspension bridge.
ITU World Champs Grand Final
Where Budapest, Hungary
When 8 – 12 September, 2010
The beautiful backdrop of Budapest – with the iconic Buda castle perched on the hill – provided the perfect cityscape for Vicky Graves’ victory at last year’s ETU Duathlon Championships (pictured), and this year sets the scene for the ITU World Champs Grand Final, the city’s first international triathlon. The one-lap swim takes place in Lágymányosi Bay, a green gem in the capital. Racing along the serene River Danube, athletes will pass by numerous designated UNESCO World Heritage buildings. The 11th-century Buda castle, Parliament, and the Basilica are scattered along the route. The three-lap bike route is mainly flat. The run heads 5km into the heart of the city, along the embankment, before the finish at the foot of the Chain Bridge with its imposing views of the castle.