Triathlon: The five most stunning races in Europe in 2017 and 2018

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Triathlon, a combination of endurance sports swimming, cycling and running, offers athletes diverse challenges thanks to its many distances. Besides this, many competition venues are also set in stunning landscape, making this fascinating discipline more than just a fight against the clock.

Participant of Schliersee triathlon in southern Bavaria while leaving swimming stage.
First stage completed: Participant of Schliersee triathlon while leaving the water.
Participant pictured from cornfield during bike race.
The bike race follows the Swimming.
Image credit:
World Triathlon Corporation

The Ironman Vichy is one of the most stunning and historically fascinating triathlons in Europe. Nowhere else can the audience be so close to the race for the entire distance. Since 2015 the middle and long distances are officially part of the Ironman brand, meaning that there will be 50 qualification spots to gain access to the World Championships in Hawaii. The swimming discipline kicks off at Lac d’Allier, a boat race course in the Parc Omnisports that will provide a F1 atmosphere thanks to its stadium.

After 3.8km the participants will continue on the bike course for 180km, passing the beautiful regions of Allier and Puy de Dôme with their stunning high plateaus. The marathon distance then follows the lakefront at the Lac d’Allier and crosses the historic center of Vichy. After the finish the participants can regenerate their tired bodies in the famous hot springs of Vichy.

NEXT RACE: August 27, 2017

Challenge Walchsee, Austria

Triathlete with Walchsee in the background.
Last stage: Runner during the marathon at Walchsee.
Image credit:
AGO-Sports GmbH

“It’s where Tyrol starts or ends, depending on which direction you come from”, says Ivonne van Vlerken about this beautiful corner of Austria, which hosts the Challenge Walchsee. The Dutchwoman has already won this middle distance race four times. After 1.9km of swimming in the crystal-clear water of the Walchsee, the participants have to master a 90km bike course that features two rounds and two loops.

This makes the race especially interesting for the audience as the participants have to pass the Walchsee four times. The running course then follows the lake’s front passing farmhouses, fields and meadows and offers stunning views of the mountains. After 113km a Tyrolian Kaiserschmarrn is waiting for the triathletes at the finish line.

NEXT RACE: September 3, 2017

Schliersee Alpen-Triathlon, Germany

Thanks to its beautiful setting in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps and a challenging competition route, the Alpen Triathlon is infamous beyond Europe. For 30 years participants have competed on the traditional short distance with stunning routes between the lakes of Schliersee and Spitzingsee. Like Roth and Hawaii, the Alpen Triathlon is a true must for any triathlete.

After a 1.5km swim in the Schliersee the highlight of the contest is the bike climb to the 1,129m high Spitzingsattel: 3.8km, 360m altitude and an average incline of 9,5%. Having reached the summit and the second transition at the Spitzingsee athletes still have to master a 11km trail run through the picturesque Valepp before tucking into a traditional Kaiserschmarrn (a cut-up and sugared pancake) at the finish line.

LAST RACE: July 15/16, 2017, next race not scheduled yet

Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, Norway

Athletes while swimming in the Hardangerfjord.
Even in summer rarely warmer than 15° Celsius: Hardangerfjord.
Image credit:

Running since 2003, the long distance, in Eidfjord, 300km west of Oslo, is said to be the world’s toughest triathlon race. The Norseman Xtreme Triathlon kicks off with a jump from a ferry into the Hardanger fjord, then swim of 3.8km before reaching Eidfjord. There, the participants switch to their bikes and ride 180km in a hilly, stunning landscape of fjords, with the route leading from Eidfjord through Hardangervidda and Geilo and ending in Austbygde, at the Tinnsjå lake.

To finish athletes have to run 42.2km up to the summit of the Gaustatoppen, a climb of 1,883m. Here a running buddy has to stay with each athlete to assist them with food and clothes. The biggest challenges are the swimming in 15° water and the 17.5km climb through boulders up to the Gaustatoppen. The Norseman is not only an Ironman triathlon but also an extreme challenge and the number of participants is limited to 250.

NEXT RACE: August 6, 2017

Triathlon Alpe d’Huez

Runners in bright sunlight during Alpe d'Huez triathlon.
Runners in bright sunlight during Alpe d'Huez triathlon.
Image credit:
IMG France

Deep in the French Alps the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon has been taking place for ten years – a multi-day spectacle that includes a short and a long distance race. The climb up to Alpe d’Huez, with 21 switchbacks, is a legendary stage of the Tour de France and gives this triathlon its unique character. Each year approximately 3.500 athletes from more than 30 countries travel to the Lac du Verney (770m above sea level) in order to experience the special vibe in the French Dauphune Alps.

The long distance includes a 2200m swim, 115km cycle and 22km run and is known for its stunning and extraordinary routes. After swimming in the clear 16° Lac du Verney, three passes have to be conquered: the Orno Pass, the Grand Serre Pass and the 12km long climb up to Alpe d’Huez. At 1.860m above sea level the athletes have to run 22km through beautiful mountain scenery.

NEXT RACE: July 27, 2017

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Stefan Drexl ist Redakteur der ISPO. Author: Stefan Drexl