Tri-ing Out the French Riviera

The Promenade des Anglais travels the length of the Nice, France, shoreline.

Nestled in the southeast corner of France, between Marseilles and the Italian border, Nice and Monaco have remained the top destinations along the C?te d'Azur for more than 2,000 years. For the fifth year in a row, Nice will host France's only Ironman event on June 28, 2009. Three months later, on September 6, the Principality of Monaco stages one of the most exciting half-Ironman races in the world.

Nearly 1,500 competitors from 52 countries—including some from as far away as Japan, Peru, Columbia and Singapore—came to the French Riviera city in 2007 to experience Ironman France, one of the most memorable race courses in long-distance triathlon. A five-day festival kicked things off with vendors and exhibits, a pre-race pasta party and a children's aquathlon.

On race day, competitors take to the Mediterranean Sea for their 2.4-mile swim. Split into six sections according to estimated finish time, the swim is comprised of two loops in water typically around 75 degrees F. A higher salt content than the Atlantic provides extra buoyancy, allowing for fast swims with or without wetsuits.

Exiting the water means racers come to the real jewel of the course, the 112-mile bike leg, which passes through 13 picturesque towns and villages scattered among the surrounding mountains. The route begins quickly over well-kept roads. The middle section of the bike leg—where much of the entire course's 5,000 feet of climbing is found—boasts some serious ascents. These lead toward Gourdon, one of the most beautiful villages in France. The rising elevation is challenging but offers spectacular views of the Alps. From Coursegoules, the course follows a 22-mile descent, winding its way through more stunning scenery as athletes recover for the marathon on their way back toward Nice.

The 26.2-mile run consists of four laps along the flat, fast and world-famous Promenade des Anglais, where thousands of spectators line the waterfront course. Three aid stations provide ample support, with six opportunities to refuel per lap.

Ironman France offers 50 qualifying slots for the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, while the Monaco Ironman 70.3 offers 30. For the 70.3 championships in Clearwater, Florida, Monaco has 50 entries available. Drawing over 800 triathletes, the race also boasts a higher percentage of female entrants than any other Ironman race.

Monaco's Riviera location provides a remarkable landscape for triathletes to compete in the half-Iron distance. The 1.2-mile swim begins at Larvotto Beach. Competitors then begin a 56-mile bike through the outskirts of the luxurious principality.

Quickly becoming legendary in the 70.3 world circuit is the half-marathon course. Retracing the famous Formula One circuit through Monte Carlo—four-and-a-half loops through the tunnel to the port, around hairpin turns and past nearly 20,000 cheering spectators—the run leg crosses the finish line adjacent to the Hotel de Paris and the Monte Carlo Casino.

Seaside weather conditions keep temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s F during the summer, though hot days can creep into the 90s. Also, higher elevations on the respective bike legs can mean segments with cooler air.

For athletes flying to the event, mechanical support is available during the pre-race expos. Athletes needing additional help or equipment can visit one of Nice's many bike shops. A list is available on the Ironman France website. With both cities hosting their respective races downtown, there are plenty of convenient hotel options to choose from. Keep in mind, however, that hotels in the city center of Monte Carlo tend to be pricey. It's recommended that athletes find accommodations in the nearby towns between Nice and Menton.

Two destination events that promise strong competition, striking beauty and memorable vistas of the course and host city, Ironman France and Monaco Ironman 70.3 are opportunities to turn an amazing vacation into a life-changing experience.

What You Need to Know

Ironman France
Date: June 28, 2009
Current Cost: 350 Euro until Dec. 31, 2008, 400 Euro until Apr. 28, 2009
Contact: Triangle France s.a.r.l., email:
Application Status: Currently accepting applications

Monaco Ironman 70.3
Date: September 6, 2009
Cost: 300 Euro
Contact: Triangle Events,
Application Status: Currently accepting applications

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