Taking part in a triathlon means consciously throwing yourself into a festival-like environment and allowing yourself the privilege of living a special experience. This sporting discipline adapts well to many different scenarios and the options are many. However the atmosphere is guaranteed to be magical and the rallying cry irresistible when framed by two of the biggest and liveliest cities in Europe : London and Barcelona.
Credits Lucio Elio
Two very different cities, two equally different cultures; London is more formal, calm and composed, Barcelona more rowdy and changeable. However, both provide the same great adrenaline charge due to an exceptional mix of ingredients that bring thousands of athletes from all over the world to race in these two beautiful capital cities every year.
Lets take a look at the basis on which to make your choice, if you really must choose!
The London Virgin Triathlon
When: end of July (2013, 27-28 July)
Distances: super sprint, sprint, olympic
Water temperature: 15-16°
13,000 starters for an amazing race that centres around London’s the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, making it the very centre of International Triathlon for a weekend.
Every phase of the London event is accessible to spectators, the organisers even provide “top tips” on how to best view the race to promote plenty of crowd support. The triathletes have the privilege of being the centre of attention for two days, hurtling past the watchful eyes of The Palace of Westminister, making a mockery of the institutional self assurance of the Houses of Parliament for just a few hours.
The swim stage takes place at the Royal Victoria Dock. Even though it is not the same as swimming in a lake, the water is inviting, especially if you are lucky enough to get a sunny day (quite possible in July). Usually the external temperature is around 18-19°, whilst the water is around 15-16°, making it necessary to wear a wetsuit.
The pulsing heart of the race is undoubtedly the Virgin Active London Triathlon Expo, access to which is open to anyone who would like to get to know the world of multi-sport at any level. At the Expo, you can relax in the corner cafes, listen to the advice of expert triathletes, buy the latest innovative products, put yourself through a swim technique analysis under the supervision of some of the world’s best trainers, receive diet and nutrition advice and watch all the finishers from the various races in the program, the finishing line being located inside the ExCel Centre.
One of the highlights of this event is the opportunity to donate part of the registration cost to charity projects and there are hundreds from which to choose. For many visiting athletes this approach of combining great sporting events with fundraising is seen as something essentially British.
The Garmin Barcelona Triathlon
When: start of October (2013, 6 October)
Distances: super sprint, sprint, olimpic
Water temperature: 20°
Latin heat, mediterranean sun and a party atmosphere, these are the ingredients that bring more than 7000 triathletes to the mediterranean coast of the Catalan capital in the first few days of October.
The Saturday evening before the race the colourful bars of Barcelona fill with triathletes whose mouths water over the local tapas or ir de tapa as they move from one bar to another, consuming copious pre-dinner snacks and sit chatting around outside tables in the still warm evenings of the Catalan Autumn. It is the event organisers who invite the race participants to stay in the city for the whole weekend, aware of the magnetic power of Spanish nightlife, la movida spagnola.
This race debuted in 2008 and in the space of just five years it has managed to set itself up as the most aspired-to event in Spain for triathletes. The ambition to become one of the most important triathlons in the world has driven the organisers to look after the interests of both the top international professionals and the amateur athletes.
The swim stage kicks off from the La Mar Bella beach, usually the water is around 20° and often a little rough. From the La Mar Bella beach the course pushes on to the historical centre of the city, the athletes then pedal along the Diagonal almost up to the Torre Agbar then, passing the Arco di Trionfo, they head for the Bogatell beach. The cycling section of this race is a unique experience for athletes who have yet not taken part in an olympic or sprint distance triathlon with such a high number of participants. You find yourself pedalling in a cloud of other competitors and you have to be able ride well to stay with the group and get to the second transition zone. From 07.00 in the morning until 14.00, the streets are completely closed to traffic and for seven hours Barcelona remains suspended in an almost surreal and dreamy atmosphere, made up of sport and more than 30,000 spectators crowded along the course.