Five of the world's toughest races

Looking for an event that will truly test your athletic ability? Here are five of the hardest triathlon races.

| May 1, 2017 | RACES

Ironman Lanzarote is renowned as one of the world\'s hardest triathlon races.

Ironman Lanzarote is renowned as one of the world's hardest triathlon races.

Photo >Michael Rauschendorfer

Photo >José Luis Hourcade /

Norseman Xtreme

One of the most iconic races that anyone can do. Norseman is truly one for the brave. Set in the amazing Norwegian countryside, Norseman has been scaring the pants off athletes for 14 years. And there is a queue a mile long to do this event. The creator of this race, Paal Hårek Stranheim, wanted to organise an event that would take athletes on a journey through some of the most beautiful nature in Norway. Starting with an awe inspiring four-metre step off a ferry into the icy waters of the Hardangerfjord, the athletes take on the amazing Hardangervidda mountain plateau and then finish up at the rocky, inhospitable peak of Gaustatoppen, at 1,850 m above sea level and over 220 km away with a total ascent of 5,000 m. This race continues to be a bucket list race of epic proportions and the crew who make this happen are some of the best in the world.

Photo >Veranstalter

Alpe d’Huez

For a long time this race has been one of the jewels in the tough guy crown. If you know anything about cycling you will know the famed climb has seen some of the greatest battles that sport has seen. This famed mountain has now taken to the triathlon stage and, with it, comes a super tough course. Starting off in Lac du Verney the athletes then get the fun of a three-mountain-pass ride including the Alpe du Grand Serre (1,375m) the Col d’Ornon (1,371m) and then the beast of Alpe d’Huez with its infamous 21 switchbacks. The run is more about survival as the legs are well and truly battered in this uniquely tough event.

Photo >Michael Rauschendorfer

Ironman Lanzarote

The race in Lanzarote sits in a UNESCO biosphere reserve and, while that might mean nothing to most of us, note that it this is an island with 300 volcanic cones on it, which is how it earns that status. It has long been known as a killer for those who undertake this lightly. The bike, like most of these tough courses, sorts out those who tackle it. With high winds and 2,551 m of climbing, it is set apart from other courses. For veteran Lanzarote athletes, the start is full of trepidation since even if the conditions are simply average they can sear the racers. The races motto? “Normal limits do not apply.”

Photo >Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman

Ironman World Championship

There have been a million words and articles dedicated to this amazing race. It is renowned as one of the toughest days in sports. Getting to Kona, for most, requires an arduous qualification process and, once you are there and the canon sends you on your way, you truly know you are in deep. The standard mileage for any Ironman is tough, but Kona throws in a few extra additions. Winds that can literally knock you off your bike, heat that can sear the legs and the unworldly terrain combine to make Kona a true test. Add to that the calibre of the field racing, the amount of media, spectators and all the excitement of the build up and you have the perfect storm for triathlon.

Photo >Challenge San Gil Queretaro website

Challenge San Gil Queretaro

This is a little-known race in Mexico, but it packs a tough punch. It starts at an altitude of 2,000m and then climbs higher on the bike course. The fastest male time is 4:07 and female-best is 4:36. Both the athletes that won last year were based in Boulder, so were used to the altitude and elevation. It is renowned in Mexico as being the toughest bike course on the Mexican triathlon calendar. This year will be the third time as a Challenge event, but the 25th anniversary of the actual race, which shows a dedication to the organisation and the event itself.