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Preview: Men's Ironman World Championships, Nice


, by Micah Ling

Photography by: shot4shot / Shutterstock

For the first time in Ironman World Championships history, the men and women are going to be racing in separate locations. On Sunday, September 10, the world's fastest men take to the Mediterranean waters of Nice before cycling in the Cote d'Azur hinterland and finishing with a run course along the promenade. Micah Ling previews the race, the course, and the athletes to watch.

Why are we racing in Nice, France?

For the past 40 years, the men’s and women’s Ironman World Championships have been held over one October weekend in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. But this year is different. For the first time, the men and women will have their own events in separate locations. The men will race in Nice, France, on September 10, and the women will race in Kona on October 14. In 2024, the men and women will swap locations, this rotation continuing through 2026, with the cities sharing the Ironman World Championships.

There has been one variation from the traditional race weekend in Hawaii: the 2021 Ironman World Championships were held in St. George, Utah, on May 7, 2022. This version of the race was rescheduled and at a different venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement that Nice would co-host the race came in January of this year. The Championships have grown to such a spectacle that Ironman wanted to give the men and women the attention that they both deserve.

Also, let's be honest: Nice is a pretty amazing triathlon destination. Credited as being the birthplace of long-distance triathlon in Europe (it hosted the first long-distance race in Europe in 1982), the city has hosted both the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships and the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in 2019.

Course Overview: Ironman World Championships, Nice

Much like Kona, race day in Nice will likely be steamy, with an average air temperature of 76°F / 24°C and an almost identical water temperature. And because it’s on the Mediterranean, it's likely to be humid.

The open water swim consists of 2.4 miles / 3.8 kilometers through cartoonishly blue Mediterranean waters. Athletes will enter the water from the notoriously pebbled beach — at least their socks won’t be filled with sand on the bike and run! The swim leg follows a double rectangular course, perpendicular to the Promenade. Not that they’ll be looking around much, but swimmers will technically have incredible views of the coastline and Alpes Maritimes in the background.

The bike is where the race could really be decided. Unlike Kona, the course is very hilly. Over 112 miles / 180 kilometers, athletes will climb nearly 8,000 feet / 2,500 m,eters with nearly all of it coming in the first 40 miles / 65 kilometers That’s about double the climbing in Kona. And it’s not just the massive climbs; the descents are also quite technical and require serious tri bike skills.

The bike course has several similarities to past versions of Ironman Nice: brutally difficult but also beautiful. The course takes riders out of Nice and up through the hinterland via quaint hillside villages. Athletes have picturesque views of the Alpes-Maritimes region on the ascent and then experience the scenic Clues de Gréolières on their descent, including roads through natural rock arches. Some of these roads have also been featured in the Tour de France.

The run brings athletes back to the Promenade des Anglais, where they will be greeted by spectators from start to finish. With only 305 feet / 92 meters of gain on the marathon course, the run will be hot and fast. Runners will take on four out-and-back loops, right next to the water.

Key Segments

There are a few key segments in the race that could help decide the outcome:

Col de L’ecre: 3.85 miles / 6 kilometers with 1,513 feet / 461 meters of climbing at an average gradient of 6.2%. The leaderboard currently includes World Tour cyclists Rudy Molard and Lenny Martinez. Martinez is currently in the red jersey at the time of this writing at the Vuelta a España.

Bouyon to Le Broc: 4.87 miles / 7.8 kilometers with 723 feet / 220 meters of climbing. This segment goes down, then up, then back down, and includes an aid station. What riders do here, at mile 90, will be crucial. Rudy von Berg and Gustav Iden currently hold the top slots.

The entire run course can basically be looked at as a 10k x 4, which it is, for various Nice running events. It would take a smoking fast time to make up for any major errors on the bike course but expect nothing less from the athletes hoping to get on the podium.

Athletes to Watch

This will be Jan Frodeno’s (DE) final Ironman World Championship, so expect him to literally leave it all out there. The German will certainly be battling for a top spot, and will likely make the run look easier than is fair.

Sam Laidlow (FR) surprised many last year with his second-place Ironman World Championship finish—and the second-fastest Kona finish in history—and he certainly only wants to move up to the top step. The French athlete continues to crush it on the long course.

Because this race is going to require an excellent bike ride, we can’t overlook Cameron Wurf (AUS), a rare World Tour cyclist and pro triathlete. If the Australian can lay down a screaming cycle through the mountains, he might end up on the podium. (Also, if you check out his Strava, you might wonder when he finds time to sleep).

And ​​Denis Chevrot (FR) has had an excellent year. Most recently, he came from a significant deficit to pass Sam Long for 4th place in the PTO Asian Open. The French athlete started out as a swimmer, which is rare in triathlon, and has continued to perfect his bike and his run.

Needless to say, there are plenty of athletes to keep an eye on this weekend. Don't forget to follow: