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The Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice

Qualified from the Ironman 70.3 in Maine in 2018, I was impatiently awaiting this race, mainly for the experience of living the world championships as well as spending 3 weeks in France with my family and not for the performance . Because between Maine and Nice, the arrival of the first baby has turned the new family life upside down and the priorities have been redefined.

The only more or less constant training this year is running. Swimming is almost non-existent and when it comes to cycling I can hardly do two outings a week. So for this race in Nice, I am basing myself on the achievements of previous years. I know from experience that we should not hope for anything in terms of classification in this kind of race, in a world championship, there are no tourists.

My trip takes place over 3 weeks; 1 week with the family in my native Normandy, a second week in Nice with the family as well, the race being scheduled at the end of this second week then a third and last week of vacation.

Of course, having no big goals for this event, the previous weeks are filled with meals (non-sporting and mostly well watered).

Traveling with wife and child, the bike stayed in Montreal, I rented one in Nice and I will be able to do two outings with this Ventum brand bike before the race. The 90km bike course is very demanding,

first a 10km flat which is ideal for warming up when getting out of the water, then 35km of ascent, followed by 35km of descents on narrow winding roads to finish with 10km of flat.

bike part

bike route profile
Also for running and swimming I will do two training sessions in each sport during the week of the race.

At the top of the Col de Vence

On the prom
On Saturday, September 7, it’s the girls’ race, which we follow from the start. Then in the afternoon, we put our things in transition zone 1 and transition 2.

The USA is the most represented country with 1,053 registered athletes, followed by France (568), Germany (444), the United Kingdom (416) and Australia (314). Other athletes from countries as far away as Bolivia, Egypt, Iceland, Malta and the Philippines come from all over the world to try their luck at the championship.

More than 200,000 registered athletes participate in IRONMAN 70.3 races each year, only 5,706 have had the privilege of running this year in Nice.

More than 3,000 volunteers will contribute to the success of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.

65% of registered participants (3,684 athletes) are men

35% of registered participants (2,022 athletes) are women

42 years is the average age of all registrants

The next day, Sunday September 8, is the men’s race. The start of professional athletes is at 7 a.m., then my age group is announced for 7:33 a.m. The water temperature is raised to just over 25 degrees Celsius, which prohibits the use of the swimming suit (which was authorized the day before for women).

departure of professional athletes

Organizing an Ironman is always impressive, but it’s even more magical when it comes to a world championship! The national anthem is played by a military orchestra, then the start is sounded at 7:00 a.m. I will even have the opportunity to see the pros come out of the water while I waited my turn to launch into the big blue. 7:33 am sharp, my age group wave begins in a “rolling-start” 10 athletes are released every 5 seconds. We jump into the water, from the pebble beach, I immediately catch the feet of a person immediately in front of me, and the sensations are very good.

For once I really enjoy swimming and the passage of buoys passes quickly. When I get to the first turn I lose the pair of feet I was following, and swimmers from the following waves come in and create a small crowd. The pace is always correct. Nothing extraordinary for me but I think that for a swim without a wetsuit the time will not be that bad.

Then comes the last bend and last straight line to find the pebbles. The sun gives vigorously to our right (side where I take my breath) and this makes my trajectory very difficult to follow, then finds me two or three times a little too much to the left of the direct line to reach the beach. I correct my trajectory by trying to find other athletes until I extricate myself from the water helped by volunteers.

Swimming, 1991m (small detour of 90m compared to the optimal trajectory)

Strava activity
The transition is long, 3683 bikes lined up in 80 rows.

The weather is good, and starting the bike on the flat is pleasant enough to heat up. I know some guys are going to pass me like rockets, and I think this is no ordinary race and I should let them go. This does not miss several athletes overtaking me at high speed. Arrive the climbs of the Nice hinterland and it’s my turn to overtake other athletes and catch up with the faster competitors on the flat.

The referees are numerous throughout the course, I would not see any card distributed, but the penalty tents along the circuit are well filled. The climb is really pleasant and goes well. Not being in shape to give competition to other athletes, I make the most of this course. The supplies are well supplied, and are placed in the climbs, this allows to catch food and drinks at low speed which makes the task really easier.

Bike vélo Ironman

We pass the highest point 963m to descend to sea level. The descent is very fast but dangerous with many winding bends which makes the second part of the course rather slow for a descent. The mountain road is very narrow and the turns are very tight. Fortunately all the athletes present are (supposedly) seasoned cyclists and the vast majority, like me, have recognized the course before. However, many of them missed a turn and some fell. (Some dailies will report the next day that an athlete fell from more than 20m in height in a precipice, and had to be helicoptered to the hospital).

We quickly find the Promenade des Anglais for the last 10 kilometers of cycling, the weather is always good and the heat is felt.
I put the bike down just under 3 hours…. which is 45min slower than my usual lap times on IM 70.3

Strava activity
Now the race begins for me. It is on this last part that I set a goal.

From the start I set off at a decent pace (between 3:50 and 3:45 / km) that I think I can hold throughout. From now on, nobody overtakes me, it’s my turn to pass the other athletes. At kilometer 4 a Mexican competitor hangs on and keeps pace with me, at kilometer 6 a Dutch competitor also hangs on and tries, even several times to put his shoulder in front of me to “be in front” which becomes painful because as soon as ‘he finds himself in front of it seems to slow down. It is not very pleasant for me, this feeling of running “tight” with your elbows tucked into your ribs.

My mano to mano with the Mexican

On many occasions we rub our arms or shoulders. The Mexican athlete stays behind the two of us out of the wind. Comes the U-turn and I take the opportunity to restart at the exit of a hairpin bend and let go of the Dutchman never to see him again. The Mexican athlete is still there and we motivate each other to keep up. I water myself abundantly with each refueling, and I even notice the slippery support of the wet ground in the refueling zones made slippery.

I see my family and friends supporting me along the route. The second loop arrives and I can’t keep pace with the Mexican who is 20m ahead of me, then these 20m turn into 50m… My pace slows down a few seconds per kilometer (3:55 and 4:00 / km) while the sensations are good (breath, legs) I think it’s the heat that limits me. I count the last 5 kilometers to motivate myself and try to improve my pace, then at the 19 th kilometer I see the back of the Mexican athlete, and I motivate myself to go look for it.

300m before the line I pass him and encourage him to hang on. I crossed the line 1min faster than my goal of 5h and completed the half marathon in 1h22.

Strava activity

We receive our medal, a towel, a t-shirt, a cap, all bearing the image of the Ironman 70.3 Nice World Championship 2019. A meal follows like I had never seen (or even in Kona, Hawaii). By its quality and diversity.