First Look: The New Ironman World Championship Course in Nice

In this exclusive first look at the Ironman World Championship course in Nice, Triathlete shares maps and details on the course for athletes and fans.

Photo: Activ Images for Ironman

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The countdown to Nice officially begins today with Ironman‘s reveal of the swim, bike, and run courses athletes must conquer to win the title of Ironman World Champion. The first-ever two-day, two-location Ironman world championship event will kick off with pro and age-group men racing on September 10, 2023 in France; the women’s pro and age-group race will follow on October 14 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Through 2026, the two races will switch locations annually.

Though both locations are rooted in decades of triathlon history, the two world championship courses differ greatly. Unlike the big-swell ocean swim of Kona, the Nice will open in the calmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea; instead of riding through lava fields, athletes will climb the mountains of the historic Nice Triathlon route (the first-ever long-course triathlon in Europe), culminating in a technical descent to T2. Unlike the deserted Energy Lab in Kona, the Nice run follows the legendary Promenade des Anglais, where every second of the action (and, potentially, epic meltdowns) will be on full display in front of crowds of spectators. The differences between the Kona and Nice courses will make for unique – and exciting – race dynamics each year as the world’s best battle for the title of Ironman World Champion.

In this exclusive first look at the Ironman World Championship course in Nice, Triathlete shares maps and details on the course for athletes and fans. For more, check out our interview with the race directors as they gear up for the history-making event.

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Ironman World Championship Nice: Swim Course

A map of the Ironman World Championship swim course in Nice France
(Photo: Courtesy of Ironman)

Even if you haven’t watched Ironman Nice the past, chances are you know the swim venue, which has borne some of the most iconic images of triathlon swimming in recent years:

Images from the Ironman World Championship Nice Swim Course
(Photo: Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)

This year will be no exception. Taking place in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the swim course in Nice will stray from the typical square-shaped routes seen in Ironman. Instead, racers will follow a zig-zag pattern along the beach, swimming out and back twice and never straying more than 1,000 meters from shore. This will make it both challenging for athletes (who will need to sight often and keep tabs on the lead swimmers after turnaround points) and extremely easy for spectators to follow the race from land.

Another feature unique to the world championship race: an in-water start. Unlike past Ironman and 70.3 events held in Nice, which utilized a rolling beach start, the world championship event will go off in waves spaced five minutes apart. Each age group will swim to the in-water start line approximately 25 meters from shore.

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Ironman World Championship Nice: Bike Course

A map of the Ironman World Championship bike course in Nice
(Photo: Courtesy of Ironman)

Perhaps the biggest difference between Nice and Kona: the elevation gain. “It’s a challenging bike course and very technical,” says Roch Frey, head of operations for Ironman world championship events. “We have almost 8,000 feet of climbing.”

Elevation gain on the Nice course is almost twice that of Kona, drawing comparisons to St. George, Utah (which famously hosted an Ironman World Championship race during pandemic-era travel restrictions in Hawaii). In that race, 11 of the 38 pro men racing took a DNF (did not finish) on the mountainous course. Will we see a similar story play out this year in Nice? Though Nice and St. George have similar total elevation gain (7,963 and 7,374, respectively), the way the climbing is distributed is not: Nice racers will see almost all of their climbing in the first 40 miles of the race, which is spent at a near-constant grade of 5 to 7 percent, followed by a high-elevation plateau and extremely technical descent.

According to race director Yves Cordier, highlights of the bike course include quaint villages like Gourdon, which was voted one of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (most beautiful villages in France) and a passage through waterfalls at Gorges du Loup. The descent on the Clues de Gréolières is also one of the most breathtaking settings in triathlon, with cyclists steering through natural rock arches against a backdrop of the magnificent Nice hinterland.

Athletes compete in the bike section during during Ironman France 2022 in Nice, France.
Athletes compete in the bike section during during Ironman France 2022 in Nice, France. (Photo: Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)

If you’ve raced a long-course triathlon in Nice before, you may notice some small changes from past bike courses: a small segment with a steep climb and narrow descent was removed near the 130-kilometer mark; that mileage was recouped with the addition of a flat out-and-back section near the 100-kilometer mark.

Fun fact: The bike course covers some of the famous routes seen on the Tour de France, and the 2024 edition of le Tour will end in Nice due to Paris hosting the Olympic Games. In a twist aerobar-loving triathletes will love, that final stage will be a time trial.

RELATED: Data Dive: Finishing Times, DNF Rates, and More Stats from the Ironman World Championship, St. George

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Ironman World Championship Nice: Run Course

A map of the Ironman World Championship in Nice run course
(Photo: Courtesy of Ironman)

After the physically and intellectually-demanding bike leg, some athletes might see the pancake-flat run course at the Ironman World Championship in Nice as an act of mercy. But a flat course is not a guaranteed easy run, especially in a venue that will feel more like a stadium than a marathon. That’s because the race will feature a four-loop out-and-back along the Promenade des Anglais, a busy hub of the city where locals and tourists alike congregate.

A triathlete runs at Ironman France 2022 in Nice, France.
A triathlete runs at Ironman France 2022 in Nice, France. (Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)

The high visibility of athletes on the course means spectators can see everything that goes down on what could be a very close, very tactical run, like last year’s Ironman World Championship, where we saw a thrilling run battle between Gustav Iden, Sam Laidlow and Kristian Blummenfelt. Europe is known for being loud, enthusiastic triathlon fans (see also: Challenge Roth) so don’t be surprised if things get a bit wild on the course.

As the triathlon world gears up for history-making events in Nice and Kona, Triathlete will be on the ground and in the field, talking to race directors, historians, statisticians, and your favorite pros. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for the latest from the Ironman World Championships.

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