Race preview

Pilgrimage to a Triathlon Mecca

July 24

I just wanted to write a note to all triathletes who love the sport. 

Tomorrow we see the Alpe D'Huez triathlon take place and it fills me with such joy that the Spirit Tri Series brings this absolutely iconic race in as the third stage of their tour. 

In a way, it marks a new beginning for Trisutto athletes to a connection that goes back 26 years to when we brought the first group international triathletes to 'Doo Huez' for altitude training. A love affair that broke both ways, with my family and several athletes staying past the race season and choosing to live there and the Alpe seeing the first edition of triathlon's race up the famous 21 switch backs.

But this is where the story differs from the usual shit served up as triathlon today.

This race was redeveloped by one of France's very few world champions who as a junior athlete was part of that first training group. Cyrille Neveu never left the mountain but stayed to marry the love of his life and decided triathlon should never leave the mountain again. Taking the drive that led him to win a world title - he focused on building an event that could live up to its famous destination with a race experience and course truly unique to triathlon.

It has since built a groundswell of support.

For nearly length of my triathlon coaching career this and not to Kona has always been what we view as the summit of triathlon. And it is so very humbling to see Cyrille's son, Baptiste Neveu, follow in his father's footsteps and race as part of Daniela's Bird team tomorrow. Nothing makes me prouder to watch him race in the place of his birth, now under the wing of the world's greatest long course athlete. 

But before you hard hearted triathletes leave the blog:

I remind everyone this is what triathlon was before it was bastardized by greed.

A sport of community and compassion for fellow competitors. A sport of challenge. And I mean a real challenge – not Ironman or that pale imitation masquerading that 'we are a family'. No, this is real family and this race is the real challenge in so many more ways.

It is a challenge to those athletes who don't want to say 'I rode in a pack on a highway for 90km and look at me now - I'm an Ironman'. No, this is 110km across the most iconic mountains, then ascending the great Alpe D'Huez like the great Tour D'France cyclists. Athletes supported by the caravans and crazy fans, before falling off the bike and running a half marathon. It is truly epic.

Now you can imagine many companies have wanted a piece of this race. Especially in the early days when it was struggling.


But Cyrille resisted – refusing to compromise on the toughness or fairness of the event, or to run the race for 'the wrong reasons'. The race has since grown in popularity, selling out long in advance across all distances, while still resisting the urge to continually add more numbers or jack up the price.  


'Coach, we have a preference for safety over money. We believe this is the correct number for our athletes.'


Naive? We'll see. 


Last week we saw Ironman Zurich – a race with 23 years history on one of the world's best long courses, cut the women's pro field and move its location to a destination prepared to pay more. Let's see how that goes long term. There won't be another 23. 

Fellow lovers of the sport, real challenge junkies, Alpe D'Huez is one race you must have on your 'to-do list' no matter where you live. It's a pilgrimage to a triathlon mecca. One race you don't forget no matter how many triathlons you do. And this Thursday and Friday those lucky enough will see what how the future of the sport will start to form. A back to the future approach focusing on the values that built the sport in the first place.


In only its first year Spirit Tri Series has 4 of these triathlon gems still uncorrupted from the prevailing mediocrity. Iconic, independent races that put community, safety and race experience first – business second. In short, races for those who care about sport. They will build, the races will grow and the brand will succeed. Because they have something the competitors at present completely lack. Long term vision. That and an army of triathletes who have seen the sport change for the worse over the past decade and don't like it. Here is your chance to support something with legs.


I encourage you to get involved in Spirit and take my tip, take a good look at the race this week and jot Alpe D'Huez down at the head of the triathlon bucket list. You won't be disappointed.

Brett Sutton is the Head Coach of Trisutto.com.