During Mallorca 70.3 in May my boyfriend, David qualified for the 70.3 World Championships which in 2019 would be in Nice, on the Cote d’Azure, France. What better place for a trip at the beginning of September?!
Having never been to an Ironman World Championship before we were excited to embrace it all. David and I always watch the Breakfast with Bob interviews in the run up to Kona so we were really excited that he would be in Nice. We popped in almost daily to catch Lucy Charles, Patrick Lange, Dave Scott and Alistair Brownlee. It was incredible really, when you compare it to other sports, how easy it was to get (free) front row seats to watch these world class athletes who were all more than happy to hang about and chat afterwards too.
Helen, Roger and myself also had our own race to prepare for – the 5 KM fun run which took place on the Thursday. Considering the usual cost of an Ironman event this was an absolute bargain – for €10 we got to race, a t-shirt and a medal! I was sold! There was a couple hundred of us running the 2 lap course up and down the Promenade de Anglais. It was boiling and I was glad I was only doing a 5km and not a half Ironman!
The villa we stayed in was in a village called Carros on the bike route which meant David had plenty of opportunity pre-race to practice the technical descent. Roger also drove us around the whole loop one day, allowing us to jump out and cycle bits of it. We also had a few open water swims in the beautiful sea of the French Riviera.
It was about a 40-50 minute drive into Nice depending on the traffic, but it was also possible to use the public transport, which was great – easy to use and cheap. It only cost us €1.50 each to catch the bus and tram to the centre of Nice. Although we would not have been able to take David’s bike on the bus so a car was essential staying so far out.
Saturday was the women’s race day. Despite the road closures driving to Nice was easy enough – thanks to Google Maps which knew which roads were closed and was able to navigate us into Nice without issue. We arrived to see the last of the age groups swim and watched the drama of the pro race unfold (Lucy Charles’ penalty!) on the big screen they had on the finish line. Watching the pro’s come in on the bike and then running was an amazing experience and it was especially cool to see them strolling around the race venue afterwards too. It’s not many races where you get so many top professional athletes in one place.
David could rack his bike from 2pm onwards, the female race was by now in full swing and I must say it was rather stressful trying to get David and his bike across the bike and run course to transition. In practice the two transitions were fairly close together and it would not have been an issue had the female race not been going on at the time.
Sunday was race day. Roger drove us in and we parked in the usual underground multi storey car park right on the run route. David and I headed to transition and we chatted to Bob Babbitt who was on the way over to do some work on the mic that morning. So surreal.
I can honestly say I have never seen David so relaxed on the morning of a race. It was his first World Championship and he was determined to enjoy it. It was announced (to much surprise) that the swim would be non-wetsuit but David didn’t stress – he changed into his swim skin and off he went.
We also headed to the beach and I was stood in the sea, as near the swim exit as possible but somehow I still missed him coming out of the water! My tracker pinged and I sprinted up to transition. He ran towards me similing and giving me a thumbs up which I was pleased to see considering his swim had been slightly down on what it had been in Mallorca. This was due to two things – the sea conditions – we knew from swimming in the week that due to the currents it would be slightly slow. The fact that it was non-wetsuit slowed him down even further. David definitely benefits from the extra buoyancy.
I had to laugh as he grabbed his bike he turned back to me and asked me how I was! He seemed very relaxed!
Unfortunately due to the nature of the course (one big loop into the mountains and back) it wasn’t possible for us to see him on the bike until he returned into Nice, so off we went for a quick breakfast before watching the professionals come back in off the bike and their half marathon. Due to the wave times they were way ahead of David so we watched the top three finishing before getting ready to watch David return to T2 and start his run.
Due to the out and back, multi lap nature of the course we got to see David plenty of times and we split up and spread ourselves out along the route. Again, he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. At times I wondered whether he was enjoying himself too much! About 11 miles into his half marathon he asked me what position he was in. Now on previous races at this point we’d be lucky sometimes if he even looked in our direction (sorry David!) but as he ran towards me he turned and calmly asked “Nis what position am I in, roughly?” To be honest, I didn’t know – he wasn’t in the top 50 the last time I’d looked and the tracker didn’t go any further. “erm, about 50, maybe more”, he replied “50th, ok good” and off he went. He normally would not be happy with 50th but this was the World Championships!
Off I went towards the finish line which was absolutely chaotic and rammed. I eventually managed to make it to the front. What was disappointing was directly opposite was a big empty space reserved for VIPs (aka spectators willing to pay hundreds of pounds for a VIP spectators package) It’s a shame Ironman couldn’t open up this area to normal spectators too because our side was dangerously full with people pushing, clambering and climbing up the stands to get a peek at their loved one crossing the line.
Soon David was there and the feeling of seeing him running down the finish line was amazing. I tried my best to take photos but also hi-5 him and enjoy the moment! Job done!
Burgers and Corona’s all round before heading back to the villa for one of Roger Cole’s infamous BBQ’s!
We stayed in Nice for a few days after the race – sunbathing by the pool and also exploring a bit more of the French Riviera with crepes in Eze and a day trip to the fabulous Monaco! What a place.
I would definitely recommend Nice 70.3 and might even go back to do it myself in the future. The bike course is definitely appealing being basically one long climb followed by one long decent and a flat multi lap run. Another appeal is that it actually takes place in the middle of Nice itself.. it is not one of those events which is advertised as being in a particular city but actually takes place an hours drive away! It is a great place to combine racing and holiday with the French Riviera on your doorstep and Italy nearby. It would also be a fantastic place for a training holiday.