Race Review: Cardiff Triathlon

Race Review by Simon Roxburgh


A closed road Olympic Distance Triathlon on the streets of the Welsh capital city, is an opportunity too good to miss. Now in its third year, Always Aim High Events have produced a slick, well managed athlete focussed race in a truly iconic venue. This is a chance to get the city centre racing experience that you pay big money for through your National Age Group Team, but without the qualification/ roll down process and having to buy team kit. It’s a special kind of race.

Riding the mile from my hotel near Bute Dock down to Cardiff Bay I was refreshed by a fine drizzle and a stiff south westerly breeze, today was going to be fun.

Transition is in Roald Dahl Plass, an amphitheatre immediately adjacent to the Wales Millennium Centre and fronting on to the waterfront of Cardiff Bay. It’s a pretty impressive place for a transition area, feels secure and is great for spectators.

After a fitful nights sleep with regular wake up calls from my drunken neighbours at The Big Sleep Hotel meant I was pretty jaded by the time I got there and proceeded to rack in the wrong spot for the first time in 12 years, despite clear numbering on the racking. In the words of Homer Simpson, doh!

The swim is pretty straight forward and coming in a little short of 1500m (according to my Garmin anyway), it’s going to help give some flattering swim times, all being well. It’s a deep water start, adjacent to the Dr Who Experience (at this point I would of been glad of some time travel help – I’m not being greedy, just a chance to knock 10 minutes of my overall time would be great), from the gun to the first buoy is approximately 500m heading directly towards Northcliffe/Penarth, the south westerly means there is a good chop on the water coming mainly head on but slightly to the right, although The Bay is a river water lagoon, the wind creates little dumpy waves that make the opening leg hard work. A right turn for 100m then another right sees the homeward leg to Transition. The red brick tower on the Pier Building makes a good initial sighting point, before the flags and blue carpet of the exit pontoon become fully into view.

Running into transition, you get a good buzz off the noise from the crowds, there is a good deal of space between racks so I find my bike quickly and out onto the bike course.

I’m not going to lie; this is a proper city centre course, with plenty of twists, turns and athletes. If you’re expecting a proper time triallist drag strip, you’re not going to get it. What you will get is a fairly technical, yet very flat course that still offers some very fast sections as well as couple of dead turns, so best brush up on your bike handling skills. That being said, I still think that a TT bike is the better option over a road bike with clip ons if you have the option. The strong winds actually made the bike leg really interesting, particularly with how they swirl around buildings and the man made topography of the city streets. Knowing when to push on but also realising when the wind is slowing progress yet you’re still working hard enough despite this, took some concentration.  Additionally the damp road surface meant that extra concentration was needed cornering, it’s worth losing a minute and staying upright rather than pushing the limits and sliding out.

After three 13km laps transition beckoned again, bike racked, helmet off and run out towards the waters edge.

The run is flat and fast, consisting of two 5km laps. Heading out of transition you turn left onto Harbour Drive, past the swim start and onto Tiger Way, here the course scenery breaks from the polished Cardiff Bay experience that tourists soak in, to glimpses of the industrial past of the docks as you pass the industrial units of Cargo Way. This then leads onto the barrage where you have the fresh water of Cardiff Bay on one side and the brine of the Bristol Channel on the other.

Approximately 2.5km there’s a dead turn and back the way you came, as you head back into the polished parts of The Bay, rather than head left back into transition you bear right in front of the steps of The Senedd (the home of the Welsh Assembly – here I could add a quip about it not being the first time that loads of hot air has been blown around The Senedd building but I’m bigger than that) before turning around for the second lap.

The second lap is more of the same and it’s great to see where you stand against your team mates and the athletes you’ve been having little one to one battles with as you run back out to the barrage. Finally as you head back past The Senedd, you’re directed past the turnaround point, onto Stuart Street before after what seems an age (in reality 30 seconds) you hit the final turn left to the finish arch next to Roald Dahl Plass and the Millennium Centre.

In summary, if you want a fantastically organised event with some great city centre racing around some iconic landmarks of Welsh life, choose the Cardiff Triathlon, it’s a must do event.

Cardiff Triathlon website

A big thank you to Sport Picture Cymru for allowing us to use the picture

Triathlon coaching available via www.Triroxtraining.co.uk

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