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Vichy: the best place in the world for a long distance triathlon

Posted on: Tuesday 18th June 2013

– by Amandine co-race organizer –


Coming from an island, I always thought true happiness was hiding in the tropics. A simple meeting with triathlon and the man who now, for me, embodies the sport, made me think again. There is somewhere else, away from ocean spray in the centre of France where I now share Gael’s mission to ensure the happiness of long distance triathletes in an exceptional environment, the beautiful site of Vichy – Challenge Vichy.

Vichy… the name means something to everybody: the brand of beauty products, the seat of the French government during World War II, the queen of spas for hydrotherapy, tiles, an old cloth fashionable for seamstresses, the third provincial racecourse for horse racing enthusiasts. Vichy is so much…

When Gael Mainard, former professional triathlete, offered to co-organize an international triathlon for Challenge Family, we could organize it anywhere in France. I imagined myself at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean or Mediterranean. But he offered me Vichy, in Auvergne, country of his childhood and adolescence. Curious about this emotional choice, I told myself that I needed to see it. In his words, the destination was perfect: it was a beautiful, sporty city where we could organize a masterful and magical race.

It brought me directly to the Pierre Coulon sports centre. Located on the banks of the Allier it’s a huge park of 120 hectares where sports fields sit alongside large green spaces and flowers around the lake. Gael showed me what he had imagined – the transition area, the start line, the swim exit, the finish line, the food court, the race office, pasta party, award ceremony and volunteer party. Having understood what he’d boasted about to me for weeks, a single location ending up in a beautiful park with hundred year old trees and quiet water’s edge, we let our imagination run wild – how to manage the site, decorate it and make it beautiful. In short, how we could share our dream with triathletes.

After this planning stage, two editions of Challenge Vichy took place in 2011 and 2012. The feedback was very good even though we were faced with unpredictable weather and delivery problems, making us realize that this is the lot of every event organizer!

We are now organizing the third Challenge Vichy and hosting this year’s Long Distance Triathlon European Championships, unequivocal evidence of strong confidence in the event and its organizers from the sport’s governing bodies. Our goal is to show athletes that Vichy is the ideal destination combining high-level competition and family holidays.

Perfectly located in the Auvergne region of central France, Vichy is just a few kilometres away from ancient volcanoes and lakes that have given the region its reputation. Until you’ve experienced it for yourself it all seems quite abstract, but once on the slopes of a crater, you realize the beauty of this preserved natural environment.

The city itself is beautiful. Many pedestrian streets and English landscape parks give it a unique character. Walking around also lets you enjoy Vichy’s architectural heritage including the time when Napoleon stayed here. Due to his legacy when Vichy welcomed thousands of visitors coming to the area’s natural spas looking for cures, the city’s has excellent hotel capacity offering athletes accommodation within a 4km radius of the sports complex. Cinemas, casino, opera and shopping – the city is full of things to do.

Challenge Vichy on 1st September is all about the athletes’ stay. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ must be perfect, in beautiful surroundings, but the race itself must also give the whole family total satisfaction. We want our athletes dreaming, to have stars in their eyes, want to come back… this is our Challenge!

The compact nature of the race site makes it easy for athletes and their families. Thus the transition area along the lake is the first place athletes find on entering the sports park.

A little further on, under the trees, a food court with trampolines and games for children allows everyone to eat. The area is close to the entrance of the EXPO village where nearly 30 booths and exhibitors are available to triathletes.

Also located at the EXPO Village, the finish line area is a U-shaped stadium that can welcome 2,000 spectators. A big stage and towers make it an even more magical place. Behind the finish line there is the ‘Palais du Lac’ with its large lawn. This is the venue for the pasta party, award ceremony, volunteer party and also the rest area after the athletes’ arrival. A physio space is dedicated to massages after the race and a huge buffet awaits athletes. Always nearby, spas and showers are available for ultimate relaxation of tired muscles.

Everything is therefore in easy reach with the beauty of the park creating an even more exceptional race. Challenge Vichy tried to be as attractive as possible to the athletes’ children and families. A child duathlon (Junior Challenge) takes place on Saturday before the race, budding athletes arriving in the same area as adults the next day, which makes them even more proud! Also the day before the race, the 5km Fun Run is a run for all for a good cause. With an entry price of 2€, everything is donated to the Association Grégory Le Marchal against cystic fibrosis.

We, Amandine and Gael, are now ready and proud to help you fully experience the intense ‘Challenge Vichy’ in our magical city. This experience, like no other, will help you write your own sports history and also link you forever to this unique environment.

Posted in Athlete's Journey, Athlete's Journey » Behind the Scenes, Athlete's Journey » Features


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