14 Sep 2024

Let’s race… Challenge Almere-Amsterdam

Everything you need to know about racing the second oldest long distance triathlon in the world! From training tips and course info, our comprehensive Challenge Almere-Amsterdam race guide is here to help you get ready to race.
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Jenny Lucas-Hill

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After racing the long distance event herself in 2023, writer and triathlete Jenny Lucas-Hill gives you the inside track on Challenge Almere-Amsterdam. Whether you’re taking on the middle distance, full distance or opting for the aqua bike option. Our race guide will tell you everything you need to know about racing Challenge Family’s flagship event.

Challenge Almere-Amsterdam is one big triathlon party. With both long distance and middle distance triathlons, aquabike events and relay options. Race weekend comes loaded with a festival vibe as triathletes from all around the world arrive for non-stop triathlon action.

Almere itself might be a modern metropolis, but this event has history. In fact, other than Hawaii – it’s the oldest long distance race on the circuit. Host to multiple European and world championship events over the years, this unique below-sea level race sets the perfect scene to test your limits.

Be part of triathlon history at one of the world's oldest long distance triathlons

Location - Modern city, rich in triathlon history

You’ll find Almere just a short journey away from the iconic city of Amsterdam. Situated on reclaimed land at what was once the sea bed of the Zuidersee, racing at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam you’ll experience a course surrounded by water, classic Dutch landscapes, with fast flat roads where the battle is you versus the elements.

As the Netherlands’ youngest city, Almere is future-thinking. Modern architecture is criss-crossed with water and punctuated with plenty of green spaces. The sweeping coast line offers laidback beaches and everything a water sports enthusiast could dream of. There’s plenty to explore in the way of shops, restaurants and cosy cafes. And of course, getting around by bike is an absolute breeze.

Almere is the type of city that offers the perfect level of bustle, without ever feeling overwhelming. The perfect setting for having your best triathlon race yet.

Why race... Challenge Almere-Amsterdam

Challenge Almere-Amsterdam is a race that brings together first-timers, age-group champions and everyone in between. The course is challenging and exciting enough that it has plenty of people wanting to come back for more. But the fast, flat roads and the calm lake swim make it the ideal place to take on your first middle distance or long distance triathlon. And having hosted several European and World triathlon championships, you can race with confidence that the organisers really know how to look after their age-groupers.

Be part of triathlon history at Europe's oldest long distance triathlon
Fast flat course and the world's only race below sea level
Beautiful contrast between endless polder roads and urban buzz with thousands of spectators

Course - Flat, fast, but not to be underestimated

The course at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam is flat and fast – but don’t underestimate it. This is still a serious challenge, particularly if the wind isn’t in your favour. We were lucky in 2023 to have speedy conditions, without much wind to contend with. But I can imagine this would be a course where if you’ve got a headwind, it’s going to feel just as tough as the hillier races on the circuit. Get that TT position dialled, because this is a race where aero is everything.

Swim - 1.9km / 3.8km

The swim at Challenge Almere takes place in the Weerwater' man made lake. In 2023 the open race was a mass start. But don't let that scare you - it was incredibly well managed, with everyone being given plenty of time to enter the water and find their own space before the gun went off. If you don't want to be part of the 'washing machine', you won't have to. In my experience, the water was calm (and warm - but not enough to make it a non-wetsuit swim) and the course was very well marked, so it was easy to stay on track. Middle distance athletes will complete 1 lap, meanwhile long distance athletes tick off two laps before heading into T1. It's worth knowing that the transition zone is about a 5 minute walk away from the race start, so make sure you leave yourself enough time on race morning.

BIke - 90km / 180km

The bike course is one of the flattest triathlon courses on the circuit, with just 141m of elevation gain for the middle distance race and 242m for the long distance. But there's also a few little technical sections to contend with, featuring narrow connecting roads and a few twists and turns, at the start of the lap. After that, you've got a long, straight stretch along the dikes where you can see for miles - even getting views of Amsterdam if it's a clear day. This is where you really need to dial into that aero position to make the most of the speed. Once you turn off the long straight, it's well worth taking a moment to take in your surroundings as you wind through fields of tulips and windmills quintessential to the Netherlands.

Run - 21.1km / 42.2km

The run course at Almere takes you through the buzzing atmosphere of the Esplanade and out around the edge of the lake. It's predominantly flat (92m elevation gain for the middle distance and 184m for the long distance), with plenty of aid stations and multiple hot spots with music and supporters to keep you motivated. With two or four main laps to tick off, you'll also get to run by the finish line multiple times - the sounds of the finish line party a good way to recharge your energy and keep you pushing the pace.


Race at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam and you'll be in with a chance of qualifying for The Championship in Šamorín - a middle distance triathlon that attracts the world's best PROs as well as top level age-groupers. So what do you need to do to qualify? A slot is allocated to the top 6 finishers in each age group, with slots rolling down up to 12th place. Below you'll find the fastest and slowest qualifying times for each age group from the Long Distance 2023 event to give you an idea of what sort of time you might need to aim for to have the opportunity to qualify for The Championship and race against some of the best Challenge age-groupers from around the world. Athletes racing in the middle distance event can also qualify for The Championship. *Where fewer than 6 qualifying places are shown for an age group, there were less than 6 athletes in that category participating.

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Race training & prep

Whether you’re racing the long or the middle distance event: getting ready to race at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam means you really need to spend a lot of time in your aero position in the run up to race day. It’s easy to forget that an almost pan flat course profile means there’s no let up from being down on your bars! It’s a course where staying aero is really important if you want to have your best performance – especially if it’s windy – so you don’t want to find yourself having to sit up too often.

Get used to holding your TT position/riding down on your drops, and make sure you also practice taking on nutrition in this position in training. Your stomach is in a much more compressed position when you’re riding aero and that can have an impact on digestion.

That flat course profile also means there’s no chance to freewheel or drop the pace. “Make sure to prepare for straight roads and thus no chance to go easy on the legs,” says 2023 PRO champion, Els Visser. “You will need to push almost the entire bike course.”

And while we got lucky in 2023 that the wind was very kind to us, you definitely want to be prepared for windy conditions on race day in case you’re not so lucky. Get used to riding in a head wind and a cross wind so you know how your bike handles.

That sustained effort on the bike can also have an impact on your run – if you’re pushing the pace and staying aero, it’s easy to come off the bike feeling tight and with your legs feeling cooked! Make sure you practice running after holding your aero position on the bike in training so your body is well-versed in moving between the two disciplines. I’d had a big injury in the build up to the race, which meant I couldn’t run for a few months and arrived at the start line with very little run training in my back pocket. That lack of running off the bike made the marathon a suffer-fest!

Travel & accommodation

With Amsterdam just a short distance away, getting to Almere is incredibly easy, with the international airport well-connected by train and by bus. When I did the race in 2023, we travelled over from the UK on the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland which was only an hour or so drive away from Almere. If you’re driving or renting a car from the airport, there was plenty of parking at the race venue – and this was accessible on race morning too. All of that makes for a very stress-free experience when you’re travelling to race at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam!

There’s a huge range of accommodation to choose from in Almere. The city centre Leonardo Hotel is a very short walk away from the race venue. Or you’ve got the Van der Valk Hotel which is a little further out near the green area of Almeerderhout.

If like me you prefer to self-cater before a race there are plenty of Air BnB (or similar) options, too. My friends and I rented a villa in the Zeewolde area which was about a 30 minute drive away from the race and a really nice, tranquil area. It was really easy to travel back and forth to the race venue, and there were heaps of bike paths around (as you’d expect) which made it easy to tick off the last couple of rides before race day.

Spectators - Cheering is an endurance sport

Spectators, get ready for non-stop multisport action. With middle and long distance triathlons, aquabike racing and relays – there’s never a dull moment at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam.

The Esplanade is the best place to set up camp for the day. In the stadium, you’ll be at the heart of it all. From here you can watch the start, see your athlete on the way out of T1 and T2 and you’ll also be able to cheer them on as they pass by on each lap of the run course. And of course, you’ll have front row seats for the finish line celebrations!

While your athlete is out on the bike course, make the most of the nearby beaches – it’s not often you can hop from city centre to beach with just a few minutes’ stroll. You’ll find plenty of beachside cafes and bars to relax at, keeping those energy levels topped up for some serious cheerleading duties once your athlete gets out onto the run course.

Race-cation - A laidback city with plenty to explore

After your race, it’s well worth spending a few extra days in Almere for a post-race vacation. It’s a great base to explore Amsterdam, but the city itself also has plenty to offer.

Almere has seven beaches to enjoy, and if you’re lucky with the weather, these are a great place to relax and bask in the sun – and hopefully the glory of a new triathlon personal best. If you’re feeling energetic, you can also try out some water sports while you’re there.

For nature-lovers, head back to the Oostvaardersplassen Nature Reserve which you’ll have passed by out on the bike course during the race. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘birthplace of rewilding’ and you’re likely to come across everything from rare birds to wild horses. Those travelling with kids might also want to check out the Klimpark Fun Forest which has all sorts of activities including climbing, archery and water sports – perfect for wearing the youngsters out when you’re exhausted after racing!

If architecture is more your thing, take an architecture tour in the city centre to appreciate all this modern city has to offer. There’s also the main shopping street in Almere Stad which has a great selection of shops, bars and restaurants for your post-race celebrations.

Overall, I found that Almere had a really nice, laidback vibe which was just what I needed after ticking off another full distance triathlon.

Be part of triathlon history at one of the world's oldest long distance triathlons

Host to multiple European and world championships, Challenge Almere-Amsterdam is the ultimate triathlon party. Bringing you a festival of multisport, test your limits as you take on this flat, fast - but challenging - course.

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