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There’s something rather fitting about an IRONMAN 70.3 race in the city that’s home to Europe’s biggest steel plant.
Built on the banks of the River Rhine in the heavily industrialised Ruhr region of Western Germany, Duisburg is aptly known as the City of Steel, but these days is now equally known for being a bustling cultural centre where the old sits alongside the new.
IRONMAN 70.3 Duisburg, Germany’s newest addition to the race calendar, is based inside the impressive 200 hectare Sportpark Duisburg, once a gravel excavation site and now Germany’s biggest sports and recreation park.
And while not the most scenic of races, the course certainly makes the most of the city’s melting pot of landscapes.
The swim takes place in a regatta rowing lake inside the Sportpark, the bike leg has an industrial backdrop, while the run finishes inside a football stadium where pompom-waving cheerleaders greet you.
Location - industrial chic
Sitting in the vast Ruhr metropolis where the rivers Rhine and Ruhr meet, Duisburg was once Germany’s coalmining and chemical centre, making it a target for Allied bombers during World War Two.
But with much of its heavy industry gone, the city, which is also home to the world’s largest inland port, has redeveloped its heritage by imaginatively transforming derelict mills, metalworks and dockside warehouses into a thriving centre of culture, nightlife and waterfront dining alongside green spaces and sport parks.
While an industrial city in western Germany might not be on everyone’s holiday bucket list for a race and a trip with a difference, Duisburg has definitely got a lot to offer.
At the heart of Europe, the city has second-to-none transport links however you travel there.
European triathletes can easily travel by train to mainline station Duisburg Hauptbahnhof and the city is well connected by motorways if you’re driving.
Most international airlines fly to Düsseldorf, the nearest airport 20km to the south from where you can hop on the Sky Train to Bahnhof Flughafen Düsseldorf then take the S-Bahn train to Duisburg-Schlenk station for Sportpark Duisburg.
The race village in the Sportpark is right next to the single transition area, tri expo, start and finish lines so everything is within a 500m radius. No excuse for getting lost and super easy for spectators.
You’ll also find a handful of budget hotels and apartments just a short walk away with a bigger range to suit all budgets a couple of miles up the road towards Duisburg centre.
Course - fast & pancake flat
This course is ideal for any athlete, but especially those stepping up from Olympic distance for the first time. The easy-to-navigate lake swim course will suit less experienced swimmers who aren’t great at sighting, while the pancake-flat bike and run sections are perfect for those chasing a PB or who don’t enjoy hills!
Swim - 1.9KM
The swim is a one loop course of the rowing regatta lake so sighting shouldn’t be too much of an issue – just follow the buoy line and you’ll barely have to look up! But do practice a diving start in goggles, or you can just jump. Once around the buoys you’ll head back towards the start and it’s a quick dash to T1. Just before you exit, you’ll swim under a bridge packed with cheering spectators which should give your tired arms a welcome boost. Wetsuits are recommended.
BIke - 90KM
After exiting transition, the mildly rolling, out-and-back course first takes you out of the Sportpark Duisburg through the western parts of the city and over the Rhine via the historic “Solidarity Bridge (Brücke der Solidarität) before heading along the river. After the U-turn, you double back to the Sportpark before starting your second lap. Thanks to smooth, closed roads, you can put the hammer down and go for that PB – definitely a course for aero-bars. And to keep you fuelled up there are feed stations at the 30km/60km mark.
Run - 21.1KM
Still on for the PB? If the legs are still willing, you won’t find a much flatter run as you head out along the path around the rowing lake and pass the race village. On your third loop, prepare for your big moment – crossing the finish line inside the grounds of MSV Duisburg football club aka “Die Zebras”! .
Spectators - staying local
With the closed roads, watching the bike leg after it leaves Duisburg centre might prove tricky so spectators will probably find it easier position themselves at the Sportpark Duisburg, the heart of the action where the start and finish lines, U-turn points and single transition area are all located.
That way, they’ve got multiple chances to spot you as well as it being handy for activities in the park such as rope courses or the indoor ice rink for any younger supporters.
Friends and family can watch the swim start from the grandstand overlooking the rowing lake but also from the banks or on the bridge over the exit area.
They’ll also on enjoy the food, refreshments not to mention the buzzing atmosphere in the race village, waiting for you to come by on the bike and run courses.
Then, they’re just a few strides away from the football stadium where they can experience the thrill of watching your final lap of honour before receiving your iconic M-dot medal.
Race-cation - where old meets new
Once racing is over, it’s time to kick back and enjoy a break in this fascinating city exploring everything from its industrial heritage to the lively art and nightlife culture whether you’re travelling with friends or family.
Buy a 24 or 48 hour WelcomeRuhr card which allows you to whizz around on public transport and includes entry into the city’s museums.
Culture vultures will love the museums and art galleries which feature works by world famous artists as well as documenting the Duisburg’s rich industrial and shipping history.
Küppersmühle Museum of Modern Art and the Lehmbruck Museum of modern sculpture are especially worth a visit.
A popular quirky tourist sight is the Landscape Park (Landschaftspark), an old ironworks transformed into a park with trails and a rope course.
On a similar theme, an old slag heap is now the site of Tiger &Turtle – Magic Mountain, an impressive spiral steel sculpture you can walk up for stunning views over the city and rivers.
On a hot sunny day, you needn’t stray any further than the Sportpark Duisburg and the adjacent Six Lakes (Sechs Seen) for watersports including wakeboarding and sailing or simply enjoy the lido and lounging on the sandy beach.
Thirsty and hungry? Then head to the waterfront eateries and bars at the Inner Harbour area (Innenhafen) the rejuvenated docklands which look magical when all lit up at night.