Thursday 29 June 2023

Wanna do the Paris Triathlon? What you need to know

Paris Triathlon details

  • The Paris Triathlon usually takes place in June. There is a sprint distance, which is what I did - 550m swim, 21km bike, 6km run - that takes place on the Saturday. The Olympic distance race - 1500m, 40km, 10km run on the Sunday.
  • The event is based at Parc de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement, with the swim taking place in the Ourcq Canal. 
  • The bike route goes into central Paris and back, passing some well-known landmarks. On both distances you go via the Canal St Martin to Republique, through Bastille, and along the River. In the sprint race the riders do a U-turn at Place de la Concorde to return to Parc de la Villette. 
  • In the Olympic distance the riders go up Champs Elysees and do a stint through the Bois de Boulogne before returning to the triathlon event village. 
  • Parts of the course have cobbles, though not extensively. Also be careful of sharp right or left-hand turns, and check around you before changing your line.
  • The race is supposedly non-drafting, but with the numbers and on this type of fast, mainly flat course it's hard to avoid doing so!
  • The run goes up one side of the Ourcq Canal, heading East to the suburb of Pantin, then crosses the canal at the half-way point to head back to the finish line in the event village.
  • This year, for the first time they included a duathlon, based on the distances in the sprint triathlon. Competitors did the same as the sprint triathletes but the swim was replaced with a 5km run.
  • Around 5000 athletes take part across all three distances over the two days.
  • It's a mass participation event open to anyone fit enough. The sprint triathlon is accessible to people who are new to the sport, with a cut-off time of around 3 hours to complete the race.
  • To take part, you need to have either a medical certificate stating a non-contraindication to doing competitive triathlons, or a triathlon licence from your country's triathlon federation. If you don't have an annual French Triathlon Federation licence you need to buy a French Triathlon Federation day licence for a nominal fee.
  • Given the numbers of people taking part in the event, you need to rack your bike in transition the day before the event.
  • The organisers seem quite relaxed about the closing date for entry. I entered the triathlon just a week prior to the event! But bear in mind that when uploading accompanying documents (triathlon licence/medical certificates) as part of the on-line entry process the organisers recommend that you allow a couple of weeks for them to validate your documents.
  • The events start around 7am, so you need to get public transport around 5.30/6am, depending on which part of Paris you're in. The metro is running at that time and the most convenient stop is Porte de Pantin on line 5.
  • On the morning of the event you need to be in your start pen about 30 minutes before your start time.
  • The walk from transition to the start pens is around 800m (half a mile) along grass, trails and cobbles. The organisers advise people to wear old trainers which can then be left in designated boxes and donated to charity. I didn't have old trainers so just wore a few pairs of old socks. 
  • As with all major events, there's a bit of a queue for the portaloos, so allow lots of time.
  • There is a staffed bag-drop area for your post-race gear, though there are no changing rooms or showers. Some people just got changed in the grassy area around the event. I was happy to cycle back to my lodgings after the race and get changed there. 
  • If you don't want to take your bike or a wetsuit, for an extra fee you can hire a "triathlon package" for the event from the organisers. It includes a bicycle and a wetsuit, plus other triathlon gear.
  • There's a great atmosphere at the event, with lots of spectators.
  • The 2024 date has not yet been announced, though it is possible to register your interest in order to receive news about it, including the date.

My logistics for the race
  • I travelled to Paris from London with my bike. I packed down my triathlon gear (including my wetsuit) very small so that they fitted into my bikepacking bags - one on the saddle, and the other on the handlebars. I also carried a small rucksack.
  • I caught a train from East Croydon to Brighton and then cycled to Newhaven. There was the option to catch a train from Brighton to Newhaven Town.  You can also go by train from East Croydon to Newhaven Town (with a changeover at Lewes). There was a further option to ride from Crystal Palace to Newhaven, but I didn't have the time to do that! Train tickets cost anything from £9 to £29 depending on which route you take, and if you book in advance on-line to travel on Thameslink or Southern Trains.
  • I got the 5pm ferry to Dieppe and arrived there at 10pm local time. Ferry tickets cost around £28 each way with DFDS, though can be a bit higher depending on the service.
  • My accommodation for the night was an apartment less than 10 minutes away from the Ferry terminal. Newhaven is quite a compact town. There are also reasonably priced hotels nearby. The flat cost around £40, while the hotels are a little bit more.
  • It was possible to get a train from Dieppe through to Paris (with changeover at Rouen). Both trains are regional (TER) so you just carry your bike on and put it in the provided bike space for free. You can buy tickets at the train station, but these days the French railway company, SNCF, are on a drive to get people to book on-line via their portal SNCF Connect. You are then more likely to get cheaper fares in advance. Also, if you book on-line then you can make changes to your ticket. Fares vary alot - from about 12 Euros to 30 Euros. 
  • If you're feeling really energetic you could ride the 120 miles all the way to Paris. Or you could go part way and ride about 35 miles to Rouen, or 60 miles to Beauvais then get a train to Paris. I cycled 20 miles to Auffay and then got on a train.
  • The train from Rouen arrives at Gare Saint-Lazare, while a train from Beauvais goes to Gare du Nord, both stations being in central Paris.
  • I stayed in an Aparthotel at Maisons-Alfort, a nearby suburb of Paris, just to the East and next to the 12th and 13th arrondissements of the city. It was close to the woods (Bois de Vincennes) and was on the metro (line 8, Balard-Creteil). Bear in mind that Paris is a very compact city, and although I was in the suburbs I was still only about a half-hour bike ride from the touristic parts of Central Paris.
  • Staying in an apartment meant that I could go self-catering and eat the food that suited me for the event. Where I stayed was very conveniently located close to a supermarket.
  • The triathlon took place in the Parc de la Villette, in the 19th arrondissement, North-East of Paris. It was about a 40-minute cycle ride from where I was staying. Once the triathlon was done it was an easy bike ride to get back to my lodgings.
  • The metro took around the same amount of time on the morning of the event, and involved a changeover at Bastille to get to Porte de Pantin.
  • Getting home to London was fairly straightforward. I got a train from Paris St Lazare in the late afternoon on Sunday and then took the overnight ferry to Newhaven, then cycled to Brighton to get the train to East Croydon. I was originally booked onto a Sunday morning train in order to get the afternoon ferry from Dieppe, but a puncture meant I missed my train. However, it was straightforward forward to change my train ticket on-line. As it was the weekend, DFDS phone line was closed, so I did have to buy a new ferry ticket. Then the next day I just transferred the original ticket to a another trip in the future. I will definitely be making a trip to Paris with my bike in the future. It's one of my favourite itineraries!

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