An elite field of professional triathletes from around the globe are preparing to descend on Nice, France for the first ever IRONMAN® World Championship triathlon in Europe.
On Sunday 10 September, the men’s edition of the 2023 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship triathlon will see professional and age-group men swim, bike, and run along the French Riveria in what is set to be a defining moment in IRONMAN history.
For the first time in the event’s 40-plus year history, the 2023 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship triathlon will take place in two locations with the men’s field racing on the Côte d’Azur. The women’s field will line up in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i on October 14.
Australia stands proud with a formidable contingent of 89 athletes, marking their presence as the fifth most represented nation at the event.
The United States of America is the most represented nation with 480 registered athletes, followed by Germany (249), France (210), United Kingdom (193), and Australia.
Among the professional field are Australian’s Cameron Wurf, Benjamin Hill and Nathan Dortmann who will battle for a piece of the $375,000 USD Male professional prize purse and the title of IRONMAN World Champion.
The trio will join an elite field of professional triathletes in Nice for the first ever IRONMAN World Championship triathlon in Europe.
Tasmania’s Cameron Wurf will line up for his fifth attempt at claiming the IRONMAN World Championship crown, with a best finish of fifth in 2019, with the 40-year-old crossing the line in 11th last year.
“This time last year I was fighting a bit of a bug which I didn't realise turned out to be COVID when I did a test the day after the race. The week leading into the race I was cutting back on sessions, normally I'm bouncing out of my skin trying to stop myself from training and this time last year I was trying to avoid doing what the coach was suggesting I do,” said Wurf.
“So it just feels great to be normal again and happy to hold myself back and I just can't wait to empty the tank on Sunday. It's just a quantum difference to 12 months ago and really excited for the weekend.”
Wurf spends the majority of his time in Europe these days, finding a balance between triathlon and professional cycling, with Sunday’s race in Nice very familiar to him.
“It's a very familiar race. I've actually done the race a couple of times and I’ve still never won it,” he said.
“It's a course that should suit me but having said that, I've done it because I've been down here at that time training with the guys and it's just been, oh, you here you might as well do it while you’re here.
“A bit like this year, I was driving back from Austria and had to stop off on the drive anyway back to Andorra. Then obviously once I’d stopped, the race was only a couple of days away and I couldn't bear not to do it,” said Wurf.
“I've spent a lot of time here training, I'm super familiar with the course and super familiar with the conditions. That's another reason I came down a bit earlier because I know just how, you can look at the weather forecast and the humidity and the heat, but it doesn't really tell the story of how it actually feels, so it's been great to do a couple of harder sessions that I wanted to do down here and get a feel for that just to be better prepared for Sunday when it hits you.
“I guess I feel right at home. Obviously, Australia is always home, I feel a bit silly when you say that, but I do spend so much of my life over here and it’s a home away for sure,” he said.
While Wurf has plenty of experience racing at the top level of triathlon fellow Australians Nathan Dortmann and Ben Hill are coming at the event from a very different angle, with both making their IRONMAN World Championship debut this weekend.
French-born, Brisbane-based Dortmann will race just his third IRONMAN on Sunday after securing his spot at the event at June’s Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns.
“I am feeling extremely excited. Nice is such a nice spot and such a big part of triathlon history, I still can’t believe I am here and able to be part of something so big as the IRONMAN World Championship,” said Dortmann.
“What makes it even more special is that my family is here with me throughout the whole process.
“The Nice course is probably one of the toughest race courses on the circuit and it feels right that the toughest people in triathlon go against each other on this course,” he said.
“You have crystal blue water like Hawai’i, crazy long climbs with long technical corners I can find in the Tour De France, and a four-lap flat, hot running course where you can feel the crazy IRONMAN atmosphere. I can’t wait to get started.”
While Sunday’s race is technically a home race for the French-born athlete he’ll be competing under the flag of his adopted home.
“I asked myself the question and who I should represent,” he said.
“I started triathlon a little less than 10 years ago in France. The French clubs, Saint Priest Triathlon and ASVEL Triathlon, made me love triathlon. I moved eight years ago to Australia and spent most of my triathlon career in Brisbane. The community has been so supportive and has given me so much help, I wanted to give back to the country I am calling home today. I also got my citizenship a year ago.”
Canberra’s Ben Hill, a former professional cyclist who has raced across the world, recently made the switch to triathlon, making his professional IRONMAN debut at IRONMAN Australia in May this year.
“Mentally, I’m super excited to be here. I feel very privileged to be in Nice and to be able to take part in the IRONMAN World Championship,” said Hill.
“I have some Australian pro cyclist friends that I am staying with in Nice which has been amazing, but my wife and daughter were not able to come and it feels a little strange to be here by myself when they have been such a big part of the preparation.”
Hill raced as a professional cyclist from 2013 until 2020 with the move to triathlon the next step in his career.
“In 2019 I was racing for a cycling team and living in Slovenia. My now wife was living in America and racing there. I had been chasing the dream of professional cycling since 2007 but it had become apparent this was not going to be a long-term career path for me,” he said.
“My wife and I decided to end our cycling journey and move back home to Canberra. My wife had a very successful career mainly as a track cyclist and is a two-time individual pursuit world champion. Although I have had many great moments, I never felt like I fully fulfilled my potential as a cyclist, and I have always been hungry to achieve more.
“I have represented Australia in the last three Cycling Esports World Championships, and I always value the opportunity to compete at the highest level of the sport,” he said.
“I’m not sure how much longer I will keep doing triathlon so I’m pretty proud I was able to compete here during my time in triathlon.”