After competing in the Monaco 70.3 many years ago I came to the conclusion that I would be better off not entering races requiring descending skills. This put Ironman France largely off my race radar; I liked the location, but the course didn’t suit my Kona ambitions. My knowledge of the race is second hand and focuses on the run – back and forth along the promenade without respite from the afternoon sun. The bike may involve some challenging climbs, but it’s melting during the marathon that athletes remember. These things tend to have an impact on race times.
The distributions of finisher splits from the last 8 years of racing shows a spread weighted towards those slower times. Not so much in the swim, but the bike peaks around 6:00 hours with the majority of athletes being slower. The run is a little more evenly spread around the 4:15 mark, still slow by European race standards. Naturally the overall distribution follows a similar trend – peaking between 11:30-12:00 with most of the weight to the right. So Ironman France is clearly one of the slower European races.
Age division medians support this. Median times are consistently at the slower end of the scale. Even in the professional ranks – it’s a slow course when the male bike average is over 5 hours for the pros. It’s worth noting that France has a large field and this does tend to result in slower averages, but the effect is less pronounced at other large European races. Much of this difference is the course – hills and heat.
|Number of Athletes||Number of Slots|
There are 2,753 age groupers registered for this weekend’s race. They’ll be competing for the 60 Kona slots on offer which should be allocated roughly inline with the table above. Actual numbers depend on how many start on race morning.
Despite the slower course and slower average times there are still fast front-of-pack athletes and competition for slots remains high. In the women’s field the drop off from first to 10th or 20th is quite steep and you need to be in a position to win your age group to be confident of qualifying. For the men there’s greater depth of field, competition is high so the drop off in times is generally smaller. It varies with age, but a 9:45 seems a safe target for someone in the hunt for a slot.
Ironman France is not a fast race in comparison with most other European events, but for the front-of-pack age grouper confident in the hills and comfortable in the heat it may represent a good qualification opportunity.