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2019 Best Races in Asia

Our Best Races awards are usually announced in December, but a recent website upgrade delayed the announcement a bit (yes, after 5 years we changed the look and feel of this site. It should be better for everybody, especially to the mobile users).  Our 2019 Race Calendar had over 70 events in 13 different countries, and the triathlon landscape in Asia is constantly evolving.  We lost some races in 2019 (notably Ironman 70.3 Colombo in Sri Lanka), but 2020 seems to be gearing up for a big year as Ironman Asia is holding 2 new events in Desaru Coast, Malaysia and one in Lombok, Indonesia;  Challenge Family adds a second race in China (Challenge Wuhan); and not to be left behind TriFactor puts up a race in Korea (Jeju it is!).

In judging the contenders, several criteria came into play:  ease of access, organization, scenic course, fair but challenging race for the average age-grouper, host venue and local government support, and the fun factor- during and after the race.   We combine the factors in coming up with the Overall Best Race awards—and we also give out specific awards to races that stand out on those criteria.

Most of these events are held annually and we hope you’ll be inspired to read the course reviews, check the best photos, and sign up for the 2020 editions of the race.

Here are  2019’s Best Triathlon Races in Asia, broken down in both long and short course:

1. Best Overall Triathlon Race in Asia – 2019

Short Course: LAGUNA PHUKET TRIATHLON

For the 3rd year in a row, Laguna Phuket Triathlon has won the award as the Best Triathlon Race in the short course category.  The fun vibe remains strong, and it is one of the favorite races among expats and locals.   The organization is tops with the experience of being the longest-running race in Asia—26th years now in 2019 and they always innovate to keep it fresh.   The sprint category makes sure it is open for participation for almost everybody.

The course holds its value as a fun and challenging race, and the unique 1.8km swim-50km bike-12k run format means you are not totally beat down to attend one of the best awards party in the region.   The swim course is unique, an open water swim that would transition to Laguna Phuket’s freshwater lagoons.  An 50km bike course on a scenic and challenging tour of northern Phuket with the famous Naithorn Hills as the ultimate challenge.  And the run course around the beautiful resort complex.

 

A decent Professional athlete Lineup and the $20,000 USD purse makes the race feature that truly international feel into it.   If you are based in Asia, you should definitely consider putting this iconic race on your race calendar:  superb organization, cool race inclusions, fun, challenging and scenic course, top-level host venue–then top it off with a superb after-race party–reasons why it is hard to bump this race off with this award.

See the course review here>> Laguna Phuket Course Review

See the Best Photos here>> Best Images from the 2019 Laguna Phuket Triathlon

2020 Race Date: November 22, 2020 See their website here>> Laguna Phuket Triathlon

 

Long Course: CHALLENGE VIETNAM

When Challenge Vietnam debuted in 2016, it was awarded the best Inaugural Race, and it was unfortunate that the race was discontinued for 2 years.   When it came back in 2019, not only it has doubled its participants, it has validated its previous award and for putting up a race that features a fantastic course–s swim course in one of the best and longest beach coastline in Vietnam, well-paved road and scenic coastal view for the bike course that has a mix of everything–short hills, false flats–pure flat sections, and an out and back run course that hugs the city’s coastline.

If there is a part of the course that you have to rave the best is the bike course—the 18km loop is 100% closed to traffic and you all have four spacious lanes all for participants.   Coastal and skyline view awaits you as well as natural rock formations on the mountain side of the course.

As Nha Trang is one of the biggest tourist hubs in Vietnam with its fine beaches, tasty and affordable local cuisine and the numerous tourist attractions–the execution of the race is not the only star in this review.  All race-related activities are all along the vicinity of 2-4 square, less than 1 km all in radius to all accomodation options—from budget to premium.   2-4 Square is where the transition, swim start and finish line are located so getting around is fairly easy, download the Grab app, and you have option to hitch ride a scooter, drive it yourself (cheaper but more adventurous) or a taxi.

Same with Laguna Phuket, the post-race party of Challenge Vietnam is top-notch and it features Nha Trang’s trendiest rooftop bar “Skylight”.  Challenge Vietnam gets the award as the Best Race in Asia-Long Course category:  well-organized race, great-looking and safe race course, cool destination host city in Nha Trang–with options for most athletes from budget racing to those who wants to reward themselves with premium accomodations–and the post-race party is icing on the cake!

See the course review here>> Challenge Vietnam Course Review

See the Best Photos here>>Top Photos from 2019 Challenge Vietnam

2020 Race Date: TBA. See their website here>> Challenge Vietnam

 

2. Most Challenging Triathlon Race in Asia – 2019

Half- Distance Course: IRONMAN 70.3 Subic Bay

In 2018, we awarded Ironman Philippines as the most challenging race in Asia, and there are no surprises here, its shorter distance sibling, Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay gets 2019’s most challenge race in the half-distance category.   A semi-hilly bike and run course and couple it with the searing heat at just the end of the Philippines’ hottest months in April and May means slower times from everybody.

Organizer Sunrise Events again did a great job in placing hydration and shower stations at the right locations, making sure all athletes are properly hydrated.  The bike course has around a thousand meters in gain/loss elevation, not that particular hard if trained well enough, and the run course has its undulating portions, but again not daunting if looking at the numbers—it is just the lack of shade from the heat that have a real-feel gauge of more than 40 degrees that will wear you down, especially in a 70.3 race where you will run when the sun is totally down on you.

The full distance version is back for 2020 and if you want to have that badge of honor in racing one of the toughest races in Asia, Ironman Philippines will be waiting for you.

See the Best Photos here>>Top Photos from Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay

2020 Race Date: June 7, 2020 See their website here>> Ironman Philippines and Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay

See also:  ITU Gallery: Images from Mooloolaba World Cup

 

Full Distance: IRONMAN MALAYSIA

Covering the distance of an Ironman event is already challenging enough, throw in a demanding bike course and the heat of the tropics and you are set for a very challenging day.  A little revision was done on the bike course of Ironman Malaysia, but it remains one of the hardest in Asia.

While a new bike record was set by Philip Koutny, and multiple world champion Javier Gomez ran a sub-3 hour marathon and won his first Ironman title, the heat and humidity in Langkawi was especially hard on the run as commented post-race by several age-groupers.  It remains one of the most challenging Ironman events in the global circuit.

See the course review here>> Ironman Malaysia Course Review

See the Best Photos here>> 2019 Ironman Malaysia Gallery

2020 Race Date: TBA. See their website here>> Ironman Malaysia

 

3. Best Inaugural Triathlon Race in Asia – 2019

Short Course: –SUPER LEAGUE TRIATHLON-SINGAPORE/BALI

In 2019, Age groupers from Singapore and Bali had a fast-pace experience of  Super League Triathlon racing.   We had seen top level Professional athletes (mostly from ITU background) race the innovative multi-day, unique racing formats of Super League.  One thing we know, it is fast and furious.  Think of zone 4-5 racing in very short distances.

When the Super League Triathlon series first came to Asia in Singapore in February 2019, we had a close look at the top-level and world class organization and we are impressed.   In Singapore, age groupers were treated with with Team Enduro racing relay.  In Bali a month later, more slots were opened up to age groupers with Sprint and Enduro categories.

Super League Triathlon will be back in Bali on April and in Singapore on August.

See the Best Photos here>> Top 30: Gallery from Super League Singapore Team Enduro

2020 Race Date: Bali, April 4-5/ Singapore, August TBA. See their website here>> Super League Triathlon

 

Long Course: CHALLENGE ANHUI

Challenge Anhui 2019 was Challenge Family’s first race in mainland China and it was widely successful.   The promise of a beautiful scenic course, one that is fully closed to vehicular traffic and with an enthusiastic, cheering audience to boot was realized.   Closed to 1,200 age group athletes participated in the middle and full distance events, and also 13 professional triathletes crossed the start line.   Race Director for CF Asia-Pacific Kent Wong and his team did a phenomenal job in putting up the race, with close to 2 years of preparation meeting with their local partners and working with the local government to ensure a smooth Challenge Family inaugural race in China.  Over 2000 police and traffic marshalls were deployed plus 1000 more race volunteers, and roughly 30,000 people spectated.

Because of the success of the inaugural race in China, a second Challenge Family race was announced and it will be held in Wuhan.

2020 Race Date: September 20, 2020. See their website here>> Challenge China

 

4. Best Triathlon Swim Course in Asia 2019

Short Course:  TRIFACTOR BELITUNG

Comments from participants ranged from pristine, crystal-clear and beautiful seascape.  One more commented that the “beach leveled like a virgin beach…..much different from beaches in the touristy areas.”    The swim course in the inaugural TriFactor Belitung was also judged as calm and very friendly to open water newbies.  With that, we award it as the best swim course in Asia-short course category.

2020 Race Date: July 12, 2020. See their website here>>TriFactor Indonesia

 

Long Course: IRONMAN 70.3 PHILIPPINES-CEBU

Three years in a row and the Ironman 70.3 Philippines swim course in Mactan, Cebu holds its title as the best swim course in Asia for the long distance category.  If you ever wondered how the swim at the Ironman World Championships in Kona feels like, this beach and ocean water of Mactan Island at Cebu gets pretty close.

It’s a fairly challenging effort if the current is out but definitely a beautiful swim.  One need to stay focused at their effort and pacing plan not to get too distracted by several types of fish, coral and sea life.  Its only one lap, rectangle shape, and you swim clockwise.  The rolling start makes it a much more relaxing, spacious effort.

 

See the course review here>> Ironman 70.3 Philippines Course Review

See the Best Photos here>> 2019 Ironman 70.3 Philippines Gallery

2020 Race Date: August 9, 2020 See their website here>> Ironman 70.3 Philippines

 

5. Best Triathlon Bike Course in Asia 2019

Short Course: TRIFACTOR CHINA

The bike course in the TriFactor World Championships in Quzhou China gets the award for the best bike course in Asia for the short course category.  Quzhou is one of the most progressive cities in China, and it shows on the road infrastructure, and smooth pavement on the roads.  The fact that the race is 100% closed to traffic shows how races in China can excel when the local government throws its 100% support on the event.

Add to the mixture that progress has not totally interfered with the cultural aspect of the city.   Temples, monuments and some lake view are all over the course, as well as senior locals doing their tai-chi flow.

See the Best Photos here>> TriFactor China Race Gallery

2020 Race Date: September 20, 2020 See their website here>> TriFactor China

 

Long Course: CHALLENGE ANHUI

100% totally closed roads means a safe bike course. Undulating sections in the bamboo forest area is a huge eye-pleaser when the wheels slow down a bit, but with road surface as smooth as they were, the course was judged as fast.   The Pros who raced mentioned safety was a major concern in some Asian races as some locals and some animals are not contained in bike courses; not in this race….100% closure with the help of 2000+ plus police and traffic marshalls.  That’s a lot of protection for the athletes.

 

6. Best Triathlon Run Course in Asia 2019

Short Course: LAGUNA PHUKET TRIATHLON

The course runs through around the Laguna Phuket resort complex.   Same with the Bintan course, it is a 2-loop mostly flat, and the portion around the golf course is just stunning with lots of greens and trees landscape.  There is no wonder that this event is a genuine race-cation destination spot.

Long Course: IRONMAN 70.3 BINTAN

Ironman 70.3 Bintan is still one of the must-go destination races in Asia and its 2-loop run course that is mostly flat, and runs mostly around Bintan Resort’s Lagio Bay Lake contributes to that statement.   Scenic backdrops and manicured greens along the run path are staple on this course.    The designated spectator zones makes for a nice boost of morale for all athletes.

2020 Race Date: August 16, 2020. See their website here>> Ironman 70.3 Bintan

See also:  2017 Best Triathlon Races in Asia

 

7. Most Convenient Triathlon Race in Asia – 2019

Short Course: BALI INTERNATIONAL TRIATHLON

Bali International Triathlon is an Olympic Distance event and easily, with the event venue only around 20-25 minutes away from the Denpasar International Airport, we judged it as the most convenient short course race in Asia.  Ngurah Rai airport serves direct connection to almost all major Asian cities and  getting there from other countries would not be difficult.  With the race venue  in the quieter side of Bali in Sanur, it will suit you if you love the less-touristy but definitely more relaxing resorts.    And with the event a standard distance, it is very easy to pack it up after the race and still have energy to go to your preferred attractions in Bali.

See the Best Photos here>> Best Images from the 2019 Herbalife Bali International Triathlon

2020 Race Date: TBA See their website here>> Bali International Triathlon

 

Long Course: CHALLENGE ISKANDAR-PUTERI

In terms of accessibility due to the sheer number of available flights to and from Changi Airport in Singapore, this would be the most obvious choice if you will be racing Challenge Iskandar-Puteri.   Most athletes flew to Singapore, then took a one-hour drive to the race venue.  One can actually see Singapore from Johor Bahru and there are many of Malaysians who work in Singapore and do this commute on a daily basis.   Also helped a lot that organizers helped athletes to book transfers from Singapore International airport to the race venue, you can organize on your own or contact them when registering for the race.

See the course review here>> Challenge Iskandar-Puteri Course Review

2020 Race Date: TBA. See their website here>> Challenge Iskandar Puteri

 

8. Best Destination Triathlon Race in Asia – 2019

Short Course: Laguna Phuket Triathlon

Laguna Phuket is a multi-hotel complex only a short drive from Phuket International airport.  While you are racing your family, friends or supporters can enjoy the beach and other local tourist attractions while benefiting from the Laguna Phuket shuttle services.  Supporters have the chance to watch you in between the ocean and lagoon swim, then on the multi-loop run course.  Once done with the event you can spend the rest of the day at one of Phuket’s famous beaches before hitting the famous awards and celebration party.

Destination races are a mix of everything great and good when you race abroad.  Superbly-organized race that gives the natural high when you finish, and the experience you always seek as a triathlete.  A location that offers a multitude of options to maximize and enjoy your stay.  Laguna Phuket Triathlon offers all of that and more.

 

Long Course: Ironman 70.3 Vietnam

Beautiful and scenic beach resorts that you and your family can enjoy.  This is what Ironman 70.3 Vietnam can offer you.  The team at Sunrise Events-Vietnam has learned leaps and bounds from their inaugural race from 2015 to hosting the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championships last May 2019.

Da Nang is one of Vietnam’s biggest cities and offers direct flights from several cities in Asia.   Even if there is no direct flight to Da Nang from where you are departing, there are plenty of options for a connecting flight from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, which are both only a flight of an hour and twenty minutes away.

The official race hotel (Hyatt Regency)  is only 20 minutes drive away from the airport.   If you are on a budget, there are plenty of good options closer to the city center that are only 3-7km away from the race start.   Boutique hotels surround the city and are only walking distance away from the metropolitan beach of My Khe Beach.  Getting around is quite easy with the popularity of Grab taxis and Grab bikes.   Based on comments, the post-race food featuring Vietnam’s finest cuisine was tops on their list.

It is just fitting, to highly recommend Ironman 70.3 Vietnam to our followers as the best destination race-cation in the long course category.

See the course review here>>2019 Ironman 70.3 Vietnam: Guide and Course Review

See the Best Photos here>>Best Images from 2019 Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championships-Vietnam

2020 Race Date: May 10, 2020. See their website here>> Ironman 70.3 Vietnam

 

9. Best Family-Friendly Race

CHALLENGE ISKANDAR-PUTERI

One of the biggest attractions of this race, is the proximity to several children’s theme and amusement parks.  Thomas Town and Hello Kitty are in fact at the race venue, while Legoland and Angry Birds amusement parks are only a quick drive away.  One could come to Challenge Iskandar Puteri with the kids and the whole family will have fun.

If playing at the parks isn’t enough, organizers also host a kid’s triathlon the day before the main event.

10. Best Beginner-Friendly Race 

Short Course: TRIDASH THAILAND SERIES

The TriDash Triathlon Series in Thailand is perfectly suited for newbies.   A mini-sprint for a triathlon (400m swim-20km bike-5km run), check.  50m pool for the swim, check.  Bike and run courses that are not challenging and technical, check!  If you wanna get your feet wet in the sport of triathlon, this is the race series  to target for.  For most newbies who have not race a triathlon yet, the biggest fear and hurdle is always swimming in open water.   Swimming in a pool definitely eases up the nerves.

2020 Race Date: various dates. See their website here>> Thailand TriDash

 

11. Best Off-Road Triathlon Race in Asia – 2019:

XTERRA TAIWAN

With race being awarded again the Asia-Pacific Championship race in 2020, it just asserts how the 2018 and 2019 races lived up to the expectations of off-road triathletes.  Kenting National Park at the southern end of Taiwan is an idyllic outdoor sports paradise, renowned for it’s rugged mountain terrain, white sand beaches, caves, and coral reefs.

2020 Race Date: March 28, 2020 See their website here>> XTerra Taiwan

12. Best Duathlon Race in Asia – 2019:

POWERMAN MALAYSIA

Powerman Malaysia is again the world’s largest duathlon event, with the 2019 race attracting more than 3,500 athletes representing 41 countries.

The host venue is Putrajaya, Malaysia’s federal administrative centre and planned city. The infra-structure is incredible and on the weekends it becomes a ghost town, with 3-4 lane highways and almost no vehicle in sight, making it a perfect venue for multisport events. Another convenience of this event is its proximity to Kuala Lumpur international airport, and is only a quick twenty minute drive away. The most convenient location to stay is right by the start and transition area, this avoids the need of transportation on race morning and on day before for registration and bike check in.

The 2020 race will be held on March 14-15, 2020.  See their website here>> Powerman Malaysia

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