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Canada’s Top 10 Triathlon Towns

With Covid planted firmly in our collective rear-view mirror, Canadian triathletes are now looking through the windshield and at an exciting horizon that features travelling, training and racing. And, although places like Kona, Mallorca and Phuket are world-famous and wonderful places to tri, we have to live and do a lot of our triathlon training and racing in Canada.

Being the world’s second-largest country means we have hundreds, if not thousands, of world-class places to swim, bike and run, but which places are the best? With the help of provincial triathlon directors and athletes, we’ve whittled the many down to the few and present this list of the top-10 triathlon towns in the country.


At the top of the list, a great triathlon town must have a wide variety of accessible and inspirational training venues. Sure, some towns can boast a good swimming pool, some trails and a couple of roads, but to top this list a place will need to have lots of them and some good swimming lakes as well.

Going hand in hand with a variety of great training venues is safety – we are talking specifically about safe roads. Are local roads safe to ride, or does the combination of hostile motorists and lack of wide shoulders make riding simply an exercise in self-preservation?

Also, near the top of the list has to be the presence of an endurance sports and triathlon community and, hopefully, even some local legends. We know almost all towns in the country have a curling club, but how many have a triathlon club? And even though social media and training platforms like Zwift can keep you connected to your kindred spirits from across the country, there’s nothing like celebrating a successful suffer-fest with friends at a local coffee shop.

If you are like 90 per cent of triathletes, you can probably change a tire on the side of the road. If you are like 95 per cent of triathletes you can’t change a bottom bracket whether it is on the side of the road, in your garage or on Mars. That’s why an ideal triathlon town has at least a couple of bike shops to fix the inevitable things that can happen to your bike. As far as triathlon gear and incidentals go, any resourceful triathlete knows you CAN make do with Vaseline instead of chamois butter and WD-40 can work as a “temporary” solution to chain lube, but most triathletes ain’t MacGyver, and if that Zipp 808 flats, the only realistic solution is a tube with an 80 mm extender – Shopper’s Drug Mart doesn’t stock those.

In addition to having a good amount of local training venues, a great triathlon town needs a vibrant racing scene. Travelling for hours to do a 5 km, let alone a triathlon, is not only time-consuming and expensive, but it also deprives athletes of developing rivalries. There’s nothing like racing the same person three or more times a year to keep your training motivation high. Local community support is also critical. This goes beyond motorists and right into city hall. Do the folks with magical financial and permitting powers, stonewall, or facilitate races in your community?

10 Winnipeg, Manitoba

In a province that reveres home-grown sporting heroes such as Blue Bomber Andrew Harris and curler Kerry Burtnyk, another Manitoban, Tyler Mislawchuk, is putting the province on the international triathlon map. You might not know it, but Winnipeg is an excellent triathlon town. Although the words Portage and Main don’t conjure up the same sentiments as Vancouver and Island, Bird’s Hill Park is a triathlete’s dream come true, weather withstanding. With a swimmable lake, an abundance of running trails, and an 11 km biking loop, it is a convenient and safe training venue. In addition to the park, Manitoba’s capital also has almost a dozen clubs to help athletes make connections and share stories.

9 St. John’s Newfoundland

To be a triathlete in Vancouver or Toronto is likely easier than being one in St. John’s, but that’s not to say Canada’s easternmost capital doesn’t have a vibrant triathlon scene. The St. John’s Triathlon, held in Healey’s Pond, has a history that dates back to the Puntous twins era. Within an hour’s drive, there are two other triathlons and plenty of lakes for swimming and for participating in Newfoundland’s open water swim series. Newfoundland Triathlon Director, Stephen Delaney, says triathletes can join up with one of the city’s two clubs and hammer the local roads and trails.

8 Prince Albert/Waskasiu, Saskatchewan

Canada’s breadbasket should be known for more than just curling and the Roughriders. The go-to location for the sunny months of summer is this resort town located in Prince Albert National Park. Featuring crystal clear waters and ample cycling and running opportunities, Waskasiu has been home to one of the longest-running events in the country, the Frank Dunn classic.

The nearby city of Prince Albert is a year-round hotbed of multisport action, spearheaded by the Prince Albert Triathlon Club. They have a busy schedule including a winter triathlon, a spring duathlon and a couple of warm-up races in preparation for the Frank Dunn race. The club has about 40 members and they are actively involved in training for events from sprints up to the full distance, which is no problem for their training as the city has two 25-meter pools. Not bad for a city of 40,000. And those long runs can be done safely on the 22 km paved Rotary Trail. And, while cyclists in most mega-cities lament congestion and having to resort to gravel, or have to drive out of the city for good riding, folks in this Saskatchewan city can just put their leg over their top tube and head off in any direction that they want that can guarantee a tailwind on the way back into town.

Riding at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, Canada. Photo: Getty Images.

7 Canmore

Either the dark horse or the bright star on this list, Canmore is an up-and-coming triathlon town. Of course, with its terrain, it’s a mountain biking hot spot. Those who prefer asphalt to gravel can either ride or run on the Legacy Trail that connects Canmore with Banff. And, even if you are not from Canmore, the 90-minute drive from Calgary to nearby Highway 1a (The Bow Valley Parkway) in the Johnston Canyon area is car-free for much of the summer and provides safe roads and stunning views. Although those mountain lakes are slow to warm up, they have one that is usable, depending on the thickness of your Yamomoto, from about June to September. And, speaking of September, the inaugural Canmore Crux, which is a three-day triathlon stage race is set to go this fall.

Lifeguards on the water at Ironman Mont-Tremblant. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

6 Mont-Tremblant

Although this Quebec town is not the original Ironman-town in Canada, since 2012 athletes from all over Canada and the world have been coming here to race and train. Mont-Tremblant is home to an Ironman, a 70.3, an Xterra and everything you need to train for them. Located about 100 km from Montreal, the Mont-Tremblant area is well worth the drive. It has three swimable lakes, plenty of quiet roads with great pavement for cycling, along with numerous running routes, including a section of the 230 km long P’tit Train du Nord. In the wintertime, you can come here for a ski vacation, but also keep up your triathlon training with a swim in the Aquatic complex. Although Mont-Tremblant does not have any triathlon clubs, it is a popular destination for triathlon training camps and, whether you are here as part of a group or you are solo, should you need bike repairs or parts you can hit up either Bicycles Quilicot or Cybercycle.

The Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

5 Ottawa

Not only are there four provincial capitals represented in this list of Canada’s Top Triathlon Towns, but also our nation’s capital. In a city known more for hot air than hot weather, it is the people that make Ottawa list worthy. According to Ontario’s provincial development coach, Greg Kealey, “the Ottawa triathlon community has coaches, organizers and athletes who continually push Canadian triathlon to new heights embracing the sport as it advances and grows.” 

The proof of that is that Ottawa boasts the highest number of triathletes per capita in the country. Many local triathletes call either Zone 3, led by local tri-legend, Rick Hellard, or Bytown Storm, their club of choice. The Storm is one of the few clubs in the country running a U23 draft-legal development program, of which Olympian Joanna Brown is a product. Beyond the human factor, climate and geography combine to make Ottawa a four-season multisport spot. Unlike those cities on the West Coast, Ottawa does have a true Canadian winter, but shortly after the ice thaws on the Rideau, triathletes don their wetsuits and take to one of the nearby lakes. The Friday swims at Meech Lake are a local favourite.

4 Guelph

When it comes to having local triathlon heroes and a wide variety of training locations, this Ontario city is tops. It used to be that Canada’s top triathletes would migrate westward for at least part of the year, but champions like Cody Beals, Jackson Laundry, Taylor Reid and Loren Nelson are happy to call the Guelph area home year-round. With plenty of trails and quiet roads, athletes can get their training in without having to get in a car and drive out of town. There are plenty of clubs such as Discomfort Zone, Royal City Development Squad and Telos Athletics. In addition to having local pools, Guelph Lake is an excellent place for athletes to hone their open-water skills. It is also a great place to race. The annual Guelph Lake triathlon events offer an abundance of multisport options. You can choose from the very-popular Tri-A-Tri, sprint or standard distance triathlons. If you favour two events instead of three, they also offer duathlon and swim-bike races. Being located in Southern Ontario also means you are an easy day’s drive from doing an Ironman race in either Lake Placid or Mt. Tremblant.

The start of Ironman Canada in Penticton.

3 Penticton

This storied South Okanagan City is once again home to the most famous and legendary triathlon in the country, Ironman Canada. Names like Thomas Hellriegel, Erin Baker, Peter Ried, Lori Bowden and Paula Newby-Fraser adorn the Ironman Winner’s Circle in Rotary Park. But perhaps it’s not the big names as much as it is the volunteers that make Penticton such a strong triathlon town. Almost without fail the 2,500 strong “Iron Army” comes out in force to help athletes march to the finish line. Clearly though, there’s more just the Ironman in Penticton. It is the site of not one, but two ultra-distance races. Penticton has been the site of the ITU long-distance world championships, and Super-League also had a race there. Unfortunately, forest fire smoke prevented the pro-division race from being held. Athletes have a choice from a variety of races within an hour of the city in nearby Osoyoos, Oliver, Summerland and Kelowna. Penticton is also a spring and summer training hot spot, with hundreds of km of flat and hilly terrain for both running and cycling. Although the city has only one pool, Penticton sports two excellent swimming lakes, Skaha and Okanagan, with many others within a short drive.

Downtown Edmonton, Canada at Sunset

2 Edmonton

Back in the 1980s, this Alberta city was known as the “City of Champions,” as a reference to the numerous Stanley Cups and Grey Cups their teams won. Nowadays, a better name may be “City of Championships.” Edmonton has hosted the ITU world championships, and this year is home to the Professional Triathletes Organisation Canadian Open. Nearby Stoney Plain is the site of one of Canada’s longest-running half-distance races, The Great White North. Unlike the city at the top of our list, Edmonton does have four seasons and the triathletes from there, including Ironman Olympians Paul Tichelaar and Paula Findlay, have made the most of it. 1997 Ironman World Champion, Heather Fuhr, says some of the best running in the world can be found along the trails of the North Saskatchewan River that winds its way through town. For triathletes that like a mix of flats, hills and wind, the roads West of Stoney Plain, near Keephills, will supply all you need and when your bike needs supplies, replenishment can be found at Element Multisport.

Victoria Harbour, BC, Canada

1 Victoria

When all the criteria are weighed, Victoria rises to the top as Canada’s top triathlon town. One could argue it is also one of the best on the planet. With the Commonwealth Games swimming pool, the National training centre, plus community venues, you can swim in a pool, but many of the local triathletes would rather be in one of the four lakes within a short drive of the city centre. And then there’s the ocean. Of course, there’s much more than water that makes Victoria the tri-mecca it is, which has drawn the likes of Simon Whitfield, Peter Reid and Lori Bowden westward. Having one of the mildest climates in the country, cycling in December and January is a real thing and not some freakish novelty. Furthermore, with almost 20 triathlon clubs in the area, finding like-minded people to train with and keep you motivated is no problem. With plenty of well-stocked bike stores, getting a tube or a tune is equally as easy and, according to Pinnacle Coaching’s Paul Regensburg, the go-to place for many triathletes is the Victoria Trek Store.