Set on beautiful Île Notre-Dame, the beautiful man-made island in the St. Lawrence River created for Montreal’s EXPO 67, the Esprit Triathlon started in 1985 and continues as one of Canada’s most unique races with a storied history that includes hosting the ITU’s Triathlon World Championship in 1999 along with numerous Canadian and provincial championship events for both Olympic and long distance.
Featuring race distances from a sprint all the way to an Ironman (along with a duathlon race, too), the Esprit race course never leaves the island. The swim is done in the current-free Olympic Rowing Basin, built for the 1976 games. The water is typically 22 degrees Celsius, which means wetsuits are allowed, but certainly not required.
What makes the Esprit race truly unique is the bike course, which consistes of laps around the 4.4 km Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the site of Montreal’s annual Formula 1 race. The super-smooth road surface and relatively flat course (there’s actually one slight rise, which provides an excellent excuse to get out of the saddle and switch positions) makes for a super-fast ride.
The run course follows the perimeter of the Olympic Rowing Basin, a 4.6 km flat loop on a gravel trail that is as fast as the bike course.
The man behind the Esprit triathlon, Danny McCann, has kept the race going for the last quarter century. His enthusiasm for the sport has engendered support and loyalty from age groupers and pros alike.
“I saw in 1985 that the basin Olympique, situated beside the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, made for a perfect triathlon course,” he says. “We have world class facilities right in the centre of Montreal. The success of the Esprit triathlon comes for two reasons. The first is the dedication of myself and staff in providing the best possible event. We work for the athletes. The second reason is that the course is athlete and spectator friendly. They all want to race on Ile Notre-Dame. Monteal has the only course where spectators can watch their athletes all day, from the swim to the cycle to the run. The athletes love being in touch with other triathletes and friends all race long.”
With a list of course record holders that includes some of the world’s best (see sidebar), the Esprit Triathlon has quietly maintained its status as a world class race in one of North America’s most beautiful cities.
Esprit Course Records
Triathlon de Montréal ESPRIT OLYMPIC:
01:45:25 Dimitry Gaag (KAZ) 1999
01:55:28 Loretta Harrop (AUS) 1999
ESPRIT Triathlon (Ironman Distance):
08:41:14 Rick Hellard (Ottawa, ON) 2006
10:02:20 Amy Hollingsworth (Stratton Mtn., VT) 1997
DEMI-ESPRIT Triathlon (Half Ironman):
03:51:56 Andrew Tanner (LaPrairie, QC) 2008
04:10:06 Magali Tisseyre (St-Sauveur, QC) 2008
Triathlon de Montréal ESPRIT SPRINT:
00:53:15 David-James Tache(Pierrefonds,QC) 2007
00:58:33 Marianne Hogan (Bedford, QC) 2007
01:53:25 Benoit Simard (Provost, QC) 2008
02:11:51 Ingrid Clezeau (Québec,QC) 2008