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Ironman’s Tour-Like Day: The Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championship

The race ends in a square known as the Römerberg, where Germany's kings were once crowned.

Considered one of the most spectacular finish lines in our sport, the day at Frankfurt’s Ironman European Championship ends in a square known as the Römerberg, the site where Germany’s kings were once crowned and in front of the Römer, a building that has served as Frankfurt’s city hall for more than 600 years.

With upwards of a half-million fans lining the course in Frankfurt, though, athletes would be excused for not paying much attention to the historic buildings as they run up to the finish. Despite the fact that Frankfurt serves as one of Europe’s most important financial centres, most of the people who work in the city commute, which makes it one of the only major cities in the world that could possibly host an Ironman. Those commuters all flock back to the city on race day, providing a Tour de France like atmosphere that makes this one of the most unique Ironman races in the world.

The day begins with a fast swim in a small lake just outside town called the Langenaar Waldsee. Thousands of people make the trip out to the lake for the swim start, which sets the tone for the rest of the day’s fan support. The competitors then fly on their bikes through a quick 12km stretch into the city of Frankfurt, where they begin two 84km bike loops. The scenic bike course includes hills with names like “Heartbreak” and “Beast” and even one cobble stoned climb called “Hell.” That Tour de France feel comes from the huge crowds that line the road, especially on the hills.

The four-loop run course follows the River Main in the heart of Frankfurt and is every bit as crowded. Athletes have been known to try and drop out, only to have the fans literally push them along the course rather than let them stop. The day ends with that spectacular finish line, where the temporary stands built for 4,000 people remain jam-packed throughout the afternoon and evening.

With one of Europe’s largest airports, Frankfurt is an easy city to fly into from almost anywhere in Canada, making this an excellent choice for an international Ironman destination – one that is sure to be remembered as a unique triathlon experience.