Howard Calvert visits Switzerland in the hope of channeling the Brownlee brothers in time for the ShortList Triathlon
Are you bored of training on flat land, cycling all the way to southerners’ Holy Climbing Grail, Box Hill? Tired of swimming in a small, roped-off section of a weed-filled lake, or running around the block in your uninspiring town centre? Then it’s time to book a triathlon camp in St Moritz.
At 1,800 metres above sea level, St Moritz is rapidly becoming the go-to summer training destination of choice for many of the world’s top triathletes and runners. The Brownlees have been coming here since 2009, Mo Farah has trained here, and Swiss Olympic gold triathlete Nicola Spirig practically lives here. In a bid to emulate these sporting gods, I visited Engadin St Moritz to run, bike and swim…
After arriving (following a stunning train journey from Zurich), and going straight out for a 10km run around a pair of startlingly blue lakes in the shadow of towering, snow-covered mountain peaks (and over-analysing my unusually rapid breathing – “it’s definitely the altitude”), it quickly becomes clear that this is the ideal town for triathletes. And, although I needed little more convincing, I discovered four more reasons over the course of my visit:
1) The mountain trails
The hills are alive with the sound of runners’ heavy breathing. Pounding the trails that the Brownlees run is inspirational, and makes you push yourself that bit harder than usual. There’s also a running track in the centre of town: it’s free to use, and is perfect for sprint training drills.
2) The lakes
With water so clear it makes you want to scoop up a handful and gulp it down (which you can, as it’s all spring and meltwater), the lakes simply make outdoor swimming a pleasure. There are three triathlete-friendly ones in St Moritz – the smaller Lake Staz is the place to train, and is considerably warmer than you might imagine.
3) The brand new indoor pool
For swim drills, the recently opened Ovaverva swimming pool is ideal. You’ll find the 25-metre pool full of athletes first thing in the morning, and you can do an hour of drills before hitting the outdoor Jacuzzi (for recovery) and slides (for, er, relaxation. Although I picked up my only injury of the trip after banging my heel on the Tornado).
4) Cycling at 2,600m above sea level
Breathtaking, in both senses of the word. On the road, you can work your way up from 1800m around some of the nearby epic mountain passes. We cycled up the incredible Bernina Pass. Worth it just to get a slice of the local delicacy, nut tart, at the summit. St Moritz is also in a flat valley, so you can spin for 40km while remaining at 1,800m – which is rare at this altitude.
There is also a network of purpose-built mountain biking trails in and around St Moritz. We rode up to the newly opened Flow Trail, climbing for two hours (you can also reach it via ski lift if you’re fatigued) to reach the 20-minute downhill trail, which was some of the best mountain biking I’ve ever experienced. You can hire bikes at the Ovaverva’s bike hire centre.
Switzerland is the official training destination of Human Race Events;humanrace.co.uk/switzerland
For more information on Switzerland visit MySwitzerland.com. Swiss offers up to 19 daily flights from the UK to Zurich, starting from £147 inc taxes, one piece of hold luggage and ski carriage. It also operates over 190 weekly flights to Switzerland from the UK, starting from £120 return inc taxes; swiss.com. The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. Swiss Transfer Tickets are £96 and cover all train travel on a round-trip to St Moritz;swisstravelsystem.co.uk swisstravelsystem.co.uk