Adventure Sports - Andalucia Desafio Doñana

© Michelle Chaplow Men's Category winners
Men's Category winners

Andalucia Desafio Doñana

Andalucía Desafío Doñana (Andalucia Doñana Challenge) started in 2009 and takes place each year on about the second Saturday in September. It is a spectacular event. The triathlon starts in Sanlucar de Barrameda with a 90km cycle circuit, then a swim accross the Guadalquivir estuary. The highlight of this annual triathlon event is the 30km running section along the endless virgin beach of Doñana National Park.

CYCLE  - 100 km 

The 2009 to 2011 editions featured a more grueling 169km cycle to the hill top white village of Arcos de la Frontera. The 2012 race did not take place for eonomic reasons. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions featured a more manageable 90km cycle which was increased to 100 km in 2016 entirely within the Sherry Triangle of Sanlucar, Jerez and El Puerto de Santa Maria, Rota and Chipiona.   The original cycle route was from Bajo de Guía beach in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the cyclists skirted around the outskirts of Jerez. The stiff climb up to the white village of Arcos de la Frontera included a Premio de la Montaña (Prize of the Mountain). Then it was back downhill to El Puerto de Santa Maria and along the coast to Chipiona, finishing off back at Bajo de Guía in Sanlúcar de Barrameda to transition into the swimming section.

SWIM - 1 km 

The swimming section is 1km (2.8km for the relay teams) across the mouth of the river Guadalquivir estuary. The exact route will depend on river tides and currents on the day, but consists of a mix of freshwater river and saltwater Atlantic Ocean. In 2013 the swimming leg had to be cancelled the night before the race because a young man, not connected to the race, went missing. 

Run - 30 km 

The final section, the 30km beach run, is at Punta de Malandar in the Doñana National Park. Here the athletes are on their own, and have to find a 'hard sand' path above the lapping waves of the beach. Unlike the earlier sections, there are few spectators to cheer them on.  In the 2009 to 2011 editions the route was linea and only, on leaving the park, about a kilometre before the finish line at Matalascañas beach in Huelva province, did the runners hear the sound of spectators cheering them on. The finish has a time limit of 8.30pm, allowing competitors to complete the triathlon in a maximum of 12 hours.

In the 2013 editions, due to the cancellation of the swimming section the run took place on the Sanlucar beach. Since 2014 run is still on the Doñana beach but in a 15km out and 15km back formation. This reduces any wind disadvantage, gives the families more oportunity to cheer the runners and is a lot less logistically complicated for the organiser having a finish line that is 100km away by road.  

About

250  amateur, 50 professionals and 50 three-athlete teams compete each year with numbers increasing.  In 2016 there were 324 male athletes, 15 femail and 52 teams finishing.  The winning male time was 4 hrs 17min 36 seconds. The categories used to be Individual Professionals, Individual Amateurs, and Relay teams of three athletes in male, women and mixed categories. In latter races the categories have been the simple Male, Female and Relay (male, female and mixed) team. There is also a mini triathlon for juniors. The closing ceremony and prize presentation take place on the sunday in Sanlucar and is followed by a lunch and a party.

© Michelle Chaplow Inma Pereiro Gonzalez crossing the line in 1st place in the women's category
Inma Pereiro Gonzalez crossing the line in 1st place in the women's category

 

Report on the Desafío Doñana 2011 race.