Destination: Challenge Melbourne
What would you say if you wanted to persuade someone to add Challenge Melbourne to his or her racing calendar? If they were from interstate, where would you suggest they stay and eat/drink while they are here? What would you suggest they do before and after the event? How would you describe the race, the course, oh and let’s not forget Melbourne’s weather?
Well, Challenge Melbourne is the race that kicks off my racing calendar in the lead up to 70.3 worlds in September, and I’m excited to race! While the weather can be a little bit volatile (I still shudder at the thought of the weather last year), the course is flat and fast, the atmosphere is great – it’s always a fun race to do.
So, why would you add a race in one of Melbourne’s trendiest inner suburbs to your calendar? Read on.
Ah, Melbourne, the city known for its four seasons in one day!
Challenge Melbourne has had all sorts of weather thrown at it over the years, from sizzling 40 degree temperatures to freezing temps with rain and tornado-like winds and crosswinds.
Factoring in the wind is a big one when packing your race gear. If you’re planning to run a disc on the bike, make sure you bring alternatives as well – just in case! Also, make sure you bring additional clothing for during the race (particularly for the bike). I’m talking vests and possibly gloves.
If the weather this year is anything like last year, you definitely want to be prepared for all conditions. You don’t want your race experience to be ruined by being too cold (or hot) because you were ill prepared with your equipment. By simply packing a few extra items in your bag can make all the difference.
If you’re coming from interstate you can drive (obviously) but the fastest way to get to Melbourne is to fly – you can fly to Melbourne from all the major Australian cities. However, be mindful that Melbourne Airport is in Tullamarine, which is about 32km from St Kilda. So your best bet here is to organise a hire car (unless you have friends that can pick you up and then drop you back at the airport). Plus, if you have a hire car you can then get around Melbourne when you’re here – there’s so much to do and see.
Make sure if you haven’t already booked or even if you have, to check that you are flying into Melbourne, Tullamarine not Avalon. Plenty of people have been caught out flying into Avalon Airport and finding themselves a ways out of Melbourne and adding a couple of hours and stress on to their trip.
Where to Stay
St Kilda offers lots of accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets. From plush hotels, motels, Airbnb’s to hostels and backpackers – there is something for everyone. One thing to keep in mind when booking your accommodation is to stay somewhere close to the race if you’re not planning on hiring a car. If you are planning to hire a car while you’re here, really you can stay wherever you like and it opens up the whole Bayside area to you, so other suburbs to look at might be Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Elwood, Brighton and more.
Accommodation options in St Kilda and the surrounds include:
- Adina Apartment Hotel St Kilda
- Rydges St Kilda
- Quest St Kilda
- Novotel Melbourne St Kilda
- Crest on Barkly
- The Prince
- Pint On Punt Backpackers
And remember: there is just under a month left to the event, so if you’re planning to race make sure you book your accommodation stat!
Food and Drink
Most of the triathletes I know (me included) love nothing more than ending a ride with a good coffee and celebrating an event with good food and drink. Melbourne is known for its café culture (and coffee!), and for its food, drink and everything in between. Really you’re spoilt for choice when you come to Melbourne and there is no shortage of choice for your pre and post event wining and dining.
St Kilda is one of the hubs for all things food, drink and entertainment. Take a stroll down Acland and Fitzroy Streets and you are certain to find something that suits your taste buds.
Here are a few standouts:
- Gattica – If you’re after good coffee, a cosy and comfortable environment, this is the place for you. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- If you’re vegetarian/vegan/plant based you can’t go passed vegan café, Matcha Mylkbar. The unusual menu looks pretty incredible – perfect for those with adventurous taste buds. Opening hours: 8-4pm, kitchen closes at 3pm.
- Abbey Road Café – another recommendation by a St Kilda local, this is a great place for fresh, home-style food, drinks and music. It looks to offer plenty of carb options, perfect for pre race day fueling.
- For food and that celebratory drink (from beer, wine to espresso martinis) after the event make sure you check out Big Mouth. It’s a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy a Sunday arvo sesh!
Why wouldn’t you do it!
Why wouldn’t you do it!
- After outstanding coffee? i25 Espresso is said to be the place to be. These guys are said to take their coffee seriously. Open from 6:30am it’s the perfect place for that post training ride coffee leading up to the race.
- Bakery – you can’t go past Europa Cake Shop on Acland Street. It’s full of mouth-watering goodies.
- You can’t come to Melbourne and not have gelato, and you can’t have gelato and not have 7 Apples Gelato. It’s ‘Artisan Gelato Made with Love in St Kilda’ – it’s a must-try.
- For food, drink and everything in between stands out include The Vineyard (also good for a dance when the sun goes down), The Great Provider, and Beachcomber, Republica and Captain Baxter. Come early – stay late. There’s really no shortage for where you can eat, drink and be merry after the event.
- If you’re a fan of Japanese you can’t go past Ichi Ni in St Kilda – it’s reasonably priced, has gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options and is said to be awesome! A must-try when you’re down here.
- For Mexican lovers (personally Mexican is my favourite cuisine and this place is so cool!) check out Catina in St Kilda. It’s cool, has a good vibe and food is great. And celebrating your race with a delicious margarita? Count me in!
- Lune Croissantarie – while not quite Bayside (technically not in St Kilda), when in Melbourne you have to indulge your taste buds in French croissants, pain au chocolat and Danishes. Open Thursday to Monday – perfect for some post race indulgence.
Do and See
Staying around town after the race? If yes, make sure you check out some of Melbourne’s most iconic attractions.
A few standouts include:
- A walk along the St Kilda Pier
- The laneways in the city – they’re cool for that all-important Instagram pic
- Federation Square
- Melbourne Zoo
- The Melbourne Aquarium
- Eureka Skydeck 88
- Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
- Brighton sea baths – again, makes a pretty picture you can load up on socials!
- St Kilda’s Luna Park is great for some fun in the sun.
If shopping is your thing then Melbourne CBD is the place to be. You can walk between The Emporium, Melbourne Central and the Bourke Street Mall. If designer brands are your jam, the famous Paris end of Collins Street is where you want to go – think Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
There is so much you can do while you’re here.
This year Challenge Melbourne returns St Kilda’s Catani Gardens. The one-lap 1.9km bay swim is flat and protected. It starts at the front of the St Kilda Sea Baths and takes you under the iconic St Kilda Pier. The 90km ride is a mostly flat (there are a couple of small rises), three-lap course that goes along the infamous Beach Road, which will be completely closed for the event making for a fast ride (well, weather dependent of course)! And last but not least, the 21.1km run is as two-lap course along the beach paths towards Brighton. If the weather plays nice this is a beautiful, picturesque run overlooking the beach.
Don’t forget that if you’re not quite up to the half iron distance just yet, don’t worry! Challenge is also running a Sprint distance event in conjunction with the half, which is 700m/30km/7km!
So, why would you consider Challenge Melbourne?
Well, why wouldn’t you! It’s flat, it’s fast; it’s in an iconic city location. Get down here!
To enter head to challengemelbourne.com.au .
Images: shutterstock.com/Challenge Melbourne