The morning after the 2017 Ironman Lanzarote, Dominique Fernando Wymmersch of Spain dove into the aqua waters of 50-meter pool at the Occidental Lanzarote Mar hotel to work out any lingering soreness. Known as Nicky to his friends, Wymmersch had finished 98th overall in a time of 10:35:20, a decent time for the 40-year-old former pro cyclist and recent national triathlon age group champion.
Obviously fit and lean, Wymmersch said he and his partner, fellow triathlete Marta Lopez, were drawn to Occidental Lanzarote Mar by the facilities and its supportive attitude toward athletes. “It’s not easy to find a hotel with this type of sport facilities,” he said after drying off. “It’s a treat to be training in a 50 meter pool. And Marta and I feel like being home, in a sports atmosphere with other triathletes who share our passion.”
A little later, Nicky and Marta went out for a low-intensity recovery ride before packing up for their trip home to mainland Spain.
Whereas a quarter century ago, triathletes attracted to Ironman Lanzarote in late spring could be accommodated by one or two major hotels, entries now total about 1,600 and with friends and families and support personnel the race attracts more than 6,000 visitors. With triathletes attracted to Lanzarote for warm weather training in winter, spring, and summer, there has arisen a bigger market for sports-oriented tourists attracted by Lanzarote’s climate, training routes and affordable facilities.
The island, its beguiling climate and primal beauty and the magnetism of its historic Ironman
Ironman Lanzarote has become a legendary destination for triathletes attracted by its monumental challenge – the whistling sirocco winds, the searing heat magnifying the struggles posed by rugged volcanic inclines totaling 7,545 feet, peaking at 1,936 feet on the Mirador del Rio climb.
The numbers underline the greatness of event known as “The world’s toughest Ironman” since its inception 26 years ago. The course records - 8:30:34 by Timo Bracht in 2011 and 9:24:39 by the legendary Paula Newby-Fraser in 1995 – are about an hour slower than world best times at other famous venues.
Beyond the elemental physical challenge, what magnifies the allure of Lanzarote is its primal beauty. The island, reminiscent of the volcano-born Big Island of Hawaii that hosts the Ironman World Championship, emerged about 15 million years ago as part of undersea volcanic eruptions about 80 miles off the northwest coast of Africa at what is known as the Canary Hotspot. The fourth largest of the Canarias islands archipelago, Lanzarote consists of some 300 volcanic cones interconnecting with sandy beaches, vineyards, mountain pueblos, ranches and the Timanfaya national park that preserves and presents the most spectacular of the volcanic sights.
A Spanish island, Lanzarote is 37 miles from north to south and 16 miles from west to east and covers 326 square miles. Population has reached 145,000 including 59,000 who live in the capital of Arrecife. Perhaps the chief reason Lanzarote attracts almost 3 million tourists a year is its climate. It is known as “The Island of Eternal Spring” for its subtropical–desert weather with a winter mean temperature of 64 degrees and a mean summer temperature of 77 degrees. Always dry – 16 days of precipitation in winter and almost none in summer - and often windy, Lanzarote has become a haven for Spaniards, Germans, Danes, French and British tourists and a rising number from North America wishing to escape dreary cold northern climes.
The epitome of Lanzarote’s beauty can be found at the summit of the Mirador del Rio climb. Riders can look to the left and see the aqua to turquoise tinted sea far below. cradling the wispy outlines of the Isla Graciosa one kilometer off shore. To the right, they see dramatic lava rock hugging the road. But after the serpentine road unspools from the summit to the sea, tourists can spy another facet of this Canary Island jewel.
Certainly, the pioneer of athletic resorts is the Ironman Lanzarote sponsor Club La Santa, which is located on the remote northwest coast and caters to many elite athletes. But serving the 2.9 million annual visitors is a job for many more hotels. Circling the island are hundreds of four- and five-star resorts in the modern Spanish style pioneered by influential local artist and ecologically inspired architect Cesar Manrique who insisted that Lanzarote reflect its glorious seaside environs and remain unspoiled by hi-rise buildings. These resorts seek their share of the larger market as havens for rest, relaxation and family enjoyment with a dash of sporting adventures.
Occidental Lanzarote Mar Hotel
Which is where Occidental Lanzarote Mar comes in. It is a 442-unit complex in the Costa Teguise, located on the more populated east coast of the island, a few kilometers north of the capital at Arrecife, a few more from the international airport and about 20k from the Ironman start-finish area at Puerto del Carmen. Recently, Alberto Lorrio, the sports manager of the hotel, has led a concerted effort to make it a destination for athletes of all levels and their families.
Lorrio says that Ironman Lanzarote has played a key role in the growth of tourism in this island. “This is the oldest Ironman of Spain, the race is unique and it’s very similar to Kona,” said Lorrio. “We have a big contrast between north and south landscapes, weather conditions change almost every hour, competitors cycle with high winds and run with the heat – it is tough! These factors plus the great work of the race organization have attracted dedicated triathletes for a quarter century. We think this race is very important for the rise of the sport tourism in Lanzarote.”
Lorrio believe that the legendary challenge of its Ironman brought worldwide attention to Lanzarote, but its climate, its natural beauty and inviting beaches have drawn a much wider demographic. He believes that his share of Lanzarote’s annual visitors will grow if it caters to the active, sports-oriented crowd.
“Lanzarote receives nearly 3 million tourists per year and has grown 7% in the last five years,” said Lorrio. “The population that practices active sport grows at an even faster speed. This gives us room to grow because we are not targeting just triathletes. We want active people to come here to enjoy the island with our upgraded facilities. There was an unmet need in the island for families and active people that want to train but at the same time have the standard comfort and services from a hotel.”
The hotel offers a lot for the family – a children’s swimming pool and playground and several pools with outdoor bars and cafes. It also has a high quality buffet with a wide range of cuisines – offering selections designed for athletes. For members of the family not engaged in endurance training, it has tennis courts and nearby golf, windsurfing, surfing, kite surfing jet skis, sport fishing, diving and sailing.
In 2016, the hotel completed at a cost of 1.7 million Euros a 50-meter pool built to international competition standards to be used by world-class swimmers, triathletes and other athletes. It has advanced gym and weight training facilities, a TRX Functional Training area, professional indoor cycling trainers. They also offer several Sports Rooms equipped with sauna, Jacuzzi, a 2x2 meter bed, training area with cardio machines. For the serious athletes, they also have a Hypoxia Room with altitude simulation of 3,600 meters.
Lorrio says that the hotel’s efforts to welcome athletes will include a concierge approach that anticipates the needs and requests of sporting types. “In our sports reception our guests will find all the information regarding bike, running and open water swims including a nearby sand beach,” said Lorrio. “Our staff will recommend the best option for each level of ability, and anticipating weather conditions and the best venues for training sessions. Obviously many of the best cycling routes start here and here are many running options. Compared to other parts of the island there is easier access to the beachfront and a lot of safe swimmable areas both open water and in our pool. Furthermore they may book other sport activities, get information regarding events, and buy and rent sport equipment.”
Occidental Lanzarote already attracts many customers from Spain, France, England, Denmark and Italy and hopes to increase its clientele from the Nordic countries and North America. “Lanzarote conditions are very similar to Kona - wind, heat, humidity, a volcanic island - but cheaper,” says Lorrio. Thus, in addition to training for and racing Ironman Lanzarote, the island is a natural base for Ironman World Championship training in late summer and early fall. Lorrio says that the hotel’s efforts to welcome athletes will include a concierge approach that anticipates the needs and requests of sporting types. “In our sports reception our guests will find all the information regarding bike, running and open water swims including a nearby sand beach,” said Lorrio. “Our staff will recommend the best option for each level of ability, and anticipating weather conditions and the best venues for training sessions. Obviously many of the best cycling routes start here and here are many running options. Compared to other parts of the island there is easier access to the beachfront and a lot of safe swimmable areas both open water and in our pool. Furthermore they may book other sport activities, get information regarding events, and buy and rent sport equipment.”
Occidental Lanzarote already attracts many customers from Spain, France, England, Denmark and Italy and hopes to increase its clientele from the Nordic countries and North America. “Lanzarote conditions are very similar to Kona - wind, heat, humidity, a volcanic island - but cheaper,” says Lorrio. Thus, in addition to training for and racing Ironman Lanzarote, the island is a natural base for Ironman World Championship training in late summer and early fall.
“It is also a good and safe option for the cold winter season,” said Lorrio. With much of Europe and North America enduring snow, mainstream resorts like Occidental Lanzarote Mar offer an affordable combination of family vacation and triathlon training.
Lorrio says that Lanzarote is easily accessible: “There are daily flights from U.S. to Madrid or Barcelona, cities which have more than one flight per day to Lanzarote. The people here are friendly and it is a secure place compared to other typical sunny winter getaway destinations in Europe or South Africa.”
And the prices are modest. During the Ironman Lanzarote period in late May, Occidental Lanzarote advertised rooms ranging from 77 to 123 Euros per night. Lorrio says they will offer deals for athletes in longer training blocs: “We have designed special rates and conditions for athletes seeking Individual training, team training camps or long stays. If there is a big group or team coming we always prepare a tailored package from our sports management team.”