Triathletes, Duathletes Go Head to Head in Unique Competition

This weekend in Beglium triathletes and duathletes will face off in an innovative race format. 

Though both fall under the umbrella of multisport, triathlon and duathlon are two very different events. Triathlon, with its swim-bike-run format, requires skill and proficiency in three sports; duathlon, which takes a run-bike-run format, is usually viewed as more physically demanding. Duathlons also tend to have smaller, but more competitive fields than triathlon, which has seen a tremendous amount of growth in casual, non-competitive participation in recent years.

But at their core, they are both multisport events, and a unique new race in Belgium serves as the ultimate endurance throwdown between the two. Den Halven van Damme, which is billed as the “Clash of the Titans,” is a special sporting event in Brugge where triathletes compete against duathletes in head-to-head competition. For race director Mergaert Sixten, the idea came as a way to leverage triathlon’s popularity to create exposure for its duathlon counterpart.

“In our region, the duathlon sport has no media support and is not well-known,” says Sixten. “I heard many complaints from the top duathletes in Belgium who have to go abroad to compete in long-distance duathlon races, racking up big traveling costs.”

But it was also too costly to put on a duathlon-only race in Belgium: the costs of putting on a run-bike-run race far exceeded the amount the event would recoup from race entry fees. Hosting a triathlon simply made more business sense. But then Sixten realize both could exist at the same time:

“The run course is already set-up for the triathlon race, why not use it for the duathlon in the first place?” Sixten says of his “ah-ha” moment. “And why not competing against one another in a big “Clash of the Titans’?”

The race format has a lot of moving parts. When the starting gun goes off, the triathletes begin their 1.2-mile swim while duathletes take off for a 5-mile run leg. The best of each usually arrive at the same time in T1. It’s here where both races converge, with a 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run to round out the race. The first to cross the finish line—whether a tri or du competitor—is declared the winner.

There are professional athletes, including several European triathletes and duathletes, who race, but many are age-group athletes simply competing for experience and bragging rights. Since its inception in 2012, there have been three duathletes on the top step of the podium and two triathletes. Sixten knows better than to venture a guess as to which will claim victory this year—it’s simply impossible to predict. But he does know the race format is a surefire winner:

“I don’t understand why so few races use this concept. It not only supports the duathlon sport, it also pushes the quantity of athletes competing in your race to new heights. More athletes mean more possibilities to invest in a bigger race and concept.”

This year’s der Halven van Damme will take place on Sept. 16, 2017. For more information about the event, visit their website.