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Can Triathlon Be Edgy?

Eric Lagerstrom references '80s skateboarding videos to showcase triathlon's unique attitude in a new short film.

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Some individual sports evoke an edge, an attitude, borne out of culture. Snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing—all cool, rebellious, beautiful, with iconic legends.

Pro triathlete Eric Lagerstrom, 29, thinks his sport’s culture has attitude too, and he wants to share that story. He’s launched Transition Four, a loosely defined video-production startup that’s focusing on tri’s unconventional side. On Oct. 22, the company released a video short (“Overland Triathlon”) that captures Lagerstrom—alongside pro triathletes Chris Ganter and Trevor Wurtele, as well as retired pro Matt Berg and national XTERRA champion Nate Youngs—cutting their own tri course on Oregon’s Mt. Hood, doing gravel bike, swim, run (in that order). No rules, just extreme collaborative chill. The kind of vibe Lagerstrom wants to showcase for public consumption.

“I can’t believe all triathletes don’t end up doing this!” Lagerstrom says of gravel bikes. (As fate would have it, he had the time for the adventure after breaking his foot during June’s Escape from Alcatraz race. He came back in August to win the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead [3:48:02], trekked to Mt. Hood for filming with no real funding, then grabbed another first-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz [3:47:25] in September.) There’s untapped potential to creatively grow tri’s mass appeal, with shareable content like “Overland Triathlon,” Lagerstrom believes, and he’s admittedly under an influence: Skateboarding legend Stacy Peralta released the first installment of “The Bones Brigade Video Show” in 1983—a low-budget amateur piece that captured skaters crawling out of sewers, shredding abandoned pools, bombing desolate hills—a world unknown to the general public. Lucky for the skate industry, that first video release came just as VCRs were being introduced to consumers.

“That’s basically what we were going for. We liked that style of storytelling, that sort of energy. It resurrected skateboarding,” Lagerstrom says of “The Bones Brigade.” “I saw that as kind of a manifesto as I looked around triathlon.” He acknowledges that some of the bigger tri bike companies have done a good job getting athletes’ backstories out there, but he wants to see more. “I’d like to see it continue going in that direction, having … ‘stoke’ pieces. I don’t know how else to say it.”

He’s clearly trying to figure out how Transition Four can fill that niche with shareable content. But what about the video title, “Overland Triathlon”? Where did that come from?

“I’ve always wanted to do XTERRA, but just never quite got around to it, and then this whole gravel revolution kind of picked up. I like the cool factor that gravel has,” Lagerstrom explains. While filming the then-untitled video over the summer, “we thought, ‘What if this was a thing, a real race? How do we expand this? How do we do the coolest thing possible with it? Remove all rules, all limits, all distances … multisport across nature.’” Boom, a video title was born, a group of pro triathletes fell in love with gravel bikes, and maybe something more: a future Overland Triathlon-produced gravel event? Lagerstrom wouldn’t mind if a race director ran with the idea—or if athletes plan their own personal adventures—but he says he’s more interested in crafting the story and bringing it to the public.

Oregon-raised, Lagerstrom prefers to roam, not stay in one place for too long. He’s currently in Canada, living in an old RV he’s affectionately named Eleanor. We didn’t talk about his next race, although his website says he’s scheduled to compete Nov. 4 in the Ironman 70.3 Los Cabos.

“I’m really looking forward to this off-season because I’m going to have some time … ” he says. Time to evaluate where Transition Four and Overland Triathlon might be headed next.

Overland Triathlon: The Film

This summer, four professional triathletes and one amateur national champion set out to show that triathlon can be whatever you want it to be.

Posted by Transition Four on Sunday, October 21, 2018