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With the inclusion of mixed team relay in the 2020 Olympics, get an early domestic look at the excitement behind this unique format.
This weekend marks the start of the 2018 season of Major League Triathlon with the first event in Atlantic City, New Jersey—broadcast live on Facebook at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 21. This year’s edition of the pro-only event highlights bigger international names (five Olympians and multiple world champions) alongside up-and-coming short-course stars in a mixed relay format on a unique course centered around Atlantic City’s busy summertime weekend boardwalk.
Each stop on the four-city MLT tour hosts a mixed team relay (MTR) with two women and two men per team competing for $10,000 in prize money. Each athlete races a super-sprint distance tri before handing off to the next team member of the opposite gender—the fastest combined team time wins. The short format and varied abilities of each relay member make for an exciting race, but MTR is also having a moment right now, as the IOC announced last June that the format would be added to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Since then, the ITU has added Olympic qualifications for the event, and the MRT World Championships have become a more serious focus for countries looking to increase their summer medal count at the next Olympic Games. In 2016, the U.S. won its first gold medal at the MRT World Champs in Hamburg and has been on the podium each year since. In June, the U.S. team won the first stop on the new Mixed Relay World Tour.
On the domestic scene, MLT is the best place to catch the team format, and this year’s composition will have a mix of city-based teams racing against coach-based training squads. For instance, members of Paulo Sousa’s famed group—which in the past has included athletes like Eric Lagerstrom, Manny Huerta, Joe Maloy, Magali Tisseyre, and Heather Wurtele—will compete against athletes coached by former Triathlon Australia and USAT high performance head Jonathan Hall and against athletes working with Boulder-based Neal Henderson. Rather than the relay members meeting only a few days before an event, many of the teams will be made up by athletes who train together for most of the year.
On Saturday, expect to see athletes like returning MLT champion American Lindsey Jerdonek and U.S. Olympian and two-time Escape from Alcatraz winner, Ben Kanute—who has had the fastest overall split at every single MLT event he’s competed in. On the international side, three-time Australian Olympian and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Densham will highlight a deep group of Olympians including Jason Wilson (BAR), Ryan Fisher (AUS), and Cecilia Perez (MEX). Just a few of the other notable athletes include non-draft veteran Cam Dye (USA), short-course up-and-comer Taylor Spivery (USA), and MTR World Championship medalist Matt McElroy (AUS). As the season progresses, expect to see even more Olympians on the start line like Jarrod Shoemaker (USA), Paula Findlay (CAN), Emma Jackson (AUS), and Aaron Royle (AUS).
The course on Saturday will see the athletes swim in the Atlantic, ride a five-loop course on Atlantic City’s famous boardwalk, and run on a multi-loop course that features a mix of A.C.’s hard sand and wooden boards. “The swim, bike and run course were built around creating the ultimate spectator experience for not only MLT fans, but also the casual beachgoers spending their summer Saturday in Atlantic City,” says MLT founder Dan Cassidy, who encourages triathletes in the New York/New Jersey area to make the trip to A.C. this weekend for a festival-like atmosphere, including the “Tito’s Handmade Vodka Tag Zone”. “MLT is heading into its third season and is aiming to make triathlon an entertainment property built for fans.”
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