Super League Triathlon Arena Games returned this weekend with some fast and furious racing that featured a dynamic new format, blending virtual racing with the real thing over a 200m swim, a 4K bike, and a 1K run—three times through, but in a different order each time.
With three races on the schedule—a men’s race, a women’s race, and a paratriathlon race—there was plenty for tri fans to watch and enjoy. “Enjoy” might not be the word that comes to mind for many of the athletes who were duking it out, with the intense format leading to some seriously epic displays of pain management and performance.
All eyes were on Ironman champion and three-time Kona runner-up Lucy Charles-Barclay in the women’s race as she made her short-course debut. But ultimately, it was fellow Brit and Olympic 10K runner Beth Potter who took top honors with no one being able to contend with her run speed. Sophie Coldwell took third place making the podium an entirely British affair.
Potter said: “It was savage racing, so tough! I came here after a big block of training and it was great just to have a race and something to work towards. I felt good on the transitions and I’ve been working really hard on my swim this winter, so it’s nice to see it all come together.”
Charles-Barclay, who is no stranger to the high intensity of Zwift racing and was highly favored to take the win, said: “This was completely different to anything I’ve ever done before!”
The bike and run were both powered by Zwift, while the swim took place in the long-course pool at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England. Instead of following triathlon’s typical swim, bike, run format, the race order shuffled each time and included: swim-run-bike; run-bike-swim; then bike-swim-run. And for those who love seeing all the real-time data, this format delivered here too: you name it, you could see it—from heart-rate, to power (watts per kilogram), to SWOLF (a measure of swim efficiency), and more.
The men’s race was equally as action-packed and intense with the podium not decided until the ninth and final discipline of the day. As with the women’s field, the men’s line-up featured an interesting mix of long-course stars (Tim Don) going head-to-head with short-course specialists such as Jonny Brownlee, as well as a host of strong European contenders. The consistent performance of Belgium’s Marten Van Riel across all three rounds saw him score the most points overall, ahead of Germany’s Justus Nieschlag in second place, and Brownlee having to settle for third—but it was only decided in the final 1K run where treadmill speeds were hitting above 12mph.
Van Riel said: “Everything that makes our sport maybe the hardest sport in the world is all here. You have the heat and humidity of being inside, and there are no easy moments on the treadmill and trainer. Even getting out of the pool was hard! I didn’t expect to come out on top as there were a lot of big names out there today. By the end of the run, I could feel Jonny’s breath on my back, and I knew I had to keep going. It was all-out racing until the line.”
The SLT Arena Games featured a paratriathlon event, with many of the sport’s stars racing for the first time in 18 months. Men and women raced across the PTWC, PTS4, PTS5, and PTVI categories over a 300m swim, 10K bike, and 2K run. (Here’s a full list of all the categories in Paratriathlon).
The PTWC category was dominated by Dutch paralympic gold medalist Jetze Plat who secured a three-minute victory with power on his handbike averaging 300 watts. Fellow Dutch athlete Margret Ijdema took the win in the women’s PTWC category. The PTWC category is for most impaired wheelchair users and athletes must use a recumbent handcycle on the bike course and racing wheelchair on the run.
Brits Michael Taylor and Joe Kurt battled it out for top honors in the men’s PTS4 division with Taylor ultimately winning. Two of the best in the world went head-to-head in the women’s PTS5 division—Claire Cashmore and Lauren Steadman—with Cashmore taking the win. George Peasgood won this division in the men’s event. The PTS4 division is for those athletes with moderate impairments, and in both bike and run segments amputee athletes may use approved prosthesis or other supportive devices.
In the PTVI category, Alison Peasgood edged out Melissa Reid by just 20 seconds to secure the top spot on the podium, while Dave Ellis won the men’s event in this category. The PTVI category typically has three divisions for visually impaired athletes, ranging from PTVI1 for athletes who are totally blind, from no light perception in either eye, to some light perception—through to PTVI3 which includes athletes who are less severely partially sighted.
This was the second Super League Triathlon Arena Games, following the debut event in Rotterdam last year. You can catch all the action on the SLT Arena Games YouTube channel. The race was broadcast to more than 175 countries.