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Last weekend, Super League took to London. This weekend, the top short-course athletes will face off in Munich, Germany. So what exactly is Super League Triathlon? And what are these SLT Teams: the Sharks v. the Rhinos?
The Super League Format
First and foremost, Super League utilizes a number of new and exciting formats (more on these formats below)—which have become so popular since Super League rolled them out 2017 that now even World Triathlon has adopted some of the eliminator-style racing.
Part of the premise of Super League from its launch was to create a self-enclosed promotion, racing, and marketing system—ie. all the athletes are signed to contracts to guarantee their appearances at the Super League races (with plenty of money to back it up), and they then race short and unique formats that are well-promoted and televised. If the athletes are stars and the broadcasts are exciting, then people will watch and investors will make money. Chris McCormack, who co-founded Super League with Michael Dhulst, compares it to the high-stakes Formula 1 racing in Australia in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Read more on the launch and background: Super League Triathlon is Awesome In Theory—But Will It Work?
In order to do this, Super League utilizes a number of different kinds of race formats—which we’ve broken down below and which aren’t all contested at every event. All distances in every format are 300m swim, 5km bike, 2km run to keep things short and fast.
One more factor: Any athlete who falls more than 90 seconds off the leader on any lap is out of the race. And there are “short chutes”—ie. short cuts—that can be earned by hitting certain primes off the earlier legs or transitions.
(Also, yes, in case you were wondering, they are now required to wear shoes during the bike and run.)
There are four main formats that are contested at Super League events:
Three stages of mini-triathlon, shuffling the order of the swim-bike-run on each stage. Athletes build up time in the first two stages, which determines their head starts in the final stage. First athlete across the line in the final stage wins.
- Stage 1 — Swim-bike-run (10-minute break)
- Stage 2 — Run-bike-swim (10-minute break)
- Stage 3 — Bike-swim-run (pursuit-style based on the times over the first two stages)
Stage 1 is an Individual Time Trial across an individual sport (whether bike or run or swim) that then determines the starting time gaps for the second stage. Stage 2 is a rapid swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run to be first across the line.
- Stage 1 – Individual time trial
- Stage 2 – Swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run
One massive mini-triathlon, repeated three times with no breaks, to see who will emerge victorious. Fall more than 90 seconds behind at any lap and you’re done.
- 3x (swim-bike-run)
The format Super League is best known for: athletes are eliminated at the end of each discipline and at the end of each mini-race—after the swim, bike, and at the finish. This goes on for three rounds, with athletes fighting hard enough to not be eliminated, but also managing their effort against fatigue.
- Stage 1 – swim-bike-run (10-minute break)
- Stage 2 – (Top 15 finishers from Stage 1) swim-bike-run (10-minute break)
- Stage 3 – (Top 10 finishers from Stage 2) swim-bike-run
Each weekend of racing only utilizes one or two of these formats. So in London athletes competed over the Triple Mix; Munich will race the Equalizer; Jersey will host the Enduro; and the championship event in Malibu will utilize the Eliminator.
What are Super League Teams?
New this year, Super League launched five teams—each managed by a legend of the sport (Chris McCormack, Tim Don, Ronnie Schildknecht, Annie Emerson, Michelle Dillon). The teams are made up of eight or nine athletes, depending on allocated wildcards and substitutions, with the top three men and three women earning points each race and each discipline’s leaderboard. The team drafts were broadcast on Youtube.
There is an additional $320,000 in prize money for the teams, and every athlete on the winning team earns an additional $15,000.
In case you were wondering, the teams are: the Scorpions, the Rhinos, the Sharks, the Cheetahs, and the Eagles. And they include a who’s who of top Olympic athletes, including Katie Zaferes, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Jess Learmonth, Hayden Wilde, Vincent Luis, Alex Yee, Jonny Brownlee. After the first race in London, Learmonth and Wilde came out on top—and the Eagles are currently in the lead. Get all the info about standings and teams here.
Super League 2021
One of the other things unique to this year is that Super League has signed athletes to the entire month of September with four weekends of racing: London, Munich, Jersey, and then a championship race in Malibu (where they’ve partnered with the celebrity popular Malibu Triathlon). While many of the athletes signed to the teams and on contract for the whole month will race every event, there are a number of athletes who are expected to make an appearance at just the final championship race—Lucy Charles-Barclay, Flora Duffy, Kristian Blummenfelt. They will then eligible for the prize money for that race, but not for the overall series.
The top 15 athletes each weekend earn points towards the overall championship and towards each swim, bike, or run jersey—with $20,000 on the line for the winner of each at the end of the series. Between prize money for each event, overall championship and jersey prizes, as well as guarantees for every contracted athlete there’s $1.25 million to be earned.
How to Watch
OK, so Super League all sounds very exciting. How do you watch?
- Munich: Sunday, Sept. 12 at 8 a.m. ET
- Jersey: Saturday, Sept. 18 at 6:30 a.m. ET
- Malibu: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 4:30 p.m. ET
You can see all the broadcast options in every country on the Super League website. In the U.S., highlights shows will air on CBS Sports on Sept. 23 and 30, and Oct. 6 and 14.