Off Road Triathlon...
When 'On Road' Just Isn't Tough Enough
What is Tre-X You Ask?... Well, Tre-X Is What you get when you mix Triathlon with dirt, mud, cross country trails and a whole load of hardcore action!
OK, so we all know what a triathlon is... SWIM - BIKE - RUN …. Easy! However, triathlon has already evolved into a number of varied events including Sprint distance, Olympic distance, Half Ironman and Ironman and now Off Road or Cross Triathlon is rapidly being recognised as the new evolution in the sport. And with the 2014 Australian Championships be hosted in the iconic Snowy Mountains on 22nd & 23rd February at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa and we wanted to share more about this new emerging version of the sport.
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So, What is Cross Triathlon?
At this point it might be a good opportunity to dispel some of the myths and look at what Cross Triathlon is not. There is a strong misplaced belief that Cross Triathlon is an Adventure Race. This is far from reality.
Cross triathlon is a set format including a Swim, Mountain Bike and Trail Run on a pre-determined, marked course and is governed by the rules and guidelines of a traditional triathlon. Put simply, it’s the on road version of the sport transposed into a bushland setting with mountain bikes and off road trail shoes.
Cross triathlon first emerged in 1996 on the island of Maui, when mountain biking and triathlon met in a bold new racing format that included an open-ocean swim, mountain bike race and trail run which attracted a multi-faceted market including outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, mountain bikers and triathletes.
The inaugural ITU Cross Tri World Championships were held in 2011 in Spain with over 400 athletes competing across the elite, junior, age-group and paratriathlon categories.
Triathlon Australia and The International Triathlon Union are demonstrating their commitment to Cross Triathlon with the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships now an established annual event. The Australian Cross Triathlon Championships held in March will be the qualifying round for the World Champs hosted in Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands in July 2013.
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Are there any differences between traditional triathlon and cross triathlon?
The answer is yes. Although governed by the same rules and guidelines of on-road triathlon, it does have some key differences:
The swim course is quite similar to the on road version of the sport. Competitors find themselves plunging into dams, lakes, rivers and the ocean and sometimes have to get in touch with their ‘dirty’ side as swim entries and exits can be muddy and boggy. Reeds, lilies’ and sometimes wildlife can be a part of the swim leg in a cross triathlon, which just adds to the adventure of the event.
No Such Thing as Drafting
Due to the nature of the mountain bike leg drafting does not come into play in the cross version of the sport. However, courtesy on the mountain bike is governed by recognised mountain bike guidelines such as:
- Where possible riders must keep to the left of the trails and allow others to pass;
- When passing riders should alert the person in front with a friendly shout “On your left”, or “On your right” depending on which side they intend to pass; and
- When being passed, and it is safe to do so, riders will move to the left or right as requested.
The Mountain Bike Course
The mountain bike course is an eclectic combination of trails which can include fire trails and 4WD tracks, bush trails, sand and single track (no tarmac here!). Each course is different and unlike road triathlons, a mountain bike course is very different every time you ride it. It requires a combination of skill, speed, strength and strategy to stay at the pointy end of the field.
In the Tre-X series a lot of the course is suitable for new comers and those new to mountain biking, however there will also be technical sections to challenge riders mountain bike skills and to add a bit of excitement to the course. If a rider does not feel confident, that’s fine, there’s always the option to walk the more technical sections (they are not usually too long) and start riding again when they feel comfortable.
Course distance can often be deceptive for those unfamiliar with mountain biking. 10km on a mountain bike track is very different to 10km on the road. Riders must constantly be focussed on the trails as they twist and turn and challenge with pinchy climbs, log roll overs, bridges, rock gardens and water crossings. There is no cruising or freewheeling when you get off road. Each athlete must be in the moment and engaged with the course from start to finish. Arguably, it is this element of the sport that keeps competitors coming back for more and more action.
The Trail Run
The trail run is where cross triathlon really shines by offering participants a true off-road experience. Trail run courses cover some incredibly diverse terrain and showcases some of Australia’s most spectacular bush and coastal areas.
Typically the trail run includes trails, tracks, creek crossings, steep craggy ascents, rough descents, sandy banks, rocky scrambles and sometimes there’s no tracks at all! This means that competitors must stay focussed every step of the way as they challenge themselves to run, scramble and climb to the welcome site of the finish arch and an appreciative crowd at Race HQ.
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Is Cross Triathlon just for Elite Athletes?
The answer to this question is an overwhelming “NO!” The Tre-X Cross Triathlon which is a national series that has been running for six years is currently welcoming all manner of participants from 7 years to 70, from those who have never taken part in a triathlon, to mums, dads and families and those who just love the outdoors and want to try something new.
It really is a family event and offers something for all level of participants including:
A non-competitive event for 7 to 10 year olds. Typical distances include 50m Swim, 3km XC MTB and 500m Run.
This is an event designed for younger participants and those who want to come and try a cross triathlon for the first time in a shorter event format. Distances typically include 150m Swim, 5km XC MTB & 1km Trail Run.
This course includes all the action of the long course event, but with a shorter distance. Usually including a 350m Swim, 10km XC MTB and 4km Trail Run.
The long course evolves throughout the season and gets progressively longer and more challenging before culminating in the championship event at the end of the season. Race 1 distance includes a 500m Swim, 15km XC MTB and 6km Trail Run all the way up to the Australian Cross Triathlon championships which challenges competitors with a 1000m Swim, 24km XC MTB and 8km Trail Run.
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What are Competitors Saying About Cross Triathlon?
“Swapping the pavement for the dirt was a decision I’ll never regret! There is so much more excitement and challenge, in Cross Triathlon and the Tre-X events are just so friendly. The challenges now aren’t just related to how fast I can go, but how much fun I can have getting muddy and dirty as I race through SENSATIONAL locations! Bring on the dirt!” Narelle, Kedron, Qld
“Triathlon is an exciting blend physically challenging sports and strategy, and taking the traditional disciplines OFF-ROAD has been more than just a breath of fresh air. Racing through a changing outdoor natural environment, each trail becomes a new adventure and overcoming unexpected obstacles makes the reward of finishing so much greater. With a buzzing race atmosphere and personal touch, the In 2 Adventure team have simply got the Tre-X Off-Road Triathlon series so right. Simultaneously opening a door for those tired of following the same straight roads and those seeking new paths to adventure alike!” Andy, Indooroopilly, Qld
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How can I get into Cross Triathlon in Australia?
Although cross triathlon is a relatively newer sport in Australia, there are a number of events across the country. The Tre-X Off Road Triathlon is a national series with 6 events nationally including the Australian Cross Triathlon Championships.
So if you fancy your triathlon with some grit, dirt and hardcore action, get on line and find out more about Cross Triathlon and join the revolution.
More information can be found at the Triathlon Australia website at www.triathlon.org.au or check out the Tre-X Series at www.tre-x.com.au or catch up with the Qld Off Road Triathlon Squad (QORTS) at www.facebook.com/qldoffroadtri