Elite triathlon is a sport where we see lot of action and reaction, the evolution is constant. National Federations (NFs) are regularly trying to adjust the physical parameters for success in the discipline. In this game, we see trends in development of athletes that will have significant impact on the racing dynamics.
Before the arrival of the Brownlee brothers, no athletes were expected to take the lead and impose a high intensity from the start. The game was to take the least amount of turns and go into T2 with the maximum energy. Cycling was considered not important. Even today, some federations are choosing to put the bike last in the development of an athlete claiming that this remains the »easiest » ability to develop. Trimes do not agree with common view of the cycling leg.
Yet we observe the athletes who will never succeed in getting the necessary level on two wheels. This is due to two reasons. A gap in techniques and poor positioning in groups. Inability to properly address the corners, but above all, the athlete does not have that much ability to suffer on the bike (tolerance to maintain at a high percentage of its VO2max). These athletes are vulnerable, but they still need to be put in that situation for them to break.
The dominance of Brownlees’ happened due to their strength in the three sports. While competitors were training to be fast enough to keep up swimming and cycling and thus remain competitive, they want to make sure to make the difference at any time of the race. Being constantly at a high effort, they are masters of the race.
The last 4 years, they assured themselves to make a difference in swimming and join the T2 with a limited group of 8 to 20 athletes. Being the best runners of the group, it was a done deal.
The big question is whether the two Brits are always the best racers on the circuit. The post Olympic period (London) was marked by a Spanish reaction with Gomez and the newcomer Mola. While the brothers from Yorkshire were unbeaten in running, things have changed. The victory Gomez sprint in London in 2013 against Johnny had a significant impact. Psychologically, the Brownlees’ lost their reassurance to outrun the Spaniards. The second problem is that Johnny and Ali know that their bodies are not able to hold too large running volume.
In late 2014 season, Alistair was finally as dominant as before (back from injury) but his strategy was evolving. His attitude on bike was even more offensive than before. At the Commonwealth Games, Stockholm or in Edmonton, along with his brother, Alistair demonstrated that he can make the difference without seeking the help of a group of medium size (minimum 8 athletes).
Few athletes can help … The impossible attack?
Alistar’s success in London was the product of a recipe developed in advance. This allowed him to take the psychological advantage over others. With the course offered in Rio that will be extremely difficult and technical, neither Brownlee will have much interest sitting in on the bike. As already mentioned, we can expect to see their GBtri provide a domestique to help in a very offensive bicycle tactics. However, the Brownlees’ have no such guarantee to beat the Spanish and probably vice versa … A new generation is on the point of arrival.
Reverse scenario in women?
Gwen Jorgensen totally dominates the discipline and yet she is not able to control the race before T2. In her case, she should make sure to limit the damage. Faced with her incredible talent in running, her opponents have to attack her on bike. There is no doubt that in the future, super bikers as Anne Haug and Nicola Spirig will try to outrun Jorgensen on the bike. We also recall the lack of understanding among women in Edmonton where they would finally have deprived Jorgensen victory.
A matter of priority …
The elites, there is a perpetual question of the volume distribution of the three sports. According to our understanding, the group in Yorkshire spend most of the time cycling. In the case of Gwen Jorgensen, it is also aware that his victory in Rio will be possible only if she is able to develop on the bike.
We often think that in ITU you need to run well. However, you have to do a lot of specific training and do as much intensity in all the disciplines.We imagine that »ITUians » are two track sessions a week and yet … To run well, it must first be not too and started to be very strong bike to collect the rhythm of the best cyclists.
In 2015, we expect exciting races without dead cycling or with athletes that want to control the race more than ever.