Sports | 7 August 2015The London Triathlon Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Triathlon! by Matthew Baird With less than a week to go to the London Triathlon, Matthew Baird, author of Triathlon!, guides us through the history of the event, and provides some essential race day tips. For the full story on the personalities, races and gear that make up one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, pre-order the book here. Taking place this weekend, the London Triathlon is a biggy of the multisport circuit. And by biggy we mean over 13,000 triathletes competing across super sprint, sprint, Olympic and Olympic Plus distances – plus a myriad of relay options – over two days at the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands area. So big is the London Triathlon, in fact, that the race has now superseded the Chicago Triathlon as the largest in the world in terms of participation. While the Docklands-setting won’t be give the likes of famed tri beauties Challenge Wanaka in New Zealand, Norway’s Norseman or Ironman France in Nice sleepless nights, the sheer scale of the event has few rivals on the triathlon circuit. The vast army of marshalls, medics and technical officials – triathlon’s invaluable, mostly voluntary supporting cast, without whom the sport wouldn’t exist – should take a major credit in the mammoth logistics of the operation, shepherding 13,000+ athletes over the weekend in and out of the world’s largest transition area is no mean feat. With around a third of the annual influx of over 13,000 athletes being beginners to the sport, the IMG-organised London Triathlon has played host to thousands of debut triathlon races, becoming an important rite of passage for age-group athletes across the British Isles and beyond. So what should athletes expect at the London Triathlon? While undeniably a slick operation, athletes will need logistical skills of their own to master the event. This includes fighting the A13 traffic just to get to the startline in time for the commencement of their swim wave (it’s not uncommon to see triathletes parking their cars at the side of the road and hot-footing it to the ExCel with bike and gear in tow). Once at the venue, bike racking takes place in one of the gargantuan halls of the ExCel, but key for athletes is to remember where they’ve racked their bike and stashed their kit. With thousands of bikes in transition at once, it’s easy to miss your own shiny steed once you’ve finished the swim, so remember the number of the row where your bike is racked and look for a landmark (a sign or advertising hoarding) to get you there quicker; every second counts in transition. Getting to the start of your swim wave is essential for listening to the mandatory race briefing, grabbing your swim hat, having a few warm-up stretches and calming the pre-race nerves. The swim begins with a deep-water start in the Royal Victoria Dock in front of the ExCeL Centre, before proceeding with an ‘out and back’ route in the occasional choppy – yet free from currents – waters. Given the sheer magnitude of the event, each swim wave has scores of athletes, so any nervous swimmers should stick at the back or at the sides to avoid being sucked into the ‘washing machine’ of flailing arms and legs. Unusually, triathletes are made to take their wetsuits off as soon as they exit the swim, before making their way to T1 for the swim-to-bike transition. Once, and if, you find your bike, the flat bike route takes place on closed roads (a rarity in London), with the athletes set to take less than 2:30hr using a course that takes in Big Ben, Westminster and Embankment before returning to the ExCel via Canary Wharf. Fast, flat and perfect for a PB (Internet forums have long speculated that the 10km run route is a little short), the multi-lap run route heads through the venue to Royal Albert Dock. With 13,000 athletes bringing their support crews, the route is lined with cheering spectators and plenty of intrigued locals, all of which adds a spring to the steps of athletes on their respective runs. The indoor finish line gantry is one of the noisiest in all of triathlon, so make sure you save enough energy for a sprint finish on the red carpet. Celebrity spotting also adds another element of fun, with Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, Formula One driver Jenson Button and Virgin founder Richard Branson the recent pick of famous participants, alongside a host of reality television stars and retired pop performers. The event also offers the chance for spectators and age-group athletes to race on the same course as some of the world’s top triathletes, with recent winners including Brit tri stars Jodie Stimpson and Helen Jenkins. The event has plenty of history as well, with a first London Triathlon held at the Docklands for three years from 1985-87 when triathlon in this country was in its infancy, before the major redevelopment of the area took place. The race was reinvigorated with the help of Human Race’s famed founder John Lunt in 1997 and 1998, being sold in 2001 to SBI before ending up in the hands of global race organiser behemoth IMG. The 2015 London Triathlon will be the 19th consecutive edition hosted in the Docklands. 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