BBC Sport olympics

Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Monday, 27 March 2006 11:58 UK

Triathlon tricks of the trade

By Tom Fordyce

The triathlon might appear on the surface to be a simple matter of swimming, cycling and running further than most people would want to.

But under that stamina-sapping surface lies a murkier world - a world where cunning little tricks might be the difference between golden joy and also-ran agony....


Cunning clothing

Every second counts in the triathlon.

So it makes sense not to waste precious time taking off your swimming costume and pulling on cycling shorts when you switch from swim to bike, or later on swapping that cycling gear for running shorts and a vest.

A triathlete starts to change from swimming gear to cycling gear
The all-in-one suit can be easily unzipped

Solution? Wear a skin-tight suit beneath your wetsuit that acts as trunks, shorts and vest rolled into one - fast-drying, with padding in the crotch to save saddle-sore woe and a cut-away top to keep you cool on the run.

Even if it makes you look like a German pole-dancer in the very seediest of Hamburg clubs.

Strappy shoes

The last thing you want to be doing as your rivals steam off is to be fiddling with the straps on your cycling shoes.

So clip the shoes onto the bike before the race begins. When you do cycle off, stick with your feet on top of the shoes and only slip your feet in once you're on the move.

That's not all - rather than using the three straps that most cycling shoes have, just have one.

When you're travelling at 30mph, you need your hands on the handlebars and your eyes on the road.

Hats the way to do it

That swim can be a nasty business.

Goggles can get knocked off by flying elbows and clawing hands, leaving you thrashing around blindly in the water while the salt water burns your eyes and the precious goggs sink slowly into the briny.

That's a risk the pros can't afford to take - so they don one latex hat, whack on the goggles and then pop another cap on top, over the straps.

Hey presto - goggles are anchored no matter who tries to pull them off.

Heart on sleeve

From the gun, the adrenaline is coursing through the athletes.

It's one of the biggest races of their lives - and that means that the temptation to go hell for leather can be overwhelming.

Trouble is, if they go too hard too early, they'll be a spent force well before the end.

A heart-rate monitor strapped around the chest - with the read-out on the wrist - allows the triathletes to keep themselves working at their optimum rate, neither too hard or too easy.


Talcum terror

No matter how well you think you've memorised where exactly your bike is in transition, the confusion of tearing out of the water into an area full of 200 identical bikes can leave you lost in a world of panic and confusion.

An array of bikes at a triathlon meet
Anyone seen my Grifter?

What you need is some sort of easy visual sign so you can pick your wheels out.

So wouldn't it be terrible if, while setting your bike up and smearing some talcum powder inside your wetsuit, you "accidentally" knocked the talc over the ground in a large white swathe - much like a giant powder arrow?

Talking the talk

You can mess with a man's mind just as easily. On the run, don't overtake before you have to.

Sit on your rival's shoulder and chat away to them about how easy the course is and how good you feel.

He can't see that you're actually sweating like a 20-stone wrestler - in his mind you're ready to kick past at any second.

Come alongside every now and then, wink, and then drop back a fraction - and watch him crumble.

Tucking in

You're on your bike, pedalling furiously, when you catch up your rival.

Australia's Emma Snowsill takes the lead in the cycling
The front rider does the hard work

Fancy a free ride? Then simply tuck yourself into their slipstream, and you'll instantly be working about 30% less hard while remaining glued to his tail.

He'll be doing the hard work, you'll be taking it easy. Come the run leg, you'll be fresh as a daisy, while he'll be both angry and exhausted.


Feet frenzy

In that mad melee of water and spray at the start of the swim, accidents happen. People get kicked in the face, and elbowed round the back of the head.

Whoops - did you say that I smashed my rival in the teeth so that all the energy and strength went out of him in a second? I really am most awfully sorry - I had no idea...

Triathletes line up for the swimming leg of a race
Liberal use of elbows and legs always a bonus in the swim

Tug of war

Wetsuits have long rubber ties hanging off their zips - it makes it easier to whip your wetsuit off as you run to your bike.

It also means that a ne'er-do-well rival can reach out mid-swim and, with one hard tug, leave your wetsuit flooding with water, you treading water and your hopes in tatters.

Don't knock it

Accidents can also happen when you're running through transition at high speed.

Athletes leave their kit in carefully-arranged order - bike here, helmet there, sunglasses inside helmet, trainers there.

Everything simply has to be just so, so they can grab it all at speed when the senses are scrambled.

So when a passing foot sends it all flying, it's a nightmare of the tri-est order...

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.