Super League Triathlon pits the world’s fastest triathletes against one another in ultra-short, furiously exciting back-to-back races with new rules and mixed-up disciplines.
Created by two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack, Super League Triathlon launched in 2017 to shake up the world of pro triathlon through super-short races, changing the order of the disciplines and forcing athletes to compete in back-to-back events. Add in eliminations and short cuts and the result is some of the most exciting, action-packed and TV-friendly pro triathlon racing you’re ever likely to see.
Super League Triathlon has two levels of pro racing – the Qualifier Series where up and coming athletes can test their mettle and the pinnacle Championship Series, where the top professional athletes battle it out to be crowned the fastest triathlete in the world. Super League also features age-group events as well as corporate, youth and junior divisions.
Athletes and the Championship Series
Athletes are picked for the Super League Championship Series either through gaining a contract by ranking within the top 10 during the previous season, placing highly at a Qualifier Series event or receiving a wildcard entry from the organisers.
Due to the short, fast nature of the racing (and the fact that the Super League season takes place during the ITU offseason), Super League athletes tend to be those also racing on the ITU WTS circuit as opposed to long-course Ironman competitors.
Unlike the 2018 series, where there were four events held over the 18/19 WTS offseason, the Super League Championship Series for 2019 and 2020 have been combined with a total of seven races – two in 2019 and five in 2020. This is so athletes can fully prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics without forfeiting their Super League aspirations.
Super League Triathlon distances and race formats
The standard distances used in Super League Triathlon are different to traditional triathlon distances and comprise of 300m swim, 4km bike and 1.6km run, so whichever of the race formats are chosen, fast and furious racing is guaranteed thanks to the full-gas efforts the athletes need to put in to be victorious.
But there are also tactics involved – athletes have to perform consistently across multiple days and back-to-back events to be crowned champion, so pacing is key. Meanwhile, the different formats, elimination rules and short cuts keep athletes on their toes.
Racing is held over two days with men and women each taking part in separate events. The first day features two semi-final races for each gender. These are always swim, bike and run twice – so six continuous stages. The top five athletes in each semi-final automatically qualify for the final race the next day along with the next five fastest athletes from both semi-finals combined – making a total field of 15 finalists.
For the finals on day two, the event organisers choose one of four formats, which are all designed to push athletes to their limits, either through changing the order of race disciplines, eliminations, levelling the playing field with a time trial or forcing athletes to race all-out back-to-back with no breaks.
The Triple Mix plays with the traditional order of triathlon disciplines with three rounds, each with a six to 10-minute break based on the first athlete’s finish time. This gives just enough time for athletes to lower their thundering heart rates, dive in an ice bath and reset their transition areas.
The first round is swim, bike, run, the second is run, bike, swim and the third is bike, swim, run. The time differences between athletes are maintained after the second round, meaning a pursuit-style start for the leading athletes during the final bike, swim, run race.
The Eliminator format features three back-to-back swim, bike, run stages with 10 minutes of recovery between each while the field is whittled down with ruthless eliminations.
In the first stage, there are five eliminations – one after the bike, two after the first lap of the run and the slowest two athletes across the line. Meanwhile the first three athletes to finish will earn the Short Chute short cut (see below) for the following stage.
During stage two there are four eliminations – one after the bike, two after the first lap of the run and the last athlete to finish the stage. Two athletes have the chance to earn the Short Chute by coming first and second across the line.
This leaves the final ‘Super Six’ athletes to contend the final stage, where there will be one elimination after the bike and two after each lap of the run.
For the strongest athletes, the Eliminator is about carefully counting their position and not racing too hard until they have to. For the rest of the field, it’s about staying out of that elimination zone at all costs.
The Enduro is simple but brutal – three back-to-back triathlons in swim, bike, run order but without any downtime between each.
This not only provides the biggest test of endurance within Super League racing but also challenges the athletes to consider how they’re going to efficiently transition from one race to the next – such as by putting swimming caps on while running.
To add to the pressure, the last athlete across the line after each discipline is eliminated from the race, which has already meant some athletes running barefoot to stay in the race!
The Equalizer format features two rounds of racing. First, a single-discipline individual time trial – either swim, bike or run – giving the athletes a chance to put out their best effort without any drafting or group racing tactics. The gaps between athletes here set the leads for round two’s pursuit-style start, with athletes taking on a non-stop swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run race.
This format gives single-discipline specialists the chance to make the most of their talents, resulting in exciting cat-and-mouse competition with athletes trying to stay away from a ravenous chasing pack.
Short chute and 90-second rule
To add even more of a twist to the racing, Super League Triathlon has introduced the Short Chute and the 90-second rule.
The winners of the two semi-final races on day one are awarded the Short Chute for the final. This allows them to take a short cut in the final race regardless of the format and it is usually worth a handful of seconds. The Eliminator format also allows athletes to earn the chance to take the Short Chute. This can really liven up the final day of racing by adding a tactical edge.
Things are made even tougher by the 90-second rule – fall behind the leader by that amount of time at the end of a lap and you’re out of the race – meaning theoretically the race can be whittled down to a minimum of six athletes, called the ‘Super Six’, in any of the formats.
Super League Triathlon championship points and leaders’ jerseys
Championship Series points are awarded based on athletes’ overall finish in the final of each Championship Series event. The first athlete scores 15 points down to one point for 15th place. The athlete with the most points at the end of the season is crowned the Super League Triathlon Champion.
The leaders in each discipline are marked out with coloured tri suits indicating their superiority in the water, in transition, on two wheels or in running shoes.
The jerseys are awarded on a running points system throughout the Championship Series with points available during both semi-finals and finals. The fastest athlete in each jersey category adds five points to their tally, the second, four points and so on. These bonus points also count toward the overall series rankings.
- Pink – overall leader
- Blue – fastest athlete in the swim
- Green – fastest athlete on the bike
- Red – fastest athlete on the run
- Grey – fastest athlete through transition
- White – fastest under-21 athlete overall
How to watch Super League Triathlon
All Super League Triathlon races can be watched online via the Super League website or the Super League YouTube channel. You can usually also view the finals on these international broadcasters.
- BBC Red Button & BBC Digital – UK
- L’Equipe – France
- NRK – Norway
- Match TV – Russia (Digital)
- BEiN – USA & Canada
- CBC.com – Canada (Digital)
- Fox – Australia
- Sky – New Zealand
- SuperSports – sub-Saharan Africa
- Kwese Sports – sub-Saharan Africa
- BEiN – Middle East
- PBS – Malta
- La Liga.com – global
- Action24 – Greece