How Zwift Tri Battle Royale snowballed from an Instagram post into a unique head-to-head battle between Jan Frodeno and Lionel Sanders.

The Zwift Tri Battle Royale is a real-life, one-on-one race between three-time Ironman Hawaii champion, Jan Frodeno, and multiple Ironman champ Lionel Sanders. These two triathlon superstars will fight it out over the iron-distance on 18 July in Allgäu, Germany.

But despite this unique event’s high-profile nature with the promise of full live race day coverage – all organised in super-quick time – the Zwift Tri Battle Royale began as a simple Instagram post. On 8 June, reigning Ironman Hawaii champion Jan Frodeno sought to crowdsource some ideas for a challenge to tide him over until Kona on 9 October.

“It’s time to get back to business… I’m really keen for a sporting challenge. Kona’s ages away – they’ve moved everything else too close to Kona to actually contest it… I’m a little bit stuck, so I need your help… What do you guys reckon? I need a challenge – who’s got an idea? Fire off!”

One of the athletes to hit Frodeno with a suggestion was Lionel Sanders, who has regularly spoken of his desire to beat Frodeno, the athlete he considers the sport’s greatest.

“@janfrodeno you know where to find me, man. Any place, any time.”

Lionel Sanders

On 10 June, Sanders then posted to his own account, showing a picture of him going toe-to-toe with Frodeno at 70.3 Oceanside in 2015:

“Jan, I hear you’re looking for a challenge. I’m willing to pay for your flight, hotel, rental car and meals if you come race me at Ironman Coeur D’Alene. I know the start list is already out but something tells me they’ll allow a late entry from the 🐐.”

On 13 June, Frodo responded:

“You guys have helped me a lot, actually, trying to find some goals. Over 90 per cent of people think I should go head to head with Lionel.

“What do you reckon, Lionel? Thanks for your generous offer of flying me in … after my last visa issues I’m not too sure I’m keen on coming to the US. Besides, I always come to race you. Why don’t you come race me? Seriously? Let’s play in my backyard. Virtual. I don’t know … what do you reckon?”

This led to much social media speculation about how this duel might take place. With Frodeno and Sanders both being regular Zwift users, the virtual match-up hinted at by Frodeno seemed the obvious choice. But on 18 June – just one month out from the event, we got the full low-down on this real-life, hotly anticipated battle!

There will be more event announcements between now and the big day. Stay up to date at the Tri Battle Royale website and on @tri.battle on Instagram and @tri.battle on Twitter.

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