Transitions are an important part of any triathlon but, in draft legal races in particular, a few short seconds gained or lost in transition can drastically affect the final outcome. Seconds lost in T1 can mean minutes lost on the bike and time lost in T2 can be hard to win back against fleet-footed competition.
The three keys to fast transitions in draft legal triathlon are:
1) proper transition set-up
2) good transition skills
3) good position when entering the transition zone
Looking specifically at transition set-up, athletes should aim to keep things as simple as possible: simple is fast.
T1 Set-up: Whenever possible, bikes should be racked by the saddle or rear wheel with handlebars facing out. Gear selection should allow quick acceleration after mounting, with shoes clipped to the pedals (with or without elastics holding the shoes top side up). Water bottles should be in the cage(s) and any gels should be taped to the top tube. Sunglasses should be secured with the arms in the vents at the front of the helmet for easy access once the rider is established in the pack. The bike helmet should sit upside down, cradled by the aero bars or between the handle bar and cables. Helmet straps should be out and untangled, with the front of the helmet facing the rider when standing on the control side of the bike. For example, athletes who run their bike through transition with their right hand controlling the bike should point the front of their helmet to the left side of the bike (defined as the left side of the bike when the rider is on the bike), as they will be grabbing their bike from this side. Some athletes may opt to stand directly in front their bike in T1, as this is effective in cramped transition zones. In this case, the front of the helmet faces the front of the bike, and the athlete does a quick side step as they un-rack the bike to bring the bike to their control side.
T2 Set-up: The set-up for the second transition is even simpler than T1 – it’s all about the shoes. Athletes simply set their running shoes on the control side of their bike, with tongues out. Note that athletes must consider how they will rack the bike in T2 (by handlebars or by saddle), to determine which side to place the running shoes. Athletes will have their feet out of their cycling shoes prior to dismount and will quickly slip their running shoes on after racking the bike and removing their helmet. A gel and a hat are optional and should be put beside or behind the running shoes, not on top. Athletes typically grab these items after the running shoes are on, and secure them while they run; hat on the head and gel under one of the shoulder straps of the race suit.
With a simple transition set-up and a bit of practice, athletes can give themselves the best chance of having fast transitions, making a pack, and having a great race.
Craig Taylor is the director of Triathlon Canada’s National Training Centre in Guelph, Ontario.