Football, horse racing and tennis are the most popular choices for laying sports bets, but if you enjoy sports betting, there’s no need to stick to the conventional sports. Triathlon is not the first choice of many gamblers, but it’s a fascinating event that wins the admiration of many spectators. It also offers many opportunities for betting over the course of events which last for several hours. It’s an impressive contest to watch, particularly at professional level, and having a bit of money riding on the contest helps dramatise it for you!
Sports betting is about so much more than just picking out a winner. Although the triathlon event rewards the athlete who crosses the finish line first, there are separate disciplines within the overall event that you can bet on. This means a two hour Olympic-style triathlon event can offer multiple smaller bets within it. Of course, you can also bet on who will be the overall winner.
In the UK, triathlon season tends to run from May to September, but it is a popular sporting event worldwide, so you’ll find events on year-round at both amateur and pro level. The popularity of the triathlon means that there are multiple triathlon events worldwide, many of them highly prestigious. There are many opportunities to follow this exciting sport and lay bets of all kinds on the outcome. And if the demanding triathlon contest isn’t impressive enough for you, there are many other harder versions of the event, including the incredibly demanding Ironman contest.
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About the triathlon event
Triathlons require athletes to complete a swim, usually in open water, followed by an endurance road bike ride and then a distance run. Because there are no pauses between disciplines, the changeover is considered a vital part of the race. Being able to dry off, locate your kit and get changed into it is a vital part of an athlete’s success as it contributes to their overall time. The scramble to changeover, combined with wobbly athlete legs as the strain kicks in, adds to the fury and excitement of the event.
The triathlon has always been considered an individual event, so there are not really any options for athletes to work together to improve their chances. Tactics such as clubbing together with other bike riders to reduce wind resistance, which is often used in grand tour cycling, is not seen in triathlon events and athletes are not supposed to help each other transition. In large events, the open water swim can lead to some alarming scrums as athletes try to find a clear patch of water, often ducking other competitors as they scramble to get ahead of the pack. It’s quite a frenzied part of the event, and worth watching live if you get the chance. Because triathlon swims tend to take place in open water such as a river, lake or even the sea, weather conditions can place additional strain on those competing. A change in current or windspeed can really influence the time for this part of the event, so it’s something to consider if you’re wagering on the swim set.
There’s opportunity for canny athletes to gain tactical advantage by swimming or biking in a competitor’s slipstream. The main thing athletes have to learn is how to transition between the events speedily, as two changes of clothing are required during the event, which often lasts two hours. This may sound trivial, but the popular triathlon event often sees many hundreds of athletes at both amateur and pro level trying to find their athletic kit in a chaotic transition space. Many athletes have lost valuable time because they were unable to find their bike among many hundreds of others.
It’s rare to find one athlete who is naturally balanced across all disciplines and many triathlon competitors will favour one or two sections of the event above others. Although the three disciplines (cycling, running and swimming) may be familiar to most people, the discipline and training required for competing in these as part of a triathlon is unique. The nature of the open water (rather than a swimming pool) swim means that athletes need to contend with waves, current, and hazards such as floating weed or logs. Towards the end of the bike ride, competitors often chance their cadence (number of revolutions per second) to limber their leg muscles up for the ensuing run. And many inexperienced competitors are surprised by how reduced their performance is in the final run event, as their muscles are drained from the previous sets. Triathlon training often specifically aims to help athletes transition from one discipline to the next to overcome any issues such as cumulative muscle weakness. Above all, the triathlon is an endurance event that requires a high level of fitness. Although the typical Olympic event can last about two hours, there are other longer events in the triathlon event calendar that can take an athlete an entire day to finish. This means 12 or more hours of intense activity, with fighting cumulative tiredness and muscle strain a major part of the battle to the finish line.
The history of the triathlon event
The triathlon is, by sporting standards, a relatively new event. Trios of sports, such as running, cycling and canoeing, were occasionally combined together in single events but the three sporting disciplines in the modern triathlon were combined into one event for the first time in 1920s France. The sport evolved over about a decade until 1934, by which time it consisted of an open water swim, 10km bike ride and a 1200m run. By the ’70s the triathlon event had reached America, with only 46 competitors in the first San Diego triathlon event of 1974. This consisted of a 500 yard swim, a 5-mile bike ride, and a 6-mile run. The history of the triathlon tends to date from this event. The different distances covered during each set was often varied at this stage in the sport’s history.
In only 15 years, triathlon achieved Olympic status and the event is increasingly popular worldwide. The USA Triathlon (USAT) body, which governs the sport, has over 100,000 members and recognises over 2,000 events annually. The world’s most prestigious ultra triathlon event is held in Hawaii, having started there in the late ’70s.
Despite some changes over the years, the modern triathlon event consists of a 1500m swim, a 40km cycle, and a 10km run. This is the event at Olympic level.
Variations on the triathlon event
Because some athletes don’t find the gruelling triathlon event demanding enough, a few variations have emerged.
- The sprint triathlon event consists of a half mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and a 3 mile run. It’s a little like a half triathlon because the Olympic triathlon event has longer distances for event sections, so each distance is about twice as long. The Olympic length is seen as the standard triathlon event to compete in and most athletes will find this more than enough of a challenge. But the ‘long course’ triathlon is even longer. It consists of a 1.2 mile swim event followed by a 56 mile ride and then a half marathon (13.1 mile run).
- The long distance triathlon event has a 2.5 mile swim, 75 miles cycle race and a 19 mile run. But the most demanding event of all is the Ironman event (ultra distance triathlon). This involves a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile cycle race and a full marathon (26 mile run) to finish. Even top athletes take an entire day to finish one of these Ironmen competitions and most competitors need 12 hours as a minimum.
- To make this gruelling contest event harder, there are some triathlon-type events held in some of the world’s most physically challenging locations. These include places such as Hardangerfjord in Norway, where an exclusive Ironman-style event takes place at high altitude and in freezing waters. It only accepts a small number of competitors, who need to carry emergency food and clothing with them for the dangerous mountain conditions. There are also ironman competitions held in deserts, in scorching parts of Africa, and across the lava beds of Hawaii.
- You’ll also find similar events to the triathlon being organised in various parts of the world. Aquathons are two stage swim/run events run by the Triathlon governing body. These events are easier to organise and can help athletes prepare for a full three discipline triathlon. The rules tend to specify the temperature at which the contest is held: usually the water temperature is of most interest to the athletes. Distances tend to vary but will often include a 2.5km run, 1000m swim, then another 2.5km run. At certain water temperatures, wetsuits are mandatory.
Opportunities for triathlon betting
The triathlon is a popular event worldwide but the main betting opportunities arise from the larger triathlon events such as the Olympic and Paralympic events every four years, the world championships, and the respected Hawaii Ironman event known as the Kona Ironman. These are better known and so they are covered by the major sports betting sites.
Like any individual sport, you can place a bet on who will be the overall winner of the competition. Remember that there will typically be both a men’s and a women’s event held on the same day: the women usually race first in the morning slot. You can wager on who will win gold, silver and bronze, or try to guess the three athletes who will be on the podium in any order. If you’re following the sport long term, you can sometimes bet that a particular athlete will win a particular event at some point in their career.
You can also bet on the particular stages of the race, for example betting that a particular athlete will have the shortest time in the swim (even if they don’t win overall) or that their time will be within certain boundaries. But the triathlon event is essentially focused on who crosses the finish line first, so it isn’t quite within the spirit of the contest. It’s up to you though – some gamblers like to bet on athlete performance in particular disciplines as well as who will win or be placed overall.
Because triathlon is an individual sport, a lot rides on one individual. It’s unlike betting on a team sport where a particular athlete’s misfortune or injury has less overall impact on the result. You bet can be lost or won by an athlete being unable to locate their running shoes during the transition, or having a mechanical failure with their bike. For many spectators who have taken a bet out on the contest, this is all part of the appeal!
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