Racing Demands of Off-Road Triathlon: A Case Study of a National Champion Masters Triathlete

Sports (Basel). 2021 Sep 30;9(10):136. doi: 10.3390/sports9100136.


(1) Background: This report examines the unique demands of off-road triathlon (XT) by presenting physiological, field, and race data from a national champion off-road triathlete using several years of laboratory and field data to detail training and race intensity. (2) Methods: Laboratory and field data were collected when the athlete was at near peak fitness and included oxygen consumption (VO2), heart rate (HR), power output (W), and blood lactate (BLC) during cycling and running, while HR, cycling W, and running metrics were obtained from training and race data files over a period of seven years. Intensity was described using % HR max zones (Z) 1 < 75%, 2 = 75-87%, and Zone 3 > 87%, and W. An ordinary least squares analysis was used to model differences between event types. (3) Results: Weather conditions were not different across events. XT events had twice the elevation change (p < 0.01) and two-three times greater anaerobic work capacity (W') (p < 0.001) than road triathlon (ROAD), but similar HR intensity profiles (max, avg, and zones); both events are predominately performed at >Z2 or higher intensity. Championship XT events were longer (p < 0.01), with higher kJ expenditure (p < 0.001). Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) modelling suggested three variables were strongly related (R2 = 0.84; p < 0.0001) to cycling performance: event type (XT vs ROAD), total meters climbed, and total bike duration. Championship XT runs were slower than either regional (p < 0.05) or ROAD (p < 0.01) runs, but HR intensity profiles similar. OLS modelling indicates that slower running is linked to either greater total bike kJ expenditure (R2 = 0.57; p < 0.001), or total meters gained (R2 = 0.52; p < 0.001). Race simulation data support these findings but failed to produce meaningful differences in running. Conclusions: XT race demands are unique and mirror mountain bike (MTB) and trail running demands. XT athletes must be mindful of developing anaerobic fitness, technical ability, and aerobic fitness, all of which contribute to off-road cycling economy. It is unclear whether XT cycling affects subsequent running performance different from ROAD cycling.

Keywords: MTB; XTerra; critical power; cross triathlon; off-road cycling economy; trail running.

Publication types

  • Case Reports