As the name tells you, the triathlon combines three events, cycling, running and swimming. At the Olympics, the standard distances are 25 miles biking, 1500 metres swimming, and 6 miles running, meaning that the athletes have to be in exceptional shape.
However, the Olympics triathlon is not the only version. There are many variations such as the double and triple Olympic distances, and the most gruelling of all, the iron distance, which involves 3,800 metres swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26 miles running. Unsurprisingly, not all participants manage to complete the iron distance. At the other end of the spectrum, there are sprint triathlons, which involve a 750-metre swim, a 20-kilometre bike ride and a 5-kilometre run.
There is a very important distinction between triathlons, pentathlons and decathlons, which is that in triathlons, all three stages are held one after the other without any breaks in between, even when competing over iron distances.
The International Union of Triathletes was established in 1989, and this immediately led to disagreements about the sport. The purpose of the union was to include the triathlon in the Olympic Games. There were immediate disputes about the duration of the race. An iron triathlon typically takes about 16 hours to complete, so it was decided to reduce the length of the race so that it could fit within a television broadcast.
To this day, there is dispute amongst triathletes about what the biggest achievement is, winning an Olympic gold or completing the iron distance. However, for bettors this is not very important but it is worth noting that the majority of betting markets will be on the Olympic version of the sport.
There is some terminology associated with triathlons that it is useful to be familiar with. When participants talk of the transition, they are referring to the area that they arrive at after the swim where they collect the bike, helmet and shoes. Participants then return to that area to switch into running gear. These transition stations are often referred to as T1 (from swim to bike) and T2 (from bike to run). There are a few rules around transition such as when participants are allowed to mount and dismount their bikes, and it is good to be aware of them.
In regards to the actual stages, the swim leg can take place in any available body of water, whether natural or a swimming pool. The cycling leg will take place around a marked course, usually on public roads, and the running stage may take place on a track or on roads.
Timings are recorded for five distinct stages, from the start of the swim to the beginning of the first transition (swim time), from the start of the first transition to the end (T1 time), from the start of the cycle to the end (cycling time), from the start of the second transition to the end (T2 time), and from the start of the run to the end.
There are a number of notable triathlon events and you will find betting markets available for many of them.
For many, the highlight is the Olympic Games, where the triathlon was introduced at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 using the distances explained above. Since 2016, the triathlon has also been an event at the Paralympics.
Beyond the Olympics, there are a number of world competitions organised by the International Triathlon Union including the ITU World Triathlon Series, the ITU Triathlon World Cup, the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, the ITU Sprint Distance Triathlon World Championships, and the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships.
There are also triathlon events at the Commonwealth Games, the African Games, and so on. Beyond these, there are a huge number of independent events, and it is not unusual to find betting markets available on the bigger ones.
Betting on Triathlon
The triathlon is not only an exciting sport to watch, but it is also very exciting to bet on. Thanks to its multidisciplinary nature, there are plenty of betting markets to choose from. Here we will explain some of the most popular triathlon betting markets.
Regardless of what sport you are betting on, this will always be the most straightforward betting market, and the most popular. You simply bet on which athlete you believe will win the triathlon. If they do, then you win your bet.
These markets allow you to bet on which athlete will perform best within a specific event. For example, you could bet on who will win the swimming, who will win the cycling, and who will win the running. It is simply a bet on which athlete will finish that event in the fastest time. On occasion, you may find further bets on the individual events, such as over/under bets on times.
This betting market allows you to bet on a particular athlete finishing in the top x places. For instance, you may see to finish in top 3, top 5, top 7, and so on. As long as your chosen athlete finishes within the proscribed number of places, then you will win your bet. This is a great way to back an athlete who you believe will do well but may not win the event.
Match Up Betting
This type of betting market presents you with theoretical match ups between competing pairs of athletes. All you need to do is pick which one you think will finish higher in the standings, and as long as they do, then you win the bet. It is a way to enjoy some betting action on the athletes that are in the middle of the pack or even considered weak, and sometimes you may find some excellent odds available.
In many triathlons, at each stage there will time certain times that an athlete must meet in order to avoid a penalty. These markets allow you to bet on how many or which athletes will meet the time limit for each discipline.
Final Time Betting
These markets allow you to bet on the finishing time of the winner. It may appear in two forms, you may be given a range of times to choose from, or it may be presented as an over/under bet. In the case of an over/under bet, you bet over if you think the finishing time will be longer than the given time or under if you think it will be less.
In-play betting, or live betting, allows you to bet on a triathlon event while it is taking place. You will find many of the markets described above, and possibly quite a few extra, and the odds will be updated as the event progresses. This means that if you are watching live and you keep an eye on the odds, that you will have the chance to spot some exciting betting opportunities.
What to Consider When Betting on Triathlon
As with any sport, the key to placing winning bets is to do careful research beforehand. Here we will cover the areas your research should focus on and mistakes that you should avoid.
The first thing to be aware of is the distances used in the triathlon that you are betting on, as when you conduct your research, you need to make sure that it is applicable. There is no point in looking at an athlete’s historical results if they are over much shorter distances than the event you are betting on.
Age also plays a huge factor in triathlon. Surprisingly, younger athletes seem to struggle to maintain the pace over the distance, while the same is true for older athletes. Most triathlon winners seem to fall in the 26 to 33 years old bracket. However, there are of course exceptions to this, so it should only be taken as a guide.
You will also need to look at where the triathlon is taking place and which athletes train there. If an athlete is competing on home ground then they are sure to have an advantage. Similarly, if an athlete has had to travel a long distance to participate, or the triathlon is taking place in a climate that they are not used to, then this will likely have an adverse effect on their performance.
When it comes to researching the athletes, you should be on the lookout for their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you see someone is a particularly strong cyclist, then you may want to back them on that stage only.
Essentially, you need to gather as much information as you can about the individuals taking part and the conditions of the event, and hopefully this will lead to you placing numerous winning bets.