The Rapid Growth of Cross Triathlon

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Front Page - BY KEVIN MACKINNON

The sport of triathlon con­tin­ues to re­de­fine it­self, re­fus­ing to be pinned down by a spe­cific set of events, dis­tances or dis­ci­plines. Many per­mu­ta­tions of mul­ti­sport en­deav­ours have ap­peared over time, but back in 1996, af­ter a few years of ex­pe­ri­en­tial, grass­roots events, a com­pany named Xterra cap­i­tal­ized on a grow­ing niche mar­ket and cre­ated its own off-road se­ries. Xterra spear­heads the cross triathlon move­ment, of­fer­ing many events in stun­ning lo­ca­tions across the globe, but nu­mer­ous other or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the ITU, of­fer cross triathlons within Canada as well.

Cross triathlon as a bona fide sport is slowly but steadily ex­pand­ing. DIRTTRI. com, a web­site strictly ded­i­cated to the pro­mo­tion and growth of off- road mul­ti­sport, cites num­bers from The Out­door Re­cre­ation Par­tic­i­pa­tion Re­port 2016, USA Triathlon, ITU and Xterra, which state that cross triathlon is in­deed mov­ing for­ward. It has en­joyed in­ter­na­tional growth of about 12 per cent over the past three years.

Karsten Mad­sen has seen first-hand the growth in the sport.

“Off-road triathlon is go­ing through a real shift. I see it in lo­cal races and in­ter­na­tional events. Many peo­ple are be­com­ing tired of rac­ing the same places on the same roads year af­ter year and many of those same peo­ple are also tired of the crazy amounts of money needed to race road triathlons. I know many Iron­man triath­letes who are now get­ting on a moun­tain bike for cross train­ing and a new chal­lenge.” Com­bine this with the cur­rent boom in trail run­ning thanks to a widely-re­newed ap­pre­ci­a­tion of ex­er­cis­ing within na­ture’s play­ground and a segue into off-road triathlon seems like a natural pro­gres­sion for many fit­ness en­thu­si­asts.

Con­tin­ues Mad­sen: “Lots of peo­ple think that at an in­ter­na­tional level, the off-road va­ri­ety is far more ac­ces­si­ble to the rest of the world, es­pe­cially in poorer ar­eas. Many coun­tries don’t have a lot of paved roads and more peo­ple own a moun­tain bike. The po­ten­tial to reach and at­tract a wide mar­ket is there for sure.”

Pierre Per­ron knew he was in a dif­fer­ent realm dur­ing his first prod­uct meet­ing. For years he’d been in­volved with prod­uct de­sign at Louis Garneau. Then, two years ago, he started to work with Castelli. Sit­ting in that first meet­ing was an eye opener.

San Remo Tri Suit SS Free Tri Top and Short

Avail­able in both a sleeve­less and sleeved de­sign, the San Remo suit uses Castelli’s “Free” de­sign, a com­bi­na­tion of wa­ter-re­pel­lant fab­rics that of­fer mus­cle sup­port while also pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent mois­ture wick­ing to keep you cool. The KISS Air seat pad pro­vides enough com­fort for the ride, but isn’t bulky enough to bother you dur­ing the run. The sleeved suit is said to save you nine watts of power in ad­di­tion to an ex­tra bit of sun pro­tec­tion. For those who pre­fer a two-piece op­tion, the Free Tri Top and Free Tri Short of­fer many of the same fea­tures as the San Remo suit, with some in­ter­est­ing in­no­va­tions. Sim­i­lar fab­rics and the same chamois en­sure you’ll get op­ti­mal aero­dy­nam­ics and com­fort in all three sports. The top has two high ca­pac­ity pock­ets and a snaplock fas­tener that pre­vents it from rid­ing up while you’re on the bike. en­hance the cat­e­gory, to take it to an­other level. The ath­letes and teams love that. It’s the best re­la­tion­ship you can have – the ath­letes feel that the com­pany is try­ing to make them bet­ter.”

You don’t have to ride as fast as Rael­ert to en­joy the ben­e­fits of his time in the wind tun­nel with the Castelli de­sign team. A few years ago Castelli of­fered any ath­lete com­pet­ing in Kona a chance to wear their new Stealth cy­cling top which in­cor­po­rated many of the fea­tures they had de­vel­oped for time trial speed suits for World Tour teams. The lat­est it­er­a­tion, the T1: Stealth Jer­sey, is said to cut three min­utes off a five-hour bike split. And now you can get all these speedy triathlon prod­ucts cus­tom de­signed to in­cor­po­rate your team colours and logos, too.

Per­ron is the first to ad­mit that the high- end Castelli clothes don’t come cheap, but he’s seen the liv­ing proof that peo­ple are will­ing to pay top dol­lar for equip­ment that is com­fort­able, func­tional and looks good.

He got over the shock of that first meet­ing, and is lov­ing the re­sults. So are many Canadian cy­clists and triath­letes.

T1: Stealth

In­tro­duced a few years ago as a way to cut some time off your bike split (the same con­cept as wear­ing a speed suit in the wa­ter), the en­gi­neers at Castelli keep hit­ting the wind tun­nel to try and make the Stealth top faster, but they haven’t been able to as of yet. It uses the same Ve­loc­ity fab­ric found in the speed suits worn by the Tour de France’s fastest TT riders on the front, while the mesh back is ex­tremely breath­able and has a cou­ple of pock­ets. Sil­i­cone grips pre­vent it from slid­ing up while you’re stretched out on your aero bars, too.

$130 $280, $135 $190

It was the morn­ing of Oct. 5, 2008. Rob Buren lay on the ground in shock. His whole body ached tremen­dously so he just lay on the leaf- cov­ered for­est ground be­fore at­tempt­ing to get him­self up. His legs point­ing down the hill he had landed on, he tried to bring him­self to his feet, but the mo­tions weren’t hap­pen­ing. His brain was send­ing the right sig­nals to his limbs, but only his up­per body was re­spond­ing. He couldn’t sit up. At that mo­ment, he knew some­thing was ter­ri­bly wrong. Buren and his friend Eric had been out for a rou­tine early morn­ing moun­tain bike ride near his home in Oakville, Ont. They came across a ramp that some­one had set up on a fallen tree. Buren, al­ways up for a chal­lenge, fig­ured if he at­tempted the jump, the worst thing that could hap­pen was some dam­age to his bike. Maybe he’d wreck his back wheel. “I might need some help get­ting out of the for­est,” he told Eric. In mid-air Buren re­al­ized this jump wasn’t go­ing the way they usu­ally did. As his bike tilted for­ward, he knew he wasn’t go­ing to land on his back wheel as planned. He was headed into the ground and it was too late to stop it. With a loud thud, he landed head-first on the dirt and heard a loud snap from his back as his legs tum­bled over his head. Life changed for Buren and his fam­ily af­ter that mo­ment. Once a tall man with an ath­letic build of over six feet, he would now be in a wheelchair for­ever as a para­plegic. He had lost full con­trol of his en­tire lower body as a re­sult of a se­vere spinal cord in­jury. Doc­tors told him he was lucky to be alive.

Buren’s wife, Sab­rina Haque, re­mem­bers her hus­band’s ac­ci­dent like it was yes­ter­day.

“It was a quiet, fall week­end morn­ing like any other,” she re­calls. “I was with our daugh­ters, who were two and four at the time, and we were just wait­ing for him to come home from his ride for pan­cakes. But he didn’t come home.”

Haque says she didn’t know what to ex­pect when she got to the hospi­tal.

“When I fi­nally got to the emer­gency room and saw him in that state, the first thing he said to me was ‘ I’m so, so sorry,’” she says. “He was sorry for in­con­ve­nienc­ing me. He was sorry for how this would af­fect ev­ery­one else.”

“I wanted my life back right away,” Buren ex­plains. “Not just for me – mostly for my fam­ily. I couldn’t let them fall apart be­cause of this.”

As he lay in his hospi­tal bed in those ini­tial phases be­fore surgery, a few ques­tions ran through his mind.

“My main thoughts were al­ways about my daugh­ters,” Buren re­calls. “How would I dance with them at their wed­dings? How would I be the fa­ther I wanted to be, while stuck in a wheelchair my whole life?” But some­thing else came to mind as well. “I had re­cently started run­ning with Sab­rina,” he ex­plains. “We wanted to do a triathlon to­gether. The Olympics had been on TV just months ear­lier, and I thought of the Par­a­lympics. I knew there must be a way to keep up an ac­tive life­style de­spite the chair.

“The ques­tion was al­ways, ‘ How am I go­ing to do this?’ It was never, ‘ Life is over.’”

Be­fore he was even out of the hospi­tal, Buren had taken steps to­wards be­com­ing a triath­lete.

“Some­one came to visit me at the hospi­tal. They showed me their hand­cy­cle, be­cause they knew I wanted to do triathlon. I be­gan to see what the op­tions were for peo­ple like me,” Buren says. “A month af­ter the ac­ci­dent, I was prac­tic­ing with the hand­cy­cle around the hospi­tal.

“I soon re­al­ized just how many peo­ple I could reach out to. There were so many re­sources, I just had to take the ini­tia­tive to find them.”

Buren joined the Mis­sis­sauga Cruis­ers, a group for hand­cy­cle ath­letes who want to train and com­pete in var­ied sports recre­ation­ally or com­pet­i­tively. He got fit­ted for rac­ing equip­ment and be­gan to work with coach Mark Lin­se­man of Team LPC to train for his first triathlon.

It wasn’t long be­fore he had trained for and com­pleted his first half- dis­tance race.

“Rob has to use his arms for the bike,” ex­plains Lin­se­man. “This means that his train­ing takes longer, be­cause bik­ing with your arms takes longer than bik­ing with your legs.”

It took a lot of work, but Buren started build­ing en­durance.

“Once I could do that dis­tance, I was al­ready look­ing for the next chal­lenge.” It had to be Kona. “When I was in bed re­cov­er­ing, I had seen Ricky James on TV – he was be­ing fea­tured in the 2008 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship.

LEFT Karsten Mad­sen races the Xterra Pan Am Cham­pi­onship

Pierre Per­ron

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