The Rapid Growth of Cross Triathlon
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.
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.