Second Round of the 2022 Arena Games Triathlon set for London

After his upset victory over heavy favorite Alex Yee of Great Britain at Round One of the Arena Games in Munich a fortnight ago, Aurelien Raphael of France must gird himself for another battle Saturday in London.

While the other vanquished Munich AGT co-favorite Marten Van Riel of Belgium will be missing this weekend, Raphael will face a tough field including Munich runner-up Max Stapley of Australia, Justus Nieschlag of Germany, Joao Silva of Portugal and Darr Smith of the U.S.

Beth Potter, the dominant woman in the Munich Arena Games Triathlon two weeks ago, faces two formidable fellow Brits in Round Two of the 2022 AGT Series in London this Saturday.

Two ITU stalwarts and Super League Sprint Triathlon veterans, Jessica Learmonth and Olympic silver medalist Georgia Taylor-Brown, will offer very tough opposition. Learmonth won the first Arena Games event in Rotterdam in 2020 and will be a force to be reckoned in London.

Three British Olympic medalists – Yee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Learmonth, plus Potter and her super speedy run - will be taking steps toward winning triathlon’s first esports World Championships, With the eventual champions recording points from their best finishes at Munich or London and the Grand Final in Singapore on May 7, there is much on the line and much to inspire the 1,700 spectators watching the action live in the sold-out London Aquatics Centre. And quite a lot of virtual action streaming out to tri enthusiasts across the globe.

The format offers fast action with multiple indoor stages that somewhat resemble the outdoor Super League Triathlon. Starting with a swim-bike-run, each subsequent heat will shuffle the order. That will reward those that finish quickest by giving them a longer rest period. The results of the three individual stages will combine to determine the overall winner.

The 200m swim legs will take place in four laps of a 50-meter pool while the 4km bike and 1km run disciplines are competed on smart trainers and self-powered curved treadmills with the power and speed monitors of the athletes turned into a virtual race via Zwift’s online platform. For both the on-site and the online streaming audiences, the power outputs and wheel rpms of athletes pushing the pedals on trainers or running on treadmills are translated into big screen virtual avatars jousting in front of a virtual course against avatars of other competitors.

A Computerized Return to Non-Drafting

The one key difference for the London event will be that the computerized virtual bike leg will be contested in a non-drafting format for the first time in the third year of Arena Games competition.

Multiple triathlon World Champion, Super League and Arena games commentator Chris McCormack thinks British stars Jess Learmonth and Alex Yee might benefit the most from the switch to non-drafting virtual cycling.

“Jess Learmonth absolutely owns this style of racing,” said McCormack. ”That big swim and an amazing ability to ride solo means that the non-drafting component will suit her a lot. This new format I think will suit Alex a lot. His swim could be off by one or two seconds but the drafting meant he got isolated on the bike, as did Marten Van Riel which cost him the Series. This won’t happen with a non-drafting format.”

Super League data expert Graeme Acheson has also been trying to predict the potential shift. “Harking back to the formats of the 90s and early 00s, this should change the event back to a ‘pure’ triathlon with the best swim-bike-runner taking the title.

“The earlier versions of ITU/WTS racing used to ban drafting on the bike, before a rule change ahead of the sports inclusion in the Olympics in 2000. This was to improve the spectacle of the race, as it was felt bunched up racing was more appealing to viewers, but also to remove the drafting penalties that were usually applied at the end of the race, leading to the fact that the first across the line was not always the winner of the race.”

Acheson added: “However, with the introduction of Zwift and the Arena Games Triathlon there is a unique opportunity for triathlon to ‘go back to its roots’ as a pure athletic event, as drafting can be controlled entirely within the Zwift ecosystem. If drafting is turned off, it doesn’t matter how close you are to the bike in front, there is no benefit obtained, but also crucially, no need to apply drafting penalties.”
Acheson noted that often the bike section is a procession with athletes sitting in a 40 person peloton preparing for the run. Conversely, weaker swimmers are often isolated and this magnified on the bike if they miss the pack (In Munich, Alex Yee was 2 seconds down after the swim and missed the bike pack, thus missing the opportunity to draft, and was 15 seconds off the back after the bike.

The Fields

Aurelien Raphael FRA
Justus Nieschlag GER
Alex Yee GBR
Joao Silva POR
Max Stapley AUS
Gordon Benson GBR
Takumi Hojo JPN
Simon Henseleit GER
Keller Norland USA
Darr Smith USA
Lukas Pertl AUT
Antoine Duval FRA
Maxime Hueber-Mooseburger FRA
Ricardo Batista POR
Jeremy Briand CAN

Beth Potter GBR
Georgia Taylor-Brown GBR
Jessica Learmonth GBR
Cassandre Beaugrand FRA
Anabel Knoll GBR
Barbara De Koning NED
Audrey Merle FRA
Anna Godoy Contreras ESP
Kate Waugh GBR
Zuzana Bragmayer HUN
Zuzana Michalickova SVK
Petra Kurikova CZE
Sophia Green GBR

How to Watch

Super League Triathlon website
YouTube channel on TriathlonLive.TV

Live broadcast/streaming times:
11:00 AM to 1:30 Eastern US time