According to the team behind the new Super League Triathlon, ‘the world marked a new era in triathlon history with the debut of Super League Triathlon on Hamilton Island, Australia last weekend.’ Super League Hamilton Island broke new ground by pitting 24 of the world’s best athletes against each other across super-sprint distances of 300m swims, 6K cycle legs, and 2K runs in action-packed and television-friendly formats.
Simultaneous live broadcasts, as well as live streaming, brought ‘unprecedented exposure’. Super League Triathlon’s official live broadcast partners included Eurosport (UK and Europe), Siminn (Iceland), Fox Sports in Asia and Australia, SuperSport (South Africa), beIN Sports (USA and Canada), the Bike Channel (Italy), Tencent (China) and Sky Sports (New Zealand), which resulted in 110 airings of live programs and replays across the event weekend ‘reaching millions across the globe’. A 49-minute event highlights program is being distributed to 43 networks, reaching 388 million households, for airing from 25 March 2017.
Super League Triathlon also innovated with interactive live coverage between races – with Facebook Live, Instagram stories, live race streaming on Facebook and the Super League Triathlon website, and uploaded highlights and full race coverage to YouTube… ‘to reach close to one million combined views and still counting’. The Super League team added that new viewers and hardcore fanatics found themselves glued to their screens over the three days of racing that resulted in South Africa’s Richard Murray (#07) taking the overall win.
Day 1 of racing featured the Triple Mix format in which competitors faced each other across three stages of swimming, cycling, and running in different orders, with a bonus of five seconds off their total times for the stage winners as well as for the first finishers of the swim in Stage 1, the run in Stage 2, and the cycle in Stage 3.
Australian Jake Birtwhistle (#44), the 2015 Under-23 triathlon world champion, claimed Stage 1’s swim-bike-run, with Richard Varga (#12) of Slovakia claiming the swim prime. Varga then swam his way to victory in the final leg of Stage 2’s run-bike-swim, although it was Birtwhistle who claimed the run prime. Stage 3 saw Andrea Salvisberg (#69) of Switzerland claim the bike prime. Richard Murray (#07) stayed in contention coming onto the run in eighth place, then unleashed his foot speed to overtake eventual second placed Varga and third placed Ryan Bailie (#39) of Australia.
Despite Varga’s total bonus of ten seconds, Murray’s total time of 1:05:31 was still 12 seconds faster than Varga’s adjusted time of 1:05:43. Bailie logged a total time of 1:05:44. Murray gained the maximum number of 20 points for his Triple Mix win, with Varga and Bailie logging 18 points and 16 points respectively.
Day 2 began early for the two-stage Equalizer format. The Stage 1 six-kilometre cycling time trial in the morning would determine the start order for the afternoon’s swim-run-swim-bike-run sequence. Cameron Dye (#08) of the USA was King of the Hill, setting the fastest time from the runway of Hamilton Island Airport all the way up the island’s highest road on One Tree Hill. Dye started with an advantage over the field. However, Murray bridged the time deficit in the first half of Stage 2 and once again tore through on the run to take the Equalizer win. Birtwhistle placed second and Mola third. This result allowed Mola to move up the overall leaderboard to second with 31 points, and relegated Varga to third overall with 30 points. Murray still led comfortably with 40 points.
Day 3 saw action over the three-stage Eliminator format. The goal was simple: swim, bike, run, and avoid getting eliminated. Only the top 15 finishers of Stage 1 went into Stage 2, and only the top 10 finishers of Stage 2 had the opportunity to battle it out for the day’s win in Stage 3. Kristian Blummenfelt (#02) of Norway went full-gas and topped Stage 1 and 2, with Bailie, Birtwhistle, Murray, South African Henri Schoeman (#04), Mola, Gomez, Polyansky, Ryan Fisher (#10), and Varga making up the final field of ten for Stage 3. Here Birtwhistle shone through with a powerful sprint on the final lap of the run leaving Murray and Mola in his wake to win the Eliminator and log a total of 48 points to edge Varga out of the overall top three. Mola took second and ended Day 3 with 49 points. However, Murray was the big winner of day three, with his third-place finish in the Eliminator securing the overall win and the AU$100,000 first prize purse.
Post-race, Murray said, “Wow. Just wow. The most enjoyable, refreshing, and energizing racing I’ve done ever. Super League Triathlon has raised the game in triathlon. Chris McCormack, sir, you rock. And to your team, thanks to everyone who contributed and helped.”
Gomez, who had been a pre-race favourite but finished in sixth overall, had the same sentiments. “Athletes were treated like true professionals and organizers did an amazing job, taking our sport to a different level,” he said.
Super League Hamilton Island was attended by a veritable who’s who of world sport, including Australian sports icon, super swimmer and five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe, Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson, and Paris Roubaix champion and Olympic gold medallist Stuart O’Grady. Triathlon greats Spencer Smith and Brad Bevan were given a special role to lead the Triple Mix Stage 2 opening run through the neutral zone. Beijing Olympic triathlon gold medalist Emma Snowsill-Frodeno was part of the studio commentating team, and three-time Tour de France green jersey winner Robbie McEwen acted as on-course commentator and led Triple Mix Stage 3’s opening bike leg through its first lap. Multiple IM 70.3 champion Sarah Crowley flew in from her base in Brisbane to ‘watch a new era dawn in triathlon’.
Hamilton Island’s climate and topography played a major role in the race weekend’s dynamics with athletes coming from cooler climes struggling in the heat and humidity, and Ireland’s Ben Shaw (#73) crashing twice on the technical bike course. Its native wildlife also came to join the action, with a wallaby bounding up One Tree Hill in the middle of the Equalizer individual time trial.
In all, Super League Hamilton Island was deemed by the organising team as ‘a smashing success, with future races in the series already in the works’. Super League Triathlon co-founders Chris McCormack, Michael D’Hulst, and Leonid Boguslavsky were ‘extremely pleased with the positive reception’.
Boguslavsky praised the race organization team headed by Shane Smith and the media content team led by Trent Taylor. “All athletes appreciated how they were treated, including consultation on aspects of the event, and audiences loved what they saw on TV and online,” he said.
D’Hulst added, “I’m excited to see our vision come to life and this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of a very passionate and committed team and partners. Super League Hamilton Island put us on the map to begin a revolution of the sport from athletes for athletes!”
McCormack concluded, “We want triathlon to be exciting, innovative, and entertaining – this is critical for any sport’s survival in this era. I believe Super League Triathlon will lead the way for professional triathlon racing in this capacity. That is what we set out to do with Super League Triathlon, we accomplished that on Hamilton Island, and this is only the beginning.”