Duathlon -Triathlon: Do ITU Results Show World AG Duathlon Is a higher standard than World AG Triathlon?

Triathlon photographs from the Chinook-Half-Ir...

AG Triathletes are not as good as AG Duathletes – Discuss.

I’ve chosen two random age groups and looked at the last 5k of the standard duathlon in Gijon (2011 Duathlon Champs) and compared to the last 5k of the sprint triathlon in Beijing (2011) and as a control looked too at the Budapest Triathlon (2010) and longer events.

OK we are talking about comparing apples and pears here but let’s go. Remember though that apples and pears DO have a lot of taxonomy and DNA in common…

I chose to look at 3rd place AG (Age Group) finishers to see what the basic medal-winning standard was. I think this is fair as, for example in duathlon,  choosing AG winners for comparison to triathlon would be unfair on triathlon as that would have included former Commonwealth Games athletes who are now superb Duathletes! I’ll re-do the analysis if anyone wants to include that!

Remember before we look at all of this that legs 2 and 3 of both events are comparable. But Duathlon MUST be accepted as being physically more demanding as the first leg run IS INDISPUTABLY more physically tiring than a first leg swim.

Gijon v s Beijing

Firstly, I can’t see how after two 20km duathlon bike laps up a non-trivial hill preceded by a 10k run can yield a third discipline 5k time that is faster (in the duathlon) than the final 5k in the triathlon sprint. But in my comparison between Gijon and Beijing they do; and by a sizeable margin (see below).

Triathlon is MUCH more popular than duathlon as evidenced by the reader’s commonsense and the number of AG  (Age Group) competitors per competition. So I would have thought that the standard at the top of the AGs should be noticeably higher for triathlon than duathlon – other things being equal (which of course they are not!).

I don’t know the Beijing course; maybe it was harder? Could well be. Both runs were pancake flat and I would imagine that both events were pretty accurately measured. Then again the Gijon bike hill was probably on a par with what I saw of Beijing both being far from flat and I guess water is always flat (ish). The weather was perfect in Gijon although not great on Saturday in Beijing.

My comparison maybe is unfair as the better triathletes/duathletes do the standard distance event.  OK, so the 40-44 male standard distance triathlete 3rd place does 36:57 in their 3rd discipline, awesome time, but the ‘comparable’ duathlete AG 3rd place does their first discipline 10k in 33:54…significantly MORE than awesome. I know it is the first discipline but both events are endurance events that require pacing and so the comparison is not as unfair as it first seems. In any case the margin of difference and relatively even run splits negate other race-day factors – I would argue. Look also at the pace of the Duathletes 3rd leg; most do have a slower last 5k but comparable to how they ran their first 10k.

So let’s look at a 3rd discipline 5k comparison (std tri vs sprint du):

Beijing 2011 3rd place Sprint Triathlon 5k (3rd discipline):

  • 40-44: 00:18:08
  • 30-34: 00:18:07

Gijon 2011 3rd place Standard Duathlon 5k (3rd discipline)

  • 40-44: 00:17:15
  • 30-34: 00:17:56

Maybe the distance and cost from Europe to China deterred some from going? Fair enough I’d buy that argument to a degree. So I’ll look at Budapest 2010 to compensate for this instead. And as well I will try to remove the factor whereby some might argue that the standard distance competitors are usually a higher standard than the sprint.

Gijon vs Budapest

Let’s compare 10kms then by comparing to Budapest 2010 Standard Triathlon 10k (3rd discipline)

  • 40-44: 00:34:07
  • 30-34: 00:35:24

Gijon 2011 3rd place Standard Duathlon 10k (1st discipline)

  • 40-44: 00:33:54
  • 30-34: 00:34:44

Well I would say that this is inconclusiveand you could argue it either way. Each of the duathlon guys had slower finishing 3rd event 5k times.

Budapest Sprint Tri, 3rd discipline.

  • 40-44 19:12
  • 30-34 18:00
Again compared to the standard distance duathlon 5km 3rd leg at Gijon these results favour Duathlon.
So what about comparing 1st leg sprint Duathlon at Gijon with last leg at Budapest Sprint?
You’ve got the Tri sprint above and here are the 5k times from the inaugural sprint duathlon (with little publicity and late introduction as an event)
40-44 17:39
30-34 16:49
So again it favours Duathlon. & Even if you extrapolate 5k times from the final duathlon 2.5km you still have duathlon faster.

Still I’m sure an annoyed triathlete who has read this far will be shouting at me to get in the pool and put my flailing arms where my mouth is! Again fair enough. I might just do that. And, if it’s any consolation, yes I will then embarass myself very significantly!

So the argument for Triathlon must go that better athletes do the standard distance than the sprint. This holds for duathlon too.

To be fair there does not appear to be that much in the difference at the standard distance levels and I would be prepared to accept that if other factors were taken into account then the level of competition would be high and similar.

At the sprint level, surprisingly, sprint duathlon seems to come out better than the more established sprint triathlon.

And honestly I really did pick what I thought would be a RANDOM and relatively competitive pair of AGs. No cherry picking at all. Maybe of you look at the other AGs they will all contradict me!

Discuss 😉

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