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Triathlon Off Road

Triathlon Off Road & Cross Triathlon Events – What Are They?

Whether you are an avid triathlete or not, there are times where some variation in your racing can pay dividends. You could be tired of the typical Olympic distance or even Ironman, but still have the love for triathlon. So what do you do?

Luckily there are many triathlon off-road events around the world. These are typically called cross triathlon or Xterra.

While they are still classed as triathlon, the actual event is primarily staged off-road rather than on road. So what is a cross triathlon event and why is it becoming so popular among triathletes?

Keep on reading to learn about triathlon off-road events being staged around the world.

What Is A Cross Triathlon?

Cross triathlon is an off-road triathlon discipline that is competed over a 1km swim, 20-30km mountain bike, and a 6-10km trail run. It is also known as X-tri or even Xterra (depending on the length of the event).

It mainly consists of sea or lake swimming, mountain bike riding, and cross country running. Challenging triathletes to not only the swim bike run format, but also rough terrain, and hilly courses.

Cross triathlon first emerged in 1996 in Hawaii. From then on it evolved into what we know it as today, Xterra.

In the beginning, Xterra hosted four years of continental championships before announcing its first World Championships in Extremadura, Spain, in 2011.

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Since then Xterra (or Triathlon Cross) has grown rapidly around the world and has given thousands of triathletes a fresh way to look at triathlon. Not only that but it has helped many athletes break up the monotony of the Ironman and ITU circuit.

Cross Triathlon

Cross Triathlon Distances

Just like a normal triathlon, there are multiple cross triathlon distances. A sprint cross triathlon distance consists of a 0.3 mi swim, 6.8 mi bike, and 2.5 mi run. While the standard distance cross triathlon consists of a 0.6 mi swim, 13.7 mi bike, and 5 mi run.

Alternatively for all of you using the metric system, a sprint distance would consist of a 0,5km swim, 11km mountain bike, and a 4km run. The standard distance then consists of a 1km swim, 22km bike, and an 8km run.

While these are the two most common cross triathlon distances, you may find longer events popping up more and more on the calendar. Cross triathlon (Xterra) has grown rapidly over the past 10 years and doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. So expect to see full distance off-road Ironman events in the near future.

Xterra Training Plan – How Does it Differ?

You may have been a seasoned Olympic distance triathlete or even an Ironman, and you want to transition across to Xterra. However, what most people find is the transition is much harder than they think. Many triathletes that change from triathlon to Xterra struggle to adapt to the offroad format. So what makes Xterra or offroad triathlon so hard?

Generally, a cross triathlon or Xterra event has much more elevation gain than a typical triathlon. Also, it seldom offers any drafting advantage. Most triathletes who transition from on-road triathlon to offroad don’t have the core stability or bike handling skills to keep up with the seasoned Xterra athletes.

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Even though on-road and offroad share the same training principles as a triathlon, an Xterra triathlete must dedicate more time to bike handling and lower leg strength. Since both the bike and run are off-road, strength plays a larger role than speed when it comes to improving over offroad distances.

So many of the Xterra athletes focus a lot of core and stability work before the season starts. And a lot of their training focuses on short bursts of power to replicate undulating terrain you find when running and cycling offroad.

If you are looking for an offroad triathlon training plan or specific Xterra training plan, contact SportCoaching. We can provide customized training programs for any offroad distances or events that are customized around your lifestyle.


Other Triathlon Off-Road Events

Even those cross triathlon has turned into Xterra there are many other unbranded triathlon off-road events on the calendar. While they may not wear the Xterra branding, they still comprise sea or lake swimming, followed by mountain biking and then cross country running. To see more triathlon offroad events you can check out the trifind calendar here.

Alternatively, if you are based in New Zealand Xterra Rotorua is a popular offroad triathlon event for all levels of triathletes. Xterra Rotorua Festival has become one of the most popular Xterra events in the world. Set around the beautiful Blue Lake and Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, it challenges athletes to push themselves beyond their limits. With $10 000 dollars in prize money and 36 slots to the Xterra World Championships, it’s fast becoming one of the most popular cross triathlon events in the world.