A year in triathlon: 2021 long course season review

A year in triathlon: 2021 long course season review

If we thought most of Triathlon’s highlights would come from short course racing in 2021, then we were certainly mistaken. In recent years the long course scene has been set alight by an increasing standard of racing, and with a helping hand from the PTO driving its commercialisation and professionalism, the scene has began to captivate both athletes and spectators alike.

There seems to be a changing of the guard in long course triathlon, in the past we have had a very distinct division between ITU racing and long course. There were two very different types of athletes taking part, it was almost like two sports. It was a common route of many athletes to finish their ITU career, then progress into long course racing. However, for many the lure of big prize money purses and the challenge has caused them to either combine both types of racing or move over early.

As with all sports, training methods change in line with technology, fashion, and a presumed sense of following the dynamic of racing. The type of training for an ITU athlete was vastly different to that of a PRO racing over half and full distance, but now, slight tweaks in training and equipment can mean the shorter course athlete can be more than competitive over longer distances as well. There will also be some that say the standard of athlete originating from an ITU background combined with the scene’s competitiveness has just lead to this paradigm shift. The jury is out on that one.

In 2021, we have seen world records obliterated, the limits of what is achievable have been pushed like they haven’t before and athletes have begun to question what is possible. Kristian Blummenfelt could arguably lead the way in that respect. His openness of trying to claim the Olympic, ITU world and IM World titles all in one year at first was met with scepticism, however after 2021, it has dawned on many that thoughts and ideas of this nature are perhaps not a complete impossibility. Many of HUUB’s athletes are at the front of this era, setting the standard of what is takes to be a professional athlete.

Anne Haug (GER), had a phenomenal year in 2021 and proved again she is one of the best in the World, and on her day, near unbeatable. Her highlight was her record setting performance at Challenge Roth, one of the monuments of the Triathlon calendar. Haug finished over 30 minutes ahead of 2nd place and decimated the field with a 4.14 bike split and 2.43 run! She also recorded victories at IM 70.3 Lanzarote and Challenge St Polten.

Frederic Funk (GER) continued to turn heads in 2021, the young German proved he is one to watch out for in the coming years. Although struggling with injury at points during the year he notched up wins at Challenge St Polten, Challenge Walchsee and Challenge Peguera Mallorca, as well as a 3rd place at Challenge Samorin. His aggressive and honest style of racing has drawn praise from many and you can be certain to see him shape any race he turns up to.

David McNamee (GBR) had a difficult start to the year, however the two time IM World Championship medallist showed his class and ran his way to 3rd place at IM Frankfurt, which also doubled up as the European Championship. 

Elliot Smales (GBR) has long been considered as one of the best young British talents coming through. In 2018 he made a clean sweep of the British Isles IM 70.3 races, at Weymouth, Staffordshire, and Dun Laoghaire, then in 2019 his 8.01.22 at IM Barcelona was the fastest British debut at a full distance event. In 2021, 4th place at IM UK has shown his intent to focus on this distance moving into 2022.

Jonny Brownlee (GBR) made his debut in IM 70.3 racing at Cascais in October. 6th place perhaps doesn’t standout, however after a year where he claimed his third Olympic medal among other achievements it would have been a tough ask to show his true performance over this distance after such a demanding year both physically and mentally. This taster shows a possible interest in the distance between now and Paris 2024, if that is indeed a target of his.