How To Master Off-Road Triathlon Transitions

by | Nov 27, 2023 | MULTISPORT, Events, Featured, TRIATHLON, Woolworths Cross TRI SERIES

The final Woolworths X TRI powered by Imperial of the 2023 season is around the corner. Here are 5 expert tips for moving through the transitions most efficiently.

Off-road triathlons bring a unique set of challenges that set them apart from their road-based counterparts. This goes well beyond swimming in a dam, and running and riding trails – among the critical aspects often overlooked are transitions, where precious seconds can be gained or lost. The transitions share a lot of similarities with road tri but because of their locations and terrain and the different type of kit required for racing off-road, they can be quite specialised. The series finale of the Woolworths X TRI, the premium off-road triathlon series in South Africa, takes place on 3 December at Paul Clüver. Here are five expert tips from coach Vicky van der Merwe to help you conquer off-road triathlon transitions with finesse and efficiency:

Woolworths X Tri

Pre-race Reconnaissance for Transition Setup

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to scout the transition area before the start. Understand the layout, terrain and where your gear will be stationed. Note the entry and exit points, obstacles, and any specific terrain challenges that might affect your transition strategy. Familiarity breeds confidence and confidence goes a long way to calm the pre-race nerves. “The most important thing about transitions is to keep it smooth,” says Vicky, explaining that the key is not to feel overwhelmed or confused when you get into the Woolworths X TRI transition zone. To help with this go check it out beforehand. Make sure you know exactly which row, which side – orientate yourself 100%.”

Simplify Your Gear Setup

Woolworths X Tri

Off-road transitions often mean dealing with dirt, mud and unpredictable conditions. The final event of the Woolworths X TRI series takes place at the spectacular Paul Clüver estate and while it is not the Western Cape’s traditional rainy season we all know how unpredictable the weather can be in the deep South. So, simplify your gear to streamline the transition process – everything has a place and everything is in its place. Lay out your gear strategically to minimise the time spent changing between disciplines and know how you’re going to do this beforehand. This leads us to the next point.

Practice, Practice, Practice Your Woolworths X TRI Transitions

Woolworths X Tri

Transition efficiency comes with practice. Incorporate transition training into your regimen. “Obviously practice makes perfect, Right?” Vicky says, suggesting that you go in with a plan. “You want to just get in and out of there as quickly as possible. In order to do that, you need to practice it. So practice putting on your helmet, your shoes or whatever the case might be,” she says. If you’re an intermediate racer looking for a PB, simulate off-road conditions as much as possible—practice mounting and dismounting your bike in varied terrain, simulate the run-to-bike transition on trails and practice changing gear quickly in less-than-ideal conditions. This prepares your muscle memory for smooth, swift movements during the race. If this is your first off-road tri, simply go through the motions at home at least once before you get to race day.

Mental Preparedness and Adaptability

Off-road triathlons are as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Be adaptable and ready to handle unforeseen circumstances. Stay calm and focused during transitions. If things don’t go according to plan, quickly adapt and move forward. Also, have some backups in case of an emergency. “I would have a little bit of extra – like an extra bar or extra gel or extra drink in there,” says Vicky. “If you dropped something on the bike or you’re feeling quite flat, you’ve got something extra in there.”

Fast-lace Shoes For Woolworths X TRI

“Aside from putting baby powder into my shoes (to slide them on easier) I also use fast-tying laces for my running shoes,” Vicky says, before adding some final wisdom: “Just keep it simple and effective. Don’t go sit there for five minutes!”


Inspired To Get Out There – Enter A Woolworths X TRI Today

One thing that really stands out for us too is the access to free coaching by renowned SA triathlete, Vicky Van Der Merwe of Stellenbosch Triathlon Squad. This addresses one of the most daunting aspects of entering a triathlon: the training regimen. Learn more about the Woolworths X TRI and the expert coaching available, here.

Check out what happened at some of the other events here, and get your entry in now here.

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