ITU Racing You Don't Want to Miss

<strong>Bevan Docherty (right) wins a photo finish against Brad Kahlefeldt (left) at the Dextro Energy Triathlon in South Korea, the first ITU World Championship Series race of 2009.</strong><br><br>AP Photo/ITU, Delly Carr

If you think watching a triathlon is like watching the plants grow in your summer garden, think again. There are two races coming to American soil in June that will knock your socks off and they are well worth watching.

The first stop for International Triathlon Union (ITU)-style racing is the Dextro Energy ITU World Championship Washington D.C. on June 21, 2009. Unlike age group racing, ITU events allows elite athlete to draft on the bike. Looped courses bring incredibly fit triathletes past the viewing audiences multiple times.

This showcase event is part of the World Championship Series (WCS). Its structure is similar to racing series in other sports in that points are accumulated depending on where an athlete finishes at each event, including the championship. Each race is crucial because the person that crosses the finish line first at the final race may or may not be crowned the world champion.

For 2009 triathletes can earn points at seven WCS events, five World Cup events and the WCS Grand Final in Australia's Gold Coast. The score to determine the champions is calculated by using the athlete's four best scores from World Cups and World Championship events, with no more than two of the scores coming from World Cup finishes. Added to that number will be the score from the athlete's finish at the Grand Final. (Read more details on ranking, points and scoring.)

One of the most exciting parts of the World Championship Series format for the athletes is the record amount of prize money that is on the line—over $3 million USD. Each World Championship event will offer a $150,000 prize purse with the Grand Final purse at $250,000. The year-end bonus pool money of $500,000 is better than icing on the cake.

Des Moines to Host New Tri Event

Each World Cup event will offer a minimum of a $80,000 USD prize purse. One very notable overachiever to the word "minimum" is the Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup event that will be in Des Moines, Iowa, on the weekend following the Washington D.C. race. On June 27 and 28, elite racers will battle for the biggest single-race prize purse ever offered in the sport—over $1 million.  

In addition to the individual scoring, points and money available, the Des Moines event is significant because it is hosting the inaugural mixed team triathlon event: the 2009 Hy-vee ITU Triathlon Team World Championships. Two women and two men from a single country will comprise a team. Countries can enter more than one team if they have the athletes available to race. This team event is important because it is bidding for inclusion on the Olympic docket for London 2012 and this World Championship event is one piece of the puzzle to achieve Olympic status.

This exciting race format begins with a woman from each team going all-out for a 300-meter swim, an 8K bike ride and a 2K run. She then hands off to a male, who in turn hands off to the second female, and then the final male on the team. The first anchor across the finish line will help his team claim the 2009 Team Championship title for his country. This mixed relay format could become one of the very few Olympic sports that include men and women on the same team.

How to Get in on the Action

One of the best parts of triathlon is that you, Mr. or Ms. Age Group Triathlete, can race on the same weekend as the elites. There are events for the kids, too. You, your family and friends can race and then watch the action live. I've lost count of the number of ITU races I've watched; but I can tell you they are fast-paced and exciting. The swim can be rough, the bike can include crashes and the run has come to a teeth-gnashing, head-diving, photo-finish more than once.

Sometimes the races include swim, bike and run primes. These are prizes given to the first athlete across a pre-determined line (usually in front of the spectators) on specified laps of each leg.

If you can't be at the events, don't worry because you can still watch the action. Universal Sports will have live coverage of the Washington D.C. event and NBC will carry the Des Moines event taped-delay on Sunday , July 5.

10 Ways to Improve Your Own Racing Just By Watching

Whether you attend in person, watch on the internet or watch on television, don't miss the action. Take special note of these items and maybe they'll help you race faster yourself:

  1. The best swimmers lift their heads to sight, only enough to have their goggles clear the water surface. Notice how they separate breathing from sighting to keep their hips from sinking, which keeps their bodies streamlined.

  2. Pay attention to drafting strategies on the swim. You'll sometimes notice surges by the lead swimmers to shake the leeches (of the human variety) off of their heels.

  3. If you are aiming for a podium spot in a sprint or Olympic-distance race, can you do a flying mount? If you can transition as fast as the ITU athletes can, you've got a significant advantage over your competition.

  4. Elite athletes can corner a bike at high speed and minimize braking. Can you?

  5. Are there surges on the bike to put the hurt on the competition? Who cracks and who doesn't? Even when racing in a no-drafting format, this strategy can have give some competitors a mental edge.

  6. Can you do a flying dismount heading into T2?

  7. What does a sub-32:00 10K look like for the men?

  8. What does a sub-35:00 10K look like for the women?

  9. How fast can you run off the bike?

  10. See what is possible, be inspired to improve your speed.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

Be Part of Race Weekend:

Register for the Age Group Races at the Dextro Energy Triathlon

Register for the Kids Race, Age Group or Relay Race at the Hy-Vee Triathlon

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