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Countdown to supertri E – a look back at some of the most epic moments in men’s triathlon E racing

The countdown is ON for the 2024 supertri E World Championships in London. And while we eagerly anticipate the epic battles and stellar performances that are sure to play out in this year’s race. We take a look back at some of the best moments in the virtual-reality race format’s history to remind ourselves just how fast and furious triathlon E sports can be.

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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supertri’s high octane virtual race format is back for 2024 with the supertri E World Triathlon Championship taking place in London on April 13. Previously known as the Arena Games, the unique race format shakes things up with a mix of virtual and real-life racing. It first hit our screens in 2020 when the pandemic had put a stop on elite triathlon as we knew it.

Delivering a fast, furious and seriously fun to watch spectacle of some of the world’s best going full gas. The Arena Games soon became a fan favourite, and over the years we’ve seen Olympians and IRONMAN champions alike step up to the start line.

The countdown is on for the 2024 supertri E event, and with athletes now only having one shot to take the win in London and earn the World Championship title we can expect plenty of fireworks. But for now, we’re taking a look back at some of the best performances, sprint finishes and next-level drama from the men’s racing in years gone by. You can also check out our round up of some of the most epic moments from the women’s racing here.

2020: Justus Nieschlag drops some serious watts in Rotterdam

After what felt like forever without any elite racing thanks to the pandemic. The inaugural Arena Games in Rotterdam in 2020 brought PRO triathlon back to our screens in a brand new format filled with fire power. And while in the women’s race, it was a clean sweep across all three stages for Brit Jess Learmonth. In the men’s race it came down to a sprint finish on the bike in the final stage to decide the overall winner.

It was all to play for in the closing few hundred metres of the bike. A front pack of 8 athletes, including Jonny Brownlee, Javier Gomez, Vasco Vilaca and Justus Nieschlag, were battling it out to cross the line first. The watts were cranked up to 11 – and then some. Several of the athletes were hitting numbers over 11 watts/kg , but it was Nieschlag who maxed out at almost 800 watts (close to 12 watts/kg) to take the win. Being able to see the numbers on screen alongside the up close shots of the athlete’s pain faces gave us an insight into just how deep they were having to dig.

2021: The “Riel Deal” Marten Van Riel makes it a double

After taking the win at the Arena Games London, Marten Van Riel backed it up with a dominant performance at the Rotterdam race in 2021 – joining Jess Learmonth in the virtual supertri hall of fame to be the first male athlete to win all three stages at one race.

The Belgian athlete won the first and second stages with enough authority that he didn’t actually need to take the win in the final stage to secure the overall victory. But that wasn’t going to stop him. As the athletes stepped onto the treadmill for the final time, the race was really only for silver and bronze between Alex Yee and Aurelien Raphael. Van Riel was out in front, with gold in the bag – proving himself as ‘the Riel deal’.

2022: Aurelien Raphael shows the young guns how it’s done

Over to Munich for our 2022 highlight, and this time it was French athlete Aurelien Raphael who took the win in a blaze of glory. Leaving favourites Alex Yee and Marten Van Riel in the dust. The oldest athlete in the field, Raphael set out at a blistering pace on the first swim, and finished stage 1 with a 1.5 second lead over Marten Van Riel.

Despite his success in 2021, on this occasion Van Riel dropped way out of contention. Leaving Max Stapley, Chase McQueen and Justus Nieschlag chasing Raphael down to contend for the top spot on the podium. By the end of the second stage, Raphael had established a 3 second lead over Stapley. But could he hold onto it all the way to the finish?

Into Stage 3 and the heat was on. Raphael was off like a shot in the swim, but was soon caught by the chase pack on the bike. All five hit the treadmills almost simultaneously for the final run, with Raphael and home favourite Nieschlag neck and neck in the early stages. Soon though, the French athlete pushed the pace – leaving the young guns to eat his dust as he took the win.

2023: No Limits for Lionel, as Sanders engages beast mode in Montreal

The opening Arena Games in 2023 was a thriller of a race. USA’s Chase McQueen took the top step on the podium in what was one of his biggest career wins to date at the time. Henri Schoeman enjoyed an emotional, and meaningful, return to the podium after a rough few years of illness and injury. And it was a breakthrough performance for young Brit Jack Stanton-Stock. But it was the appearance of long course favourite Lionel Sanders on the start list that really got people talking.

Promising “vomit” in the run up, everyone expected Mr No Limits to put on a show. And that he did. After lagging behind in round one, his game face was well and truly on in the second stage – and we mean on. Just take a look at the video below to see what we mean.

With beast mode activated, Sanders cut through the field in stunning style – powering his way through the 4km bike split in 5 minutes 6 seconds. Ultimately Sanders finished in 6th place overall, but seeing the long course specialist mix it up with top short course athletes added an extra layer of drama to the racing. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a long course star take on the short, sharp supertri racing. Anne Haug raced at the first ever Arena Games in 2020. And in 2021, we saw Lucy Charles-Barclay and Tim Don both race in London.

2023: Chase McQueen styles it out in London

USA athlete Chase McQueen will most likely have a score to settle when he returns to London this April. He came in as one of the favourites at the 2023 London event, following that decisive win in Montreal. But a follow up wasn’t meant to be. There was some controversy around whether his lack of pace on the run was down to a technical issue with the treadmill, or just good old fashioned fatigue.

But extensive investigations from supertri after the race, including blind testing of the treadmills with elite athletes and an analysis of the race data, concluded that the claims of a broken treadmill were unfounded. Regardless, McQueen didn’t let the lack of run pace stop him from being a crowd-pleaser.

A pretty impressive display of butterfly during the swim midway through the race had the crowds up on their feet. And McQueen still set a rather rapid pace, laying down a 2 mins 28 seconds split for the 200m even with his unorthodox choice of swim stroke. The up and coming USA star will be one to watch this year as he seeks redemption for last year’s lacking performance and battles it out with the likes of Jonny Brownlee at the supertri E in London.

And so, with all those epic moments fresh in our minds, the countdown is on for the return of supertri E to London this April. With a World Championship title on the line, who knows what drama might unfold?

Jenny Lucas-Hill
Written by
Jenny Lucas-Hill
Jenny Lucas-Hill is a writer, content creator and communications professional. A long-distance triathlon enthusiast, she has three full Iron-distance finishes to date & also loves watching the sport.
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