|Date: 27 March Time: 15:00 GMT Venue: London Aquatics Centre|
|Coverage: Live on Red Button, iPlayer and BBC Sport website|
Top British triathletes Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jonny Brownlee are hoping to use this weekend’s Super League Triathlon Arena Games to kick-start their Olympic season.
With pandemic restrictions limiting racing in the run up to the Tokyo Games this summer, the indoor event at the London Aquatics Centre takes on even more significance.
“It’s a big year and it’s very different because we’re starting our season two months later than usual, so there’s not as many races to get in before the Olympics,” said Taylor-Brown.
“This is a great way to get back into racing and blow the cobwebs out, and figure out where you are and what you need to work on.”
Taylor-Brown, ranked number two in the world, has not raced since September, while 12th-ranked Brownlee raced just one official ITU event in 2020 at the World Championships in August.
“For me the main goal is to get back to racing again and get used being on the start line again,” said Brownlee.
“Racing is not something you can just pick up and put down. You’ve got to get into that rhythm again.
“So I’m looking forward to a real hard hit-out session because you always go harder in a race than you do in training.”
The format for Arena Games was first used in the Rotterdam leg of the Super League Triathlon last year.
Racing is staged in and around an indoor swimming pool with competitors doing three high-intensity rounds consisting of a 200m swim, 4km cycle and 1km run, with a two-minute break between rounds.
The three disciplines are completed in different orders in each round with points awarded to athletes based on their placing.
The athletes cycle on turbo rollers and run on curved treadmills and are able to watch screens displaying avatars to monitor each other’s race progress.
“It’s like a video game,” says Taylor-Brown, “It’s quite cool as you are static on the bike but still racing the other nine athletes next to you.
“You’re looking at the screen and you do feel like you’re trying to hunt people down.
“So it is really cool but it’s very fast moving; I remember jumping into the pool for the second swim last year in Rotterdam and my whole body just felt like lead.”
Brownlee says those quick 15-minute rounds makes for a painful experience.
“It’s going to be a shock because it’s short and fast and we’re naturally long-distance athletes over two-hour races,” says Brownlee.
“So what actually really hurts me is those short, sharp efforts.”
As well as the intensity there are technical considerations for the racers.
Taylor-Brown describes the curved treadmill as “horrible” and her compatriot admits it takes some getting used to.
“I’ve been practising a bit on a curved treadmill because it’s quite different running style than a regular one,” said Brownlee.
“You’ve got to power the belt yourself and you feel like you’re running uphill.
“You feel like you want to drive your knees forward – more like a sprinter than an endurance athlete.”
With two transitions between the three rounds and a jumbling of the swim-bike-run order it means there are other technical considerations at play.
“You’ve not got much time to think,” said Taylor-Brown.
“With the two minutes rest between rounds you have to go round and set up your equipment again.
“You’ve got to make sure you do the little things because last year in Rotterdam I just threw my swim cap down after the first swim and when I went to get it back on again it was wet and stuck together so I wasted a lot of time there.
“Even though last year it hurt me a lot I genuinely really enjoyed it.
“It’s just a great way to set you up for the season and had no hesitation in signing up again.”
For Taylor-Brown, she is looking to get ‘set up’ to make an impact in her debut Olympics this summer, while for Brownlee Tokyo will be his third and final Games.
“I’m going in as world champion,” said Taylor-Brown. “And in a way I am expecting a lot of myself because I know how hard I’ve worked and I want it to pay off.
“But even though the Olympics is the pinnacle of racing I can’t put too much pressure on myself.
“I have to see it as just another triathlon like the ones I’ve been doing for the last eight or nine years.
“As long as I know I’ve given absolutely everything then whatever the result I can’t be disheartened.”
Brownlee has already won Olympic bronze and silver medals in 2012 and 2016 respectively.
“I haven’t had the best couple of years and if I want to win a medal in Tokyo I want to get back and get competitive and get the confidence going again.
“It would be amazing if I could get another medal and obviously gold would be the perfect scenario.
“After that my Olympic career would be over so that would be an absolute dream come true.”