Questions have been raised regarding which of the three legs of a triathlon influences the final finishing position. Some coaches subjectively believe that the swim and run are more important than the cycle, especially since the introduction of drafting during the cycle. This study analysed race position shifts between each of the three disciplines to assess the importance of the swim finish position and final finish position during draft legal Olympic distance triathlon events. Ten male and 10 female triathlon world cup events during one season were analysed. The results suggested that the triathlon swim leg is important because the winner exited the water in the first pack in 90% of elite male and 70% of elite female races. Correlations were also derived from finishing order for the whole triathlon and a finishing order that included the swim only, cycle only or run only time. For men, the average correlations for final finishing order with each of the swim, cycle and run, respectively, were 0.49, 0.67 and 0.86 and for the women; average correlations were 0.39, 0.67 and 0.85. Hence, this indicated that it was important to exit the water in the first pack and run well after cycling to achieve a successful final finishing position.
Landers†, Grant J.; Blanksby‡, Brian A.; Ackland‡, Timothy R.; and Monson†, Ronald
"Swim Positioning and its Influence on Triathlon Outcome,"
International Journal of Exercise Science: Vol. 1
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijes/vol1/iss3/2