You consider adding an aquabike option to your triathlon event? That´s great news! But maybe you are a little bit uncertain about several things. So I asked a few race organizers what the important things are you have to consider when you add an aquabike competition to your triathlon event. The following FAQs are based on their feedback.
What additional costs come with including an aquabike option in a triathlon?
You will probably have to pay a little extra fees for timing for the additional category. Those fees really shouldn´t be that high, since there is no additional timing point or other hardware setup required. And you need a few extra prices. Usually at aquabike events you have prices for men´s and women´s top 3 finishers. That´s it. So the additional costs are quite reasonable.
“Apart from additional trophies there were only benefits!”
James Shipley from Active Training World about including aquabike races in their events.
What are the additional organizational efforts that come with an aquabike event?
That really very much depends where you decide to set the aquabike finishline (see below). Other than that there really isn´t any considerable additional effort.
Where is the finishline of an aquabike race?
There are several options where to set the finish of the aquabike race. From an organizers point of view, every option has some pros and cons. This depends mainly on the setup of T2 and the distance to the triathlon finishline, but also what you would like to offer to athletes. So here are the different options:
1. Finish at T2 entry
A quite common case is to have the entrance to T2 as finish line. This might often be the easiest for the organizer. But don’t forget after the finish you might want to hand out medals and/or collect timing chips from the athletes. So depending on the setup it can be quite inconvenient for athletes to get to the finish area to do that (because it´s far away or you have to get through several barriers). Or you can have a marshal or volunteer at T2 who hands out the medals and collects the timing chips. When you have a bigger number of participants you might also consider, that aquabikers who finish at T2 entry and then stop or walk slowly, might be in the way of triathletes who are still in the competition.
2. Finish at T2 exit
In some cases that can be the best option. Especially when a) the triathlon-finishline is far away or not easy to reach and b) the T2 entry is a bit “tricky”, maybe with narrow roads, tight corners or over pavement edges. In those cases a “sprint finish” at T2 entry could potentially create dangerous situations which can be defused by moving the finish to T2 exit or shortly after.
3. Finish at the triathlon finishline
This certainly offers the best finishline experience for athletes and also for spectators. But it always depends on location of T2 and finish line if this is possible. So the finishline can´t be too far away from T2 and there must be a direct way to go there which is not crossing the triathletes way. So depending on the location of T2 and finish line this might require a little change in the setup, like an additional corridor, additional barriers or signs (if aquabikers have to take a different turn that traithletes).
If aquabike athletes run from the transition zone to the finishline, it should also be clear and clearly communitcated if they are allowed to do so barefoot and/or with the bike helmet. Especially the question about wearing shoes is not as trivial as it seems. Running barefoot on the run leg of a triathlon in prohibited in some countries. But it´s often not clear, if this also applies for the short run part of an aquabike race from T2 to the finishline if that´s where the aquabike races finishes. I think there´s no problem in leaving this up to the athletes. But there are race organizers who make it mandatory to wear shoes for the run to the finishline (you can also leave on your bike shoes if you wish to do so). In this case it´s really important that this is communicated to the athletes in advance so athletes don´t arrive at the race venue without running shoes! A similar topic is running with the bike helmet, which is in general prohibited on the run leg of a triathlon (by ITU competition rules). Most athletes will take off their helmet anyway to run to the finishline. But since it´s not explicitly clear if this allso applies to the short run to the finishline of an aquabike race, it should be communicated if you decide to apply this rule.
4. Finishline on the road
Another possibility is to have the finishline on the road, preferably a few hundred meters before T2. So the aquabike competition finishes directly on the bike. This is rather rare though, because it requires an additional timing setup and therefore comes with additional costs and effort for the organizer. If you go for this version, you also have to consider where aquabike athletes can put their bikes after finishing, how they get their medals, how they can get to the nutrition area after the finish and how to collect the timing chips.
As of my knowledge this has only been used at international competitions (World and European Championships) so far and is probably not a really convenient setup for smaller events. The only pro here is that it´s probably the safest option when it comes to a sprint finish.
Regarding the potential of dangerous situations at T2 entry in case of a sprint finish is certainly something worth considering, BUT: I have asked several experienced race organizers as well as athletes and none of them told us he ever experienced dangerous situations like that at T2 entry – at least not more than you have at the triathlon itself.
“That way aquabike ahtletes get the finish line experience and we are able to closely monitor their finish, collect their timing chip, give their medal etc.”
Kelly Wickens from Challenging Events about having aquabike races finishing at the regular triathlon finishline.
Can aquabikers start together with triathletes?
Absolutely yes. Of course if you have an event with a lot of participants aquabikers would very much appreciate to have their own smaller start wave. But that´s certainly not a must.
Anything else to consider?
Although the aquabike race can basically be fully included in a triathlon, just consider that aquabike racers bib numbers should have a different range numbers or maybe even a different color scheme (maybe even swim caps in different colors), so athletes out on the course can see, who is a competitor and who is actually in another race (aquabikers as well as triathletes).
Another thing you might have to think about is the location of the penalty box. Many triathlons have the penalty box in the transition zone or shortly after, at the beginning of the run course. For the aquabike race this is not possible if you have the finish at T2 entry. Even if you have it at T2 exit (or shortly after) the penalty box must be located before that. Also if you have the finish at the triathlon finishline make sure the penalty box is located where both aquabikers and triathletes have to pass it.
So obviously where and how to set the finish for aquabike competitors is something you have to consider. But other than that the additional costs or efforts to include an aquabike option in a triathlon is absolutely minimal. If you have any other questions, don´t hesitate to contact me. Or maybe join the Aquabike racing community on facebook. You´ll find aquabike athletes and also a few other race organizers there who are always willing to help with open questions.