The Arlberg Eagle is a triathlon with a twist. It lasts over five months, beginning in April with “the white thrill” (der weisse Rausch), a 9-km ski race, and culminating on August 25 with the 41-km Arlberg Bike Marathon.
While hardcore triathlons can take a variety of forms, they are all notoriously difficult. In addition, they require athletes to be armed with the grit and resourcefulness to shine at each adrenaline-fueled leg of the race.
Here are the world’s best triathletes.
Jonathon And Alistair Brownlee Brothers
Born in 1990 and 1988 respectively, Britain’s Brownlee Brothers are one of the most formidable combinations ever to emerge in triathlon. The younger brother, Jonathan Brownlee, is the reigning World Sprint Triathlon Champion, but sometimes his brother Alistair surges ahead. The secret to the pair’s success is coherence. They share a stone-built cottage near Leeds, in Yorkshire, northern England and train together most days, clocking up a 40-hour-a-week training schedule. The brothers have always been close, but they are also very competitive. “We used to fight over football, table tennis and badminton. Monopoly was a big one for fighting,” Jonathon told the Daily Mail. The pair thanks their grandpa, Norman, for giving them the “Yorkshire grit” that separates them from their rivals. During the Second World War, Norman served in the Merchant Navy and when his ship was sunk offshore, he swam back to land. Grit, indeed.
Born in 1983, Gomez was quickly acknowledged as the world’s second best triathlete. Javier Gomez has long labored in the shadow of Britain’s relentless Brownlee brothers. Still, Gomez has been called the Michael Jordan of his sport. Few triathletes have picked up more bling than the Switzerland-based Spaniard. Between 2002 and 2010, Gomez competed in 57 International Triathlon Union (ITU) contests, landing over 50 Top 10 spots, including 23 gold medals. With the Brownlee brothers, Gomez represents Sartrouville in the French Club Championship Series Lyonnaise des Eaux.
Gomez started out as a swimmer and actually just entered his first triathlon for a laugh after friends suggested he try it. Now, in a typical week, Gomez still swims up to 25km and does 300-400km of cycling and 100km of running. His heroes are US cyclist Lance Armstrong, Ethiopian endurance runner Haile Gebrselassie and British triathlete Simon Lessing.
Alongside his countrymen, the Brownlee Brothers, endurance athlete Simon Lessing underlines just how amazing Brits can be at triathlon. Born in 1971, Lessing managed to win five Olympic-distance world titles (1992, 1995 (twice), 1996 and 1998), setting an Olympic-distance world record in ’96. In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded a MBE (Member of the British Empire).
Now based in Boulder, Colorado, Lessing runs a fitness academy with Olympic running coach Darren de Reuck and still competes in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon yearly. During his youth in Durban, South Africa, surfing and rugby were the two main sports on the radar. Defying the pressure to get involved in the sports, Lessing usually trained for three hours a day in the disciplines that captured his interest. Think sailing, swimming, track, cross-country and duathlon — a three-part long-distance race with a running phase, a bicycling phase and a final running phase.
Few athletes in the field of triathlon have a more formidable reputation than Dave Scott: a six-time Ironman Triathlon Champion and the first inductee into the Ironman Hall of Fame. Born in 1954, Scott retired after his last triathlon in 1997. According to a Vegetarian Times piece from 1998, his athletic forte was that of the pink bunny; he kept going and going. Given enough distance to cover, he could outlast anyone. “’The longer the workout, the stronger I became as everyone else started dwindling off. There never was a long enough swim for me,’” he said.
Scott, who holds a physiology degree, now works as a coach. “Don’t over-hydrate with water before an event. We’re not camels,” he told Active.com, debunking the myth that you should chug a lot H2O in advance. He also claims getting the technical side right is secondary: to truly succeed you need inner drive and mental edge underpinned by a robust physical foundation.
Born in 1984, the professional French triathlete, Laurent Vidal, was Olympic-distance French Champion in 2009 and 2011 and the winner of the 2010 Oceania Championships in Wellington. In March in Mooloolaba, Australia, Vidal sealed his first International Triathlon Union World Cup win with what Triathlete.com called “an electrifying sprint,” then placed fifth in the London 2012 men’s Olympic triathlon. Introduced to international competition in 2002, Vidal promptly won a silver medal at the European Junior Championship.
Vidal trains 32 hours a week in both the south of France and the adventure sports hub New Zealand, hence his Twitter description of himself as 49 percent Kiwi and 51 percent French. Since 2004, he has been contracted to the French army — representing the values of commitment and perseverance. His significant other, Kiwi Andrea Hewitt, is also a world-class triathlete. Wonder how that partnership would fare against Britain’s all-conquering Brownlee brothers.