Super League is Triathlon made cool

Exciting, expertly-branded and televised to thrill; Super League is the most exciting triathlon series we’ve ever seen. After the first Super League event on 16th March, Trizone looks back at the commentary, the outfits, the course and even Ian Thorpe’s surprise appearance.

Why is Super League the new ‘cool’ version of triathlon?

It’s a new race series with a mix of Hunger Games-style elimination, gruelling short-course tracks and Olympic-speed racing, all within three days so the athletes are exhausted to the brink of collapse. Sound brutal? It was, especially in 80% humidity and 32 degree heat on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays.

Seeing the world’s best athletes completely exhausted was entertaining

Created from Chris Mccormick’s imagination, Super League saw the world’s best triathletes more exhausted than we’ve ever seen them. On the first day, as the second bike race started, top athletes were calling ‘wait wait’ as commentator and world-class cyclist Robbie McEwan led them up through the course. “Everyone’s exhausted, they’re telling me to slow down,” McEwan told viewers. The long faces, exhausted legs and fatigued bodies made for great television on that first day, as we saw exactly how worn out the athletes were.

After crossing the finish line first on day one, South Africa’s Richard Murray said breathlessly “I was going at 360 watts on the bike for half an hour. That’s some racing!” By day two, Murray lead again, but he wasn’t so chirpy at the finish. “Each day is getting harder and harder,” Murray told McEwan, “But I’m stoked with the swim, stoked with the crowd and stoked with Super League.”

Devastating heat and gruelling gradients made for great TV

Not only was the race schedule completely different to any other triathlon event in the world, the course was pretty tough too. The bike leg went up Mango Tree Hill on Hamilton Island that boasts a 14% gradient, and the second day’s bike journeyed up One Tree Hill with a terrifying 24% gradient. Not only was it steep, but it was fast; the track back into the Hamilton Island Marina was so steep cyclists were going 75km/h, needing to pull up quickly before the transition.

Seeing the guys flying down the hill, particularly in the rain on the last day was pretty exciting, especially on day one when Ben Shaw miscounted the laps and took his shoes off too early. Poor guy.

Alistair Brownlee’s struggles had us intrigued

Well-spoken yet slightly pushy commentator Robbie McEwan helped us get up-close and personal with the athletes thanks to his on-the-ground interviews. We were especially interested to see what was happening to Alistair Brownlee.

Brownlee trotted into the finish on day one in 19th place, knowing he wouldn’t have the points to be in contention for the win, and not wanting to overdo it. Brownlee told McEwan “I felt bad from the start. I just didn’t have the legs up the hills. I came off my bike (at transition) and just didn’t have anything, the first kilometre was horrendous.”

As day two progressed, Brownlee was competitive again, but by the run it was all over for the famous athlete and he jogged into last place at the end of the day. “I always knew it was going to be a big ask coming all this way [from the UK] and in the heat,” Brownlee told McEwan but on the last bit I got a stitch. I don’t think I’ve had a stitch since I was twelve and running cross country.”

McEwan knows viewers love Brownlee after he pulled his brother over the line at the World Champs last year, so he follows his progress across the three days. On the last day though, Brownlee had pulled out and McEwan makes sure we know why. “Today I just struggled to get out of bed, I could barely run or warm up,” Brownlee said, “I feel really achey and flu-ey. I’m not sure I’d make it through the swim,” so off he went to join the commentators for day three although he said he’d rather go to bed.

The commentary was mostly good….mostly

Super League’s commentary box was made up of Chris McCormick, Emma Frodeno (nee Snowsill) and Will Mcloy, and for the most part; it was well done. Much like the Olympics; the dramatic montages of the sports artfully edited with heavy music kept us entertained and tied in nicely to the commentary.

Emma Frodeno gave us valuable insight into the different strengths of each athlete from different race leagues like WTS vs. Ironman. Throughout the racing she explained how they’d apply themselves in Super League eg. “The short course run is bringing out strengths in some of the young guys they haven’t been able to show off before.”

Will Mcloy spoke a lot more getting a little wrapped up in his own jokes; and was swiftly interrupted by Super League co-founder Chris McCormick when he got carried away. Chris would then go on to focus on the technical aspects of the event. This created some disjointed commentary, but it was altogether smooth. There was a clear bias toward the Australia athletes, particularly Jacob Birtwhistle and Ryan Bailie, but Australian viewers wouldn’t have minded that.

A few technical glitches occurred including being unable to hear a few people McEwan was interviewing, and two overly long panoramas of Hamilton Island that were devoid of commentary; but this could be due to the mountains and remote location of the island.

Robbie McEwan’s interviews helped us meet the athletes like never before

Robbie McEwan added the personal element to the event, which makes for the most interesting viewing. While he made a few jokes, he was articulate and spoke clearly to the athletes even when they were rushing in transition. The candid moments he captured, like Richard Murray saying “big gear no fear,” on day three helped us see the personalities of the athletes we don’t usually see.

Strangely though, McEwan interviewed Ian Thorpe on day one.The audio connection had technical difficulties which made what seemed an awkward segment even more out-of-place. While Thorpe may have been a strange non-triathlete choice, he gave interesting insight into the world of sports in general. He spoke about the important of entertainment in sport, and explained how lactic acid sets in after ten minutes; making the 10 minute gaps in Super League almost more difficult for the athletes. Overall it worked well thanks to McEwan’s affable interviewing style.

Would you watch Super League?

Yes. You’ve never seen triathlon coverage, or a triathlon event quite like this.

Let’s be honest, triathlon isn’t thrilling to watch, and the commentary can be excruciatingly bad. Super League is different; it blends the entertainment and drama only seen in televised sports in America, with exceptional athleticism and gruelling feats for true entertainment.

Super League in a nutshell

A class act, genuinely exciting race formats and professional, exciting and compelling coverage to keep you interested, Super League has it all and we’re hooked!

Trizone will keep you updated on the details of Super League and its future events throughout 2017. Stay tuned.

Shawn Smith

A cyclist and tech geek at heart with a passion for new shiny things and a huge appetite for triathlon. I spend most of my time between managing two of Australia's best triathletes and a traditional corporate life.