A Virtual Challenge of Epic Proportion


The AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds Virtual Challenge welcomed 5,739 people to participate in multisport on their own terms and make a digital return to racing.

With the suspension of multisport activity meaning people across the sporting world missing out of event opportunities across the world, the Virtual Challenge brought WTS Leeds to the global community, sharing the iconic event with people across the world.

Since 2016, the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds has welcomed 15,000 athletes to celebrate the sport, participating in the various multisport opportunities available at the event across the weekend.

This year, taking the form of a duathlon, the Virtual Challenge allowed participants to race at their own pace over the course of the week and record their progress using Strava. The challenge was accepted by 5,739 participants, with people all across the world making a virtual return to racing.

After witnessing a large demand to extend the challenge and allow children younger than 15 to take part, we created the children’s category and opened up the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds to those between the ages of 8 and 14. With this, the entire family will now be celebrating their own medal moments, after 370 children have now taken part in the challenge over the week.

The virtual start line was packed with thousands of athletes participating in their own way. Many took to their streets, Roundhay Park itself, Zwift’s virtual world of Watopia, their own back gardens and anywhere in between to put down their miles and earn their place on the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds 2020 Virtual Challenge Leaderboard.

For some of the participants, this was their first time taking on a duathlon, racing over their choice of either standard, sprint or GO TRI distance. All UK participants that completed the challenge will receive a vibrant Leeds 2020 medal to celebrate their success and extend the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds’ commitment to limiting waste.

The AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds has provided half a decade of excellent experienced for all involved and this challenge has been a great way to extend that to the world throughout this difficult time.

Watching the leaderboard being populated by the first recorded times on Monday morning, the pictures of families racing together, and the joy as participants crossed the virtual finish line was an incredible reminder of what makes swim, bike and run so special.

Wayne Coyle, Event Director of the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds, said: “The Virtual Challenge has been a great example of the team’s innovative approach. We saw almost 6,000 people take part in this event which exceeded our early expectations.

“I took part myself and really enjoyed the experience. I hope that the people that took part for the first time loved it and the more experienced people enjoyed the challenge. I really believe that the Virtual Challenge was a real tribute to the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds and hope that participants are as excited as us about it returning next year.

Jenny Vincent, British Triathlon Head of Participation, said: “It’s been amazing to see so many new people trying the sport for the first time. Whilst the lockdown period has been a difficult one for us all, the great thing we have seen is people taking it upon themselves to go outside and get active. I hope they continue to enjoy the world of multisport and wish them all the best with their journey through swim, bike and run.”

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