By Jayme McGuire

Behold transition — triathlon's in-race pitstop where athletes change disciplines (and gear) from swim to bike and bike to run. Every triathlon requires athletes to transition twice — after the swim (T1) and after the bike (T2). Here we break down T1 with U.S. Olympic Qualifier and two-time ITU World Champion Gwen Jorgensen with a video in real time and a showcase of some of the key steps to a successful T1.

Video courtesy of ITU

The Anatomy of T1

Jorgensen swim start
Athletes wear wetsuits for International Triathlon Union (ITU) races when the water temperature is below 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit).

Jorgensen transition 
Once athletes complete the 1,500-meter Olympic-distance swim, they run toward the transition area, where the bikes are racked. These athletes are multitasking masters (fitting for someone who does a sport that is really three sports in one) and often strip off the top part of their wetsuits and remove their swim caps and goggles as they run toward their bikes. All of this takes less than a minute (times vary from course to course based on the distance from the swim exit to the bikes).

Jorgensen transition 
Athletes locate their bikes then peel off the bottom half of the wetsuit. What's the trickiest part? Balancing as one leg at a time is removed from the confines of the always challenging neoprene material while putting on and buckling a cycling helmet. In ITU racing, the wetsuit, swim cap and goggles must be thrown in the bin next the athlete's bike. Bad aim? That will cost you some time in the penalty box later in the race. While this is happening, athletes are putting on their helmets as rules require the helmet to be securely fastened before an athlete removes her bike from the rack.  

Jorgensen transition 
Once the helmet is on, it's time to grab the bike and run to the mount line where the second leg of triathlon begins. ITU athletes leave their shoes attached to their bikes in transition to speed up the process and often ride with their bare feet on top of their cycling shoes for a short time until they can strap in early on the ride.

Forty kilometers of cycling later, athletes do it all over again for T2, where they quickly transition from bike to run. For elite triathletes, poor transitions can mean the difference between making the front bike pack and being stranded in no man's land with no help during the draft-legal cycling leg.

Watch the U.S. athletes compete in the Olympic Games on Thursday, Aug. 18 (men) at 10 a.m. ET and Saturday, Aug. 20 (women) at 10 a.m. ET. The men's race will be broadcast live on USA Network while the women will be live on NBC. Fans can also stream coverage live on For full coverage of triathlon at the Rio Games, visit