A common question we receive is what the typical age groups in a triathlon are. For a newbie, it is a good question and one we are happy to shed some light on.
In any sprint, olympic, mini, and other triathlons are divided into age groups. There is not one universal answer, as some races change the age groups slightly, but below are the most common age groupings you will see at the typical race:
Typical Triathlon Age Groups
- Elite Males — This “age group” is not an age group at all. Instead, it is for racers who feel they are at the very top of the triathlon game. You probably do not need to worry about this unless you expect to finish in the top 2-3% of all finishers.
- Male Age Group: 19 – UNDER (sometimes they break this category down into 15- under and 16-19)
- Male Age Group: 20 – 24
- Male Age Group: 25 – 29
- Male Age Group: 30 – 34
- Male Age Group: 35 – 39
- Male Age Group: 40 – 44
- Male Age Group: 45 – 49
- Male Age Group: 50 – 54
- Male Age Group: 55 – 59
- Male Age Group: 60 – 64
- Male Age Group: 65 – OVER (some have 65-69 and 70 – over)
- Newbie Males (not all events have this although we think they should)
- Clydesdales (men with weight exceeding 200 lbs…. you can “opt-in”, you don’t have to be in this division if you are over 200 lbs. In some races, it is 220 lbs.)
- Elite Females
- Female Age Group: 19 – UNDER (sometimes they break this category down into 15- under and 16-19)
- Female Age Group: 20 – 24
- Female Age Group: 25 – 29
- Female Age Group: 30 – 34
- Female Age Group: 35 – 39
- Female Age Group: 40 – 44
- Female Age Group: 45 – 49
- Female Age Group: 50 – 54
- Female Age Group: 55 – 59
- Female Age Group: 60 – 64
- Female Age Group: 65 – OVER (some have 65-69 and 70 – over)
- Newbie Females (not all events have this although we think they should)
- Athena (weight exceeding 145 lbs, again you can opt-in or simply race in your age group. Whatever you prefer. The weight limited may be adjusted up or down for some races.)
We realize that you didn’t need to know the female age groups, as you are a man competing as a man, but we thought it would be helpful when we posted this question online for everyone to read. Note that the governing body of triathlon in the US, the USAT, has published its guidelines on age groups as well.
Other Groups, Besides Age-Based
In most races, you will also see various classes for teams and relays. Note that the Elite, Clydesdale, and Athena groups are all intended to be “opt-in”. You sign up to be in those classes if you want. Why would someone want to be in the Clydesdale division? Because it allows you to race against other racers your own size. You might be a 210 lb man in great shape, but your frame and size put you at a disadvantage against the wispy 170 lb man who is in your age group.
We also see some races featuring a separate wave or group for first-time triathletes. This is a nice concept as first-timers and newbies might be a bit more nervous before the race, but in our judgment it doesn’t make much sense. Quickly into the race, the newbies will be mixing with all other racers. New certainly does not always mean slow! At each race, there are a few first-timers who are smoking the field and showing that they were born to be triathletes.
Finer Points of Age Grouping
Note that most races ask you to sign-up in the age group which matches your age on the day of the race. For example, you might be 30 on the day you sign up for a race in January, but by race day in June you could very well be 31. In that case, you sign-up as a 31-year-old.
In a race series (which only applies to a few people), you typically sign-up for the age that you will be at the end of the series. You might be 49 when the series begins, but if you will be 50 by the time the series concludes, you typically will be compared against the other 50-year-olds.
The final thing we would note is that some races, especially smaller or more local ones without huge participant numbers, might merge several age groups together. Instead of a 30-34 and 35-39 age group, you might just see a 30-39. This is typically driven by the desire to not have so many different groups starting at the outset of the race, and to keep the race morning moving.
Jim is an accomplished triathlete and endurance cyclist, and has raced in more than 3 dozen USAT-certified races. He is also an avid trail runner and gravel bike rider.
His areas of expertise are in endurance training, cycling, triathlon technique, race direction, and training plans. In addition to writing extensively about the endurance world, he has managed gyms and fitness centers in the US. Jim is a longtime writer for Complete Tri, Compression Design, and his work can be found on the resource pages of many triathlon and cycling clubs in North America.