Posted by Gerald Trump on November 03, 2014
Even though Ironman Florida canceled the swim portion of the race this year due to severe rip tide conditions, the issue of age group drafting was still a hot topic on the usual triathlon forums. Unfortunately, this practice is common at WTC qualifying events. And it’s not going to change any time soon. Or-- perhaps not at all. One question on my mind is “does it matter to enough folks to have any effect on the status quo, or am I just out of touch?”
For many, I know that it simply doesn’t matter. It has no effect on them or their personal reasons and goals in the sport. For those who are trying to qualify for the IM world championships however, it does matter. And unfortunately for too many, it is viewed as just part of the game of getting there. After every IM event, it is hard not to find Forum posts, and blogs about the massive amount of drafting going on, and more than a couple of articles on age group individuals who egregiously draft the entire bike portion of the race, giving them the fresh legs they need to beat out the honest competition and win Kona spots. While the outrage is there, it seems to be less each year, and less with each race. Or perhaps I’m just getting numb to it.
When looking into the offending athletes profiles, one finds that many of these folks work in the industry, and see qualifying for the “big one” in Kona as an important asset to have listed on their resume. And they seemingly will do anything for it, and justify it in any way they can. I did read one such story regarding this year at IM Florida about a 50-54 age grouper aggressively drafting who assured his chosen “draftee” that it was announced that because of the cancelation of the swim, for the first several miles of the race, that drafting was allowed. Sure it was. The person was quick to point out that the individual continued to draft the entire race.
Dan Empfield, publisher of the endurance websiteSlowtwitch.com, wrote in a post on his forum some time ago about the ÖTILLÖ swim/run world championship, how Scandinavia was ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to appreciating the “essence of the multisport event”. In referring to the US triathlete, the term he used was “we've lost our mojo.”
I’m not so sure that Dan’s assessment is entirely accurate. From what I have been reading, PED use in Europe, as an example, is every bit as prevalent in age group athletes as it is in the US. But that’s a different Blog. But I do know of what he speaks. The evolution of the sport, if you can call it that, has seen a real shift in what it is all about, and the kind of person it attracts and holds.
So… The bigger question I have: Is the prevalence of drafting and all those who do it, or condone it, contributing to driving away the very type of individualist that brought us the sport and that have made it such a special community?
As for me, I choose to believe that there are still plenty of us who would not hesitate to get DQd for stopping and aiding a hurt competitor (and yes, I do realize that USAT rules now read that one can’t accept assistance from unauthorized personnel but doesn’t say anything about assisting another ).
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