2017 Kona Race Preview

2017 Kona Race Preview

Gunning for history. Daniela Ryf going for Triple Ironman & Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Photo: Korupt Vision

With close to 10% of the professional field at Kona now training with Trisutto coaches my traditional pre-race preview is getting more difficult. Instead of sizing up our competitors, I’ll be wishing all the best for our coached athletes across the board. We know they’ll be ready.

In the meantime for our followers here’s a short preview of my squad starters:

I’ll lead off with the great Daniela Ryf. After overcoming a difficult season I’m pleased to say that the Bird is back at Kona – injury free and close to her near best. Winning three in a row is a huge feat at any World Championship event, at Kona it makes one legendary with only a select group of athletes having accomplished it:

Dave Scott, Paula Newby-Fraser, Mark Allen, Natascha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington.

So we wish her best mechanical luck on trying to achieve her destiny!

James Cunnama is back at Kona and carrying a few more weapons than his last couple of forays to the Big Island. Armed with a stronger bike and returned run form, if the favourites decide to play games we could see the giant Saffa taking matters into his own capable hands.

Also returning on somewhat of a reconnaissance mission is Reinaldo Colucci. Rei has started back on the journey I first set for him nearly 16 years ago. While he surprised me in the interim by having a massive ITU and Olympic career it was always Kona that Coach dreamed for him. So he is paying his dues this year, but look for the tall timber from Brazil to give it a massive shake in 2018.


Also returning will see the Welsh Wizard Corinne Abraham. After two interrupted seasons with injury, I’m so proud to see her put together an outstanding season that lands her back in the Big Island. While no one is paying her much attention in the pre-race favourite lists, Coach thinks she will be vying for the best run split coming down the Queen K.

It’s a proud moment to announce the prodigal daughter Celine Schaerer will be making her Kona debut. Celine will not just be in attendance, but is going to find Kona very much to her liking. Like Corinne the heat and toughness of the run course is only going to help Celine. And with no massive packs of men bringing the women up to this swim-biker, things could be so different for her at Kona.

Finally, special mention to Jane Hansom who is returning to Kona to defend her World Championship won last year. The Burglar is getting fitter by the day and again will be a formidable foe for any looking to take her crown.

Best mechanical luck to all who are competing!

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Cyprus or Gran Canaria.

Challenge Roth: For The Record

Challenge Roth: For The Record

As we get closer to Challenge Roth we’d like to pass on to our followers and Daniela Ryf fans some inside knowledge of our preparation and a common sense reflection on the hype now being generated around a supposed ‘World Record’ attempt.

Can Daniela Ryf break the record this year?

Yes, but so can whoever crosses the tape first in two weeks.

Let’s leave aside questions of form or injury for now. Or the fact Challenge are naturally doing their best to promote their event – it still staggers me that with a new course we would have such conjecture from commentators within the sport.

There will be a significant change to the DATEV Challenge Roth course on July 9th, 2017. For the first time in the more than 30-year history of the Roth Triathlon, a new two-lap run course has been designed to be more athlete and spectator-friendly. The new route links the towns of Roth and Büchenbach, together with the canal in a T-shaped course, which is completed twice.

It’s my personal hope that the new run course will be a smash hit with both the public and participating athletes. I also believe the changes will enhance the overall race experience .

But it doesn’t change the pretty basic fact that whoever wins, there will be new course record holders on July 9th.

With each out-and-back section of the ‘T’ at 10.2km, runners pass each point of the course four times. With an additional 1.4km of connecting routes at the bottom of the T, the classic marathon distance of 42.195km is reached.

It is both a 2 lap course with extra hill component. If it is the full distance then there is every chance it can be as much as 4 minutes slower than the old course. Who knows, it may one day still deliver a killer performance. But Chrissie’s record as well as Jan’s will stand in perpetuity as the fastest on that course.

Next:

Very pleased to see Challenge reach out to the great Chrissie Wellington. As for whether she will be there ‘to see her record fall’ – let’s get back to reality.

It has been made very clear and public that the Angry Bird has been dealing with a nagging back injury over the last four months.

The good news is there is no bone damage and of late has been improving each week within a light training schedule. We decided to test the back in a race situation at Ironman 70.3 Rapperswil two weeks ago. Any real triathlon followers would have noted that the Bird was anything but flying as she posted a time 15 minutes slower than her usual very high standards.

So while it was a reality check fitness wise, we were very encouraged that the effort didn’t affect the injury at all. This has encouraged us to give Dannie the challenge of participating in Roth. But chances of records falling, even if it was on the old course disappeared months ago.

Coach has now set the program on being a 100% ready for her to defend her Kona crown on the 14th of October.

With all things carrying on in the right direction we will use three shorter races leading in to get her fit before Kona, with one of them being the 70.3 World Championships on the 9th of September. While we don’t expect the Bird to be at her 100% best there, we do anticipate she will be very competitive. So for all her fans, with no further problems and continued improvement we will hope to see the Angry Bird flying high for Kona.

Thank you to all our supporters.

Super League Triathlon

Super League Triathlon

Trisutto coach Mel Mitchell leads out the swim at the 1998 F1 Triathlon Series. The series was a huge hit in Australia for both the athletes and spectators.

I’ve been asked a couple of times for my opinion on the launch of the new Super League Triathlon race series.

That is a very simple answer; great news for triathlon, greater news for the triathlon spectator.

While the concept itself is not new, it will be first time viewing for the majority of today’s triathlon fans and I promise will be infinitely more exciting than the current WTS short course offering.

People often reminisce with rose coloured glasses, but the Formula 1 triathlon series held in Australia (1990’s-early 2000’s) is one of those rare times in the sport that had the triathlon spectator first in mind. I can only hope the racing will be as spectacular in this new venture.

As co-founder, it appears Macca has made every effort to make that happen with as strong a roster as possible signed up. No doubt he is drawing on the days when he went head to head with Greg Welch, Miles Stewart, Brad Bevan, Spencer Smith and a host of Champions over a series with different formats and distances that suited each others strengths. It brought the best out of each other and the sport.

What makes me more excited is that Europe didn’t see the best of this style of racing.

I’m aware they’ve taken some criticism for only having a male race to begin, but they have been in strong negotiations with the best women in the world and should the men’s race be a ratings winner, the women’s race launch will be imminent.

The bigger point I’d make is this. It’s very difficult today to start something new in our sport. Between the WTS squeezing out all the independent short course races for their preferred formats, or Ironman rampaging through the existing long course scene like Godzilla, new ventures should be supported. I wish the very best to the backers, athletes and organisers. For triathlon’s sake I hope it’s a huge success.

 


In the starters hands at the the Super Sprint Tri Series Grand Prix in Las Vegas – a similar concept run in the USA in 2010 and again in 2013-14. Photo: Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix

 

Make the 2020 Olympic Triathlon Event Time Trial

Make the 2020 Olympic Triathlon Event Time Trial

Last week, following ITU President Marisol Casado publicly stating her preference for a move to short course triathlon at the 2020 Olympics, I, along with several others, argued why this would be a big backward step for the sport.

In turn some have reasonably asked – what are the alternatives for making the sport fairer and more entertaining for global media?

There are many, and I have long advocated for select races to return to Enduro formats that would create genuinely fair competition for all round swim, bike and run athletes:

Championship events with heats and finals: 3 heats of 30 athletes with the top 10 athletes in each heat progressing to the final.

The final to be raced as a 500m swim x 13.3km bike x 3.3km run repeated three times.

The above is also in my opinion the most exciting format possible for viewing triathlon.

Another is for triathlon to consider a format already tried and tested with great success at International and Olympic competition.

Time Trial Triathlon

The Olympic Championship should be about deciding the best triathlete in the world with absolutely no discussion or debate. This could be done while also satisfying the push for the shorter and more entertaining format to suit ITU officials and TV Coverage.

  • 750m swim
  • 20km bike
  • 5km run

Raced as a Time Trial seeded by World Cup rankings. One athlete leaves every one or two minutes apart as in cycling.

Simple and very effective!

But that wouldn’t be more entertaining!

Are you kidding me?

At present even the most passionate triathlon fan falls to sleep waiting for the run to start. The time trial format would keep every fan engaged not just for one discipline but for every minute of the race as they follow who is making up time and who is losing it. With supporters holding their breath as each competitor crosses the finish line to determine the overall standings.

The biggest audiences for television in the Tour de France are always the Time Trial.

If the ITU are looking for innovative ways to energise the sport – let’s hear a coherent objection as to why this is not considered an option. According to comments of President Casado, athletes and the sport’s stakeholders will be consulted before any major decision is made. While this is of course not true (the current athletes oppose the move to short course), I believe the above suggestion is just one of the options that should be debated within the ITU if they are genuinely trying to make improvements.

Wouldn’t it be great if our Olympic gold medal took the sport back to where it was always intended by our pioneers? The best athlete over multiple disciplines.

Madame President cement your legacy not by shortening an existing format that you believe is flawed, but by making the Olympics the one race every triathlon fan wants to see. There would be no need for a massive overhaul of the current WTS system and the triathlon Olympic final could be a phenomenon that helps move our sport into the new era.

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Tokyo 2020: Triathlon Olympics Will Be Short Course

Tokyo 2020: Triathlon Olympics Will Be Short Course

Last week many in the triathlon community were shocked by the ITU President publicly declaring her preference for a short-distance race at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

They shouldn’t be. The diminished event at the 2020 Olympics will be the culmination of a decade of lobbying and groundwork laid in introducing the condensed format to the official WTS series.

Why?

Those in our sport’s executive positions are well versed in the ‘sport is entertainment’ doctrine and have been strategising on how to 1) create a more TV friendly product that won’t alienate the powerful voting blocs of weaker national federations and 2) securing an additional medal at the Olympics within athlete number constraints placed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Well, that’s fair enough, isn’t it? That’s what the sport needs.

No-one is in more agreement that the sport needs a shake up. The drafting situation at WTS events is boring and has seen an embarrassing decline in the standard of the bike discipline. I’ve had athletes tell me they could ‘ride a mountain bike’ and not get dropped from the packs.

But reducing the race to a ‘sprint distance’ is not a solution to the problem. It’s institutionalising it.

Triathlon started as an innovative sport designed to test the all-round swim, bike and run ability of the athlete, and to that end many of us still believe that the best all-round athlete should be called the triathlon champion!

There are multiple formats that would allow this to happen, while also showcasing the race in a more exciting way for TV. Time trial, non-drafting, Enduro heats and finals being just a few examples.

But these are not considered and never will be.

The president of an international sporting body owes their allegiance not to the sport, but to those who voted them there. And federations whose funding is tied to ‘performance’ tend not to want the race to be fair, but to have the illusion of being ‘close’. Hence the move to short course.

Shorten the swim so even the weaker swimming nations can hold on, eliminate the bike distance so that no-one can get away and then have a run shoot out that will be terribly exciting (and close!) for the TV.

A perfect solution.

A white man’s IAAF.

If you’re a 1500m or 3000m runner and can’t quite crack the big time in athletics – it’s now time to start looking for a swim coach. This is your new sport. And while many will support it, for triathlon purists it’s a sad thing.

Why don’t they keep the Olympic distance race and put on a sprint relay as the second medal?

It is highly unlikely IOC will give triathlon any more places at the Olympic village. So instead, the ITU have had to be very creative in how they present their pitch for the 2nd medal. By standardising the shorter distance, triathlon federations will be able to ‘double dip’ at the Olympics by using the same competitors for the individual event as the relay. Hence why calls for the longer distances to be included also fall on deaf ears.

I believe it is a mistake. Bastardising the quality of an individual event to secure a team one is not a good strategy for the sport.

But it would be a good strategy for the ITU President, who by securing a second medal will no doubt ensure another four years in the job and perhaps enhance claims to bigger and better things within the IOC.

The March Towards Short Course – Poachers Turned Gamekeepers

Before people write in that ‘this is another mistake by people in board positions who don’t know the sport’ I can assure you it’s not. Unlike Ironman the people behind this push know the sport very well indeed.

In fact I remember Marisol Casado arguing with a delegation that the San Sebastian World Cup was not ‘too hard’ but a true test of triathlon. That was in 1993.

She got that right. It was one of the great races.

It was also part of a successful ETU (European Triathlon Union) series that 20 years ago used to have exciting, tough formats that included Heats and Finals! In fact it was so good the ITU (International Triathlon Union) staged a coup to take it over and standardised a watered down format.

Marisol’s predecessor and mentor was also a fervent anti-drafting campaigner (a 3-time age group Kona winner) until he became president and was faced with the political realities for keeping his role. He oversaw the transition to drafting as Marisol will oversee the transition to short course.

To compound the problem (now seen at local, national and international body level) triathlon is not seen as a mainstream sport, so it is perpetually at the mercy of short-term decisions from officials looking to move up to the next rung on the ladder or horizontally to one of the other ‘real’ sports.

Where to from here?

In the audio recording ITU President Marisol Casado states that she will consult with the athletes before any changes are made. Let’s hope this is the case. Several, including Alistair (Brownlee) have already stated strong reservations, along with the observation that triathlon is respected because it is a ‘tough’ event. A draft swim and 20km draft bike is not tough and not worthy of an Olympic triathlon event.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have come up to me and said it’s the toughness of the event that appeals…

Alistair Brownlee

Now that the cat is out of the bag, let’s see the steps the ITU takes in receiving athlete feedback and showing their arguments in a transparent way why it is good for the sport.

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Why Race Roth?

Why Race Roth?

There is much media attention surrounding Daniela’s (Ryf) decision to race Challenge Roth and how this will affect the rest of her season:

  • Will Daniela (Ryf) be going for the record at Roth?
  • Why is she racing Roth at all?
  • How will she validate for Kona?
  • Is she going to race Zurich next week as well?
  • But what about the 70.3 World’s in Australia?
  • Will she still go for the Triple Crown?

Let’s address the following questions one at a time. Because they raise broader issues here than one individual athlete’s season.

Firstly, no the Angry Bird will not be going for the World Record at Roth. In fact I will be very surprised if she even wins the race. Up until this Monday she was not recovered from hypothermia suffered at Ironman Frankfurt two weeks ago. So I’ll be happy if she completes the course with no mishaps.

Does Daniela have the ability to one day break Chrissie’s magical record? Yes. She’s THAT good. But it will require a changing of training focus to exclusive Ironman distance, which is difficult while still balancing the needs 70.3 racing.

Then why race Roth at all?

When Daniela joined our squad as a possible Rio team-mate for Nicola in late 2013 she was on the verge of retiring; disillusioned by poor form and constant sickness.

She had lost her love for the sport that she’d dedicated her young life to.

In an effort to get her back to top form we agreed her racing would never be so pressured and to enjoy all the positive experiences that triathlon does offer. Three World Championships, a Kona win and a Triple Crown later and I would say this approach has served her quite well.

Roth is an iconic and great race. Roth is a fun race. So the question is not why she’s racing it, but why she shouldn’t be?

Under my watch 2016 will be a fun year. If that means aerobics classes and yoga so be it. University studies and home life will help keep the Bird grounded.

Dec. 12, 2015 

BUT THEN WHAT ABOUT KONA!!!?

What about it?

We tried to fit it in and make it work, but Daniela is not the only athlete whose Kona preparation this year has been disrupted because of a lack of organisation at Ironman events.

Having Championships Titles on each continent (Asia-Pacific, North and South America, Africa and Europe) is a wonderful concept. But it’s very difficult to run a professional athletic preparation off the basis of an amateur race series.

Championship Races

The situation that has affected athletes trying to qualify through ‘Championships’ in 2016:

The North American Championships (Ironman Texas) were so bungled that no-one even knew if the race was even going to be held until a couple of weeks beforehand.

April 16

IRONMAN Texas athletes, please see the below message regarding the 2016 race. We are committed to having the event on May 14.

Thank you for your continued patience as we have worked diligently to secure a bike course for the 2016 Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship Texas…

April 30

Dear IRONMAN Athletes,

Everyone at IRONMAN would like to thank you once again for your patience regarding the uncertainty with the 2016 Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship Texas bike course. While we had finalized details for a new approved 112-mile bike course late last week…

May 4

Dear IRONMAN Athletes, 

As previously communicated, IRONMAN has evaluated all possible bike course options with local stakeholders and is unable to replace the mileage that was lost due to the recent flooding…

May 13

Dear IRONMAN Athletes –

As we approach race day we wanted to give you an update following the standard pre-race water quality tests. It has been determined that the canal portion of the Woodlands Waterway near the planned swim finish is not currently suitable for swimming…

How can a professional athlete be expected to effectively plan their training season and Kona prep around that?

IM_Brazil_bikesDrafting at Ironman Brazil. Video here.

Then at the South American Championships (Ironman Brazil) drafting was so endemic and ridiculous you had accomplished veteran athletes vowing never to race there again. Athletes like 10x Ironman winner and bike animal Ronnie Schildknecht racing the Championship for Kona points left frustrated as a peloton jumped on each other’s wheels with no officiating to be seen.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 12.05.31 pm

The reaction of professional veterans after Ironman Brazil.

Meanwhile, at the African Championships the leading woman (Jodie Swallow) was blown off the bike by the race helicopter and broke her elbow.

Jodie would be back at Ironman Cairns.

Finally, at the European Championships two weeks ago (Ironman Frankfurt) nearly half the female contenders for the pro podium suffered hypothermia because a decision to not wear wetsuits that left several in hospital. Those who survived the swim then had to deal with a bike that was comically unfair.

For those thinking ‘this must be a bit of an exaggeration…’

Here is the recap from the race WINNER Melissa Hauschildt explaining why she won’t race here again:

My experience of the age group drafting on the bike course was something I’ve never encountered before and it significantly affected my (and I imagine all the pro women) entire bike leg. The first 100k of the bike was ridiculously crowded with age group men. As I caught and passed long packs of them sitting 5-10m apart (less than 12m is cheating) I thought I’m finally in the clear. But as I found out throughout the race, it only took one rider out of each peloton to sit 5m behind me and eventually slip stream up to my wheel (this is cheating for pro’s but AG’ers can do this as much as they want) and whip passed for me to have to sit up and give him a 12m gap (that’s the rule). When I sit up to allow him to have his 12m, this means the next age grouper slip streams up behind me and whips around, maintaining his illegal gap of 5-10m. I then sit up to allow him a 12m gap. After 10 of these go by, I think I can get back to my race now, so I move 3m wide again and begin to pass 10+ men at one time, pushing well above 300watts for a couple mins to make the pass. This process would continue with a few different age-goup-team-time-trial packs through out the race.

 

The size and intensity of remaining testosterone in the packs eventually settled down after about 110k as more and more of the men blew. I had “draft busters” with me for most of the race and I’m confident in saying their role was to admire the scenery and in no way to officiate any drafting rules on the bike segment of the race. Like I said, I’ve never experienced this before in racing and makes me realise I will have to choose races carefully in the future that either have a reputation for enforcing drafting rules or allow a longer gap between pro women and age group men start times. As it was in this race, the pro women were not in a simple race against the other pro women to see who was the best. They could have easily been racing their age group peloton against another girls age group peloton.

That’s how the winner felt. So you can imagine the feedback in private from those who went there to try and qualify for Kona and had their race ruined.

These are just the ‘Championship’ races; I could list 10 other events that have had farcical decisions that have affected athletes in their Kona build up.

My hope had always been that with the Wanda Group’s acquisition of WTC they would look to revamp the Ironman series and remove a last century mentality into creating a plan to secure triathlon’s position within the global sports calendar for the next 30 years.

Instead, it’s bush league. No shake up at the top. No ‘we will be doing better in the future’. The coverage has stayed the same. The drafting is worse. The mistakes amplified. And because the people running such races don’t actually understand the sport they are administrating, the bigger problem is they don’t seem to realise that there is a problem at all.

No-one is saying that it is easy. Or that mistakes won’t be made in running events. Of course they will. All I’m suggesting is that if mistakes are made that affect say, a Daniela Ryf’s build up to defending Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Titles then you try to learn from them.

Instead, here is a list of professional DNF’s at Frankfurt. Many the result of hypothermia after a non-wetsuit swim:

  • Victor Del Corral
  • Joe Gambles
  • Christian Brader
  • Thomas Bosch
  • Astrid Stienen
  • Michal Volejnik
  • Bas Diederen
  • Ivan Risti
  • Clemente Alonso-Mckernan
  • Marton Flander
  • Daniela Ryf
  • Gilian Oriet
  • Gudmund Snilstveit
  • Alfred Rahm
  • Kristin Moeller
  • Diana Riesler
  • Rayco Marrero Avero
  • Remmert Wielinga

Yet at the very same Awards ceremony, to the complete disbelief of the pros who had just competed (and nearly every single person I have spoken to at the event since), organisers congratulated themselves on a well run, incident free event!

Diana_Hospital

It’s mind boggling.

As such they didn’t feel the need to place one phone call asking about how Daniela was. Or squad member Diana (Riesler) who was recovering in hospital. No public apologies or even a suggestion ‘that we may look into changing the rules about wetsuits or bike times in the future’. Nothing. Just pretend nothing happened and hope it goes away.

Contrary to what many might think I actually hate to get involved in ‘bashing’ Ironman. Hate it. It puts our athletes in a terrible position. But the bigger problem is that if you start have athletes drift away from the sport because of the poor quality of racing then it’s not in anyone’s interest. We want to see the sport grow and show what our athletes can really do.

But it’s very frustrating when over the next few weeks Daniela will be accused of ‘over-racing’ and her Coach of ‘burning her out’ when people don’t understand the context for such decisions in the first place. We are trying to be professional as we can in an amateur environment.

If you want to win an Ironman there is very little margin for error in one’s preparation. If you are trying to defend Ironman, Ironman 70.3 and Triple Crown Titles at the same time there is basically none.

And as such people should understand why athletes may choose to focus on their own race schedule and enjoy races like Roth in the meantime.

As for Zurich and Australia? We will assess Daniela’s fitness after the race and see how she has recovered. If she wants to go to Kona and participate there, it will be her decision to validate and which race she does. As her coach I will do my best to see she is at her best for whatever she decides. But it won’t be ideal and I do believe supporters looking for real showdowns at Championship events deserve better.

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.