#50: Imaginary center lines are a vibe
Pace yourself. We're only halfway through silly season.
issue #50: Aug. 30, 2023
All-sporters, I’m headed to Nice next week. If you’re going to be there, drop me a note or a comment. Thinking about some kind of meet-up. And if you want to partner with Triathlonish, also drop me a note.
And, if you joined us for last quarter’s Book Club on UTMB but missed the Zoom with the author, then our Q&A went out to paying subscribers this past weekend. I’m still trying to decide on the next quarter Book Club. Any thoughts?
I have no great insight about Lahti
It was as if the women’s and men’s races at 70.3 Worlds were in two entirely different places, with entirely different vibes. One was a bit of a coronation. And the other was something else.
It’s Taylor’s world and we’re just living in it. After a $100K win at the U.S. Open and then locking up her Olympic spot in Paris, a week later Taylor Knibb repeated as the 70.3 world champion. (Fun fact: She was just the second woman to repeat back-to-back 70.3 titles.) That’s quite an August.
The race in Finland played out pretty much the way a lot of us figured it would (minus the fog delay): Taylor swam at the front, biked away to open a gap, and then ran faster than almost everyone. Kat Matthews looked great in second — and as if she, too, has a bright and long future ahead of her — and, ahhh, we love seeing Imogen Simmonds back in third. Vibes everywhere.
So, of course, the biggest question: Will Taylor now be doing Kona? I don’t know. Upfront: I have no inside info. But we all know she’s on the start list (by virtue of her 70.3 world champs win last year) and we know she was waiting to see how Paris and Finland went. And now, here’s another thing we also know: Taylor has taken herself off the World Triathlon Grand Final start list in Pontevedra next month. This moves Katie Zaferes onto the start in the next Olympic qualifying race. (Go get ‘em, Katie!) And, it would appear, opens up some of Taylor’s race schedule. Vacation in Hawaii…?
Who is Rico Bogen? Sometimes someone wins something and, even if it was unexpected, the people who are deeply in the weeds saw it coming. This is not really one of those times. The whole top ten was truly illuminating.
Rico Borgen, 22, is the youngest ever winner of the 70.3 World Champs and led a German sweep of the podium. He’s won just one 70.3 before this (Kraichgau earlier this year), he was 14th at the World Tri Long Course champs, he has a handful of World Tri/ITU results going back to juniors in 2018 but only really started racing long-course pro last year.
So what happened here? Of course, credit to him for grabbing the opportunity. The group of Europeans in the front took advantage of the bike and worked together to open up a gap. Of course, also, they were able to do that because some big names were missing (Men’s Nice is in two weeks, so it’s a harder schedule to stack; where the men’s field got somewhat watered down for a number of reasons, the women’s field did not), some other big names were sick post-Singapore (so so so so many stomach bugs coming out of the Asia Open). And then there was the DQ.
The controversy: Lionel Sanders was DQ’d for crossing over the white line when making a pass. There are just two problems: 1. He says (and it appears confirmed) there was no actual white line on the road where he made the pass—it was a narrow one-lane, fully closed road. So he crossed an imaginary white line. 2. That’s still fine, we’re all certainly aware of the center line rule and it’s possible he made a dangerous pass. But if that center line rule applies when there is no actual line and the road is single lane and fully closed, then that has to be clearly communicated. And. And! I think the thing that’s stressing out everyone, is that there were other athletes who were very obviously passing over a non-imaginary center line on the broadcast and weren’t penalized.
I get it: The broadcast team is not the officiating team, they can’t be everywhere. I also get it: Shit happens. And I 100% think there’s zero basis for any argument that this was deliberate or Ironman hates Lionel; I mean that just doesn’t even make any sense — Lionel is good business for them, and also you think (on an actual practical level) that Andrew Messick like tells the head ref to have it out for so-and-so who then tells the individual refs on the ground?? Realistically, that’s not likely.
But, still, we gotta get it together as a sport.
Taylor Knibb - 3:53:01
Kat Matthews - 3:57:04
Imogen Simmonds - 3:57:55
Emma Pallant-Browne - 3:58:34
Paula Findlay - 4:00:31
Rico Bogen - 3:32:21
Fred Funk - 3:33:25
Jan Stratmann - 3:34:10
Mathis Margirier - 3:35:04
Josh Lewis - 3:36:44
See full results here.
Is it just a rough year for everyone?
My unscientific analysis is: yes.
Partially I think it’s a product of: the last three years were rough for everyone differently in very specific ways, and that’s built up for a lot of people. Partially, I also think, for athletes, the condensed Olympic timeline and the packed long-course schedule/two Ironman WCs last year just set them up for not enough rest or recovery, and too much too fast. Partially, it’s also just that shit happens sometimes when you’re a pro athlete.
But there’s a reason so many athletes don’t say too much too publicly, don’t want to get into the details of injuries or illnesses or changes until they’re in the rearview. They don’t want to deal with all the internet commentators and hot takes and opinions. Some athletes say ‘we’ll see’ because they aren’t 100% sure yet and they don’t think they owe you their thought process. Some athletes have whole teams and well-produced promos to manage their ups and downs. Some will answer every question you have upfront, sometimes it depends. Some of them will be full of confidence and everyone thinks they’re funny and great, and some of them are full of confidence and they get called a ‘bitch.’ (If only I could put my finger on the difference between those two.)
So, anyway, that’s why, instead, we end up with vague manufactured Instagram shots from most of the athletes, and why so many are having rough years but we don’t really hear all the details until later. Because we’ve shown them we can’t have nice things.
Rest of the results
Super League - London: The Super League season is off and running. And exactly seven people understand the new team system. But what we all understand is it is exciting af. And also, the British are very very good at this kind of racing.
Xterra U.S. Champs: Other end of the spectrum: The U.S. Xterra championships happened in Colorado (and, if you think, ‘I could do that’, here is Tim O’Donnell’s description of the race). Sullivan Middaugh, son of Xterra legend Josiah Middaugh (who won 15 of these), won. And Lesley Paterson made us all feel like we could be doing more with our lives by following up her Oscar win with an Xterra national champs win.
Men’s Nice (aka. The Ironman World Championship - Nice): Thorsten has a preview out. We’re heading to France (again) on Wednesday, and we’ll talk about what to expect next week. I mean, honestly, WHO KNOWS WHAT TO EXPECT.
Some interesting things in our sports you should know about this week.
UTMB is happening!! No, I can not follow all the various acronym races. Yes, it is chaos and rain. But I can follow the fact that the major UTMB race is super competitive and super huge. And I am pumped for the men (Tom Evans’ year?!) and the women (omg, is Courtney Dauwalter going to succeed in the triple-ish crown!) and it will all be televised live. And to kick us off: A former pro cyclist won the TDS 90-mile race. He says cycling is easier. (Instagram/Triathlonish/iRunFar/UTMB Live)
And, just in case you weren’t pumped enough about runners running, the Track & Field World Champs brought all the drama. You can get all the recaps — including the best distance runner of all time — on Citius. But my new favorite interviewer in the sport: Real Talk With Tee. (Instagram/Olympics/Citius/Instagram)
An age-grouper died during the swim of the women’s race at Worlds. I’m not sure, yet, whether deaths are more frequent right now or we’re just hearing about them more. Looking into it. (Triathlon Canada)
There was an age-group-only race in Chicago this weekend. (The Chicago Triathlon used to be the biggest race in the world; but they got rid of pros awhile ago.) The swim was canceled because of dangerous waves. (ABC7)
It’s being reported that the problem with the Paris Test Event’s swim was that there was a leaky sewer valve upstream, which is supposed to prevent rainwater overflowing the sewers and being discharged into the river. Except—and I can not emphasize this enough—there was no rain between the individual races and the start of the para race. (Reuters)
Only one team finished One Water Race this year. Whew. (Instagram)
Ironman announced there will be a new 70.3 in the Dominican Republic. (Dominican Republic)
Triton (the three-day triathlon race) has a new event in Brazil. (Endurance Sportswire)
Otillo is officially in the U.S. now. The Ironman of Swimrun (metaphorically, not literally) bought out a majority stake of Swimrun USA (which runs all the big U.S. races). There will now be five U.S. Otillo races next year, with new events planned. And the only question left is who will be my partner? And will I ever learn how to say Otillo? (Otillo)
UCI is moving its esports world championship off Zwift to MyWhoosh. Now, go and Google MyWhoosh. (CyclingNews)
An interesting profile of what it’s been like to be Shelby Houlihan the last couple years. I know, yes, mathematically, she probably is guilty of doping. But. Man, if you’re not, if you have no idea wtf this drug is they’re accusing you of, then you wouldn’t have a good explanation and you wouldn’t know what to say and it would suck like hell. (Washington Post)
Des Linden & Kara Goucher talked all things doping on their podcast. (Libsyn)
A new rule, as of Jan. 1, 2024, will ban an opioid painkiller. What effect do painkillers have on performance? (Outside)
H&M has a cycling collection now. Which is something. (Bicycling)
A fundraiser for long-time videographer Greg Browning, who is dealing with ALS. (GoFundMe)
I wrote a story this week that went kind of viral because it combined things everyone loves: wine country in California, crazy extreme races, and gross infections. (KQED)
One last thing
The fun thing about track is it can be digested almost entirely in IG-sized bites.