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#26: Rich guys, media motos, and fundamental flaws
So long to a legend.
issue #26: March 15, 2023
All sporters: This is your free weekly Wednesday newsletter. Just so you know, I didn’t love the way results were formatting and overloading the last few weeks’ newsletters (plus, it’s not really my niche), so I went back to condensing the top results. I’m working on adding some more sections and info to Triathlonish.com so you can find all that in one place, but if you’re ever looking for results the PTO has the best aggregator database.
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Now, it’s absolutely pouring rain here and we have a lot of smaller things to cover—no big hot take—so let’s get down to it.
Who owns triathlon?
This last week, I spent a lot of time trying to understand what went down with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. In part because it was a big bank in the community where I live; in part because it may have rippling effects out into a number of industries we’re all connected to since the bank backed so many tech companies & start-ups; and in part because I think the rich guy VC model has fundamental flaws.
Which brings us to: the rich guys who back triathlon.
Of course, rich guys can put their money behind whatever they want to put their money behind. Of course, I’m (usually) glad that thing is triathlon. Of course, many of them are also going to want a return on their investment eventually and are betting there’s a viable model in here somewhere. But, if you start making a diagram of who sits on who’s boards and who is invested in which companies, well, you get a lot of criss-crossing lines across our sports. FYI.
Triathlete didn’t get into all those charts—the names and details get super deep weeds super quickly—but they did do a primer every triathlete should read on who is funding which of the major tri brands. Get up to speed.
Media v. media bikes
Challenge Roth announced this week they’re taking new steps to combat drafting, including (most notably) getting rid of outside motos, including third-party photographers. But, they’ll retain broadcast motos as a kind of exception. (They’ll also be increasing the number of refs, doing more thorough referee training, and getting rid of the 1km penalty loop but adding micro-time penalties.)
There were lots of thoughts and feelings about this. And pros always have lots of thoughts and feelings about broadcast motos. If you ever want to get pros riled up, give them some drinks and ask them about motos.
I’m always a bit mixed on the topic, though. OK, let’s decrease drafting. But, then, let’s acknowledge broadcast motos aren’t the biggest problem when it comes to drafting and, even if somehow they are (they’re not), they’re a necessary part of a professional sport. Packaged shows and docs and Youtubes are great, but there’s a reason we’re all starting to get a little bored.
If you want to make money as a pro, you need to have a pro sport with followers. To have a pro sport that people can follow, you need live coverage (both broadcast and photos and actual written words). To have live coverage, you need cameras. If, instead, you want to just ride your bike by yourself with no one around, that’s cool, but that’s something else and I’m not sure that thing is a job that pays money.
READ: Something every tri media brand should ask themselves first: Who is triathlon’s audience?
I don’t think it was a shock to anyone who talked to her last year but Mirinda Carfrae retiring deserves its own blurb.
During early COVID, I had this idea that we’d do a whole series called The Lost Years: profile all the pros and what the lost seasons meant for them, high-quality photos, NYT-style storytelling, etc. At the time, I talked to Rinny about getting pregnant with her second kid and how the timing just sorta made sense then, how she planned to come back for the next IM World Champs. I don’t know if you all remember to way back when she last raced Kona in 2019, but it didn’t go her way. She said, at the time and in the months after, that she would have retired then but she wanted one more go at the Big Island.
That didn’t quite work out. Tim had a heart attack, life happens, you don’t get to decide how it goes always. And she would have been the first to tell you she didn’t have the deep fire last year that you need to have in order to go to the places you need to go to if you want to race for the podium in Kona. She wanted to chill out and spend time with her kids instead. You can do it however you want to do it, it doesn’t have to look one way, and you can always change your mind.
None of that changes the fact, though, that she moved the sport forward. Women’s sports performance often jumps forward in leaps and spurts. Partially because of the centuries of history and catch up we have to play, and partially because it takes seeing what’s possible to believe it’s possible. Rinny showed what could be done on the run. She won four world titles and podiumed seven times at Kona. (That’s a lot of times.) And her comeback in 2014 was epic.
Well done, so long, thanks for everything, and we’ll see you at the parties now.
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Photo: Courtesy of CLASH
Results from the weekend
CLASH Miami: These racetrack races really do seem to come down to who can just bang out a flat fast run in the heat. And Jason West is very good at that. His time has come. He was able to run down everyone, including Tom Bishop—best known for flying all over the world trying to rack up British Olympic points. This was, presumably, very exciting to watch and we’re supposed to get to see it soon in a post-race doc show. Sam Long was 4th and seems to have headed back to Arizona instead of on to the Challenge race in Chile. And on the women’s side: Get to know Lucy Byram, the latest Brit star out of the Leeds contingent, who took her third pro win in just the start of her second pro year.
Other tri results
I don’t, generally, follow WTS Continental Cups, but Katie Zaferes took second in Sarasota this weekend. A quick turnaround post-Abu Dhabi and a learning step in her return, which I hope keeps building block by block, even if getting back to racing postpartum is harder than she expected.
The latest Zwift Arena Games also happened. The most notable outcome being that Henri Schoeman is back and won what he definitely was predicted to win.
Mark your calendar
WATCH: Nothing has livestreams this weekend, so good luck with results trackers.
Lanzarote 70.3: Anne Haug and Emma Pallant-Browne will match-up in this hard, windy, hilly, early season half. And Daniel Baekkegard will try to follow-up his third place in Miami.
Challenge Puerto Varas: The other half of the Miami field headed to Chile, including our own Laura Siddall taking on defending Chile champ Haley Chura and the newly crowned Lucy Byram. On the men’s side, Tom Bishop will try to top the podium this weekend, but he’ll have another run battle from Matt Hanson.
Oceanside 70.3: The biggest race announcement of the week, though, was the start list for Oceanside on April 1. That’s because once Jan Frodeno announced he was racing, then 72 other pro men decided they also needed to be in California. And it looks like the women picked up the Cali bug, too: Chelsea Sodaro, Paula Findlay, Holly Lawrence, and interestingly Kat Matthews appears to be making her racing return before IM Texas.
The PTO has all the latest results and the most updated start lists.
The Barkley Marathons has officially started. In classic fashion, the only real results and tracking are via poor updates on Twitter, there’s lots of secrecy and code and inside jokes you have to know about to get, and it’s all very deliberately confusing and obtuse. But this might be the year! Plus, the photos. (TrailRunner/Twitter/Instagram)
For all long-course triathlon results, the PTO’s website is really the best aggregator of all the latest races, including ones you didn’t even know existed. (Interestingly, because the new rankings/points are a straightforward calculation post-race now, ProTriNews is actually getting the post-race points math done first sometimes.) Plus, the PTO’s upcoming races section also lists the new Strength of Field factor going into each start. Fun fact: Now that we’ve had a few races under this new system, I’ve noticed the SOF is almost always lower for the women’s field than the men’s. I suspect, mathematically, it’s a product of the fact that there are fewer female pros overall, so if you need a certain number of pros to factor in for a SOF ranking, you start to hit up against the reality that there’s fewer of them so they get spread thinner across the races. But I haven’t totally worked it out yet. We’ll see how the SOF plays out at the big events. (PTO/Triathlonish/Instagram)
So many moments at NCAA Indoor Champs this past weekend. (Fast Women)
MidSouth is a big gravel race. It also happened this weekend. It’s a big deal in the world of people who ride bikes while wearing jorts. “Former” triathlete Heather Jackson took third, meaning she’s really nailing it in the run + bike world. And Rach McBride won the nonbinary division. (VeloNews/Instagram)
Get to know the other half of the duo who both took the first Super League Arena Games titles a few weeks ago (and my dark horse pick for a LA2028 podium): NASA engineer & pro triathlete, Gina Sereno. (Triathlete)
Kara Goucher’s new tell-all book is out—my copy is in the mail—and this interview with her is fascinating. FYI: There are a number of pro triathletes whose books I would ghost write in a second; hit me up. (Women’s Running)
Triathlon’s official shoe reporter—sorry, Tim, that’s your title now—has two big bits of news for us:
1. It has been confirmed that the protest filed against Gustav Iden’s shoes was filed by the Norwegians, themselves, and was dismissed because the shoes are legal (which I still maintain the team knew and was just getting publicly confirmed).
2. Penny Slater (who took third at IM S. Africa after the finish line DQ of Justine Mathieux) seems to have outed herself on Instagram as wearing the On Cloudmonsters during that race—which are, apparently, not on the confirmed approved shoe list and which she clearly didn’t know. I also did not know that. I was actually not 100% sure shoes had to be on the approved shoe list; I was under the impression shoes had to be legal per the World Athletics stack height rule and weren’t allowed to be prototypes—and that the list was simply a confirmation of current shoes that meet those requirements. So it wasn’t that the shoes have to be on the list; it was that the shoes on the list were all current models confirmed legal. But it seems like maybe I totally misunderstood. Me and half the pros. (Twitter/World Athletics)
Challenge welcomed the Barcelona Triathlon into its family, with a new short-distance pro race. (Endurance Sportswire)
Ironman “announced” its Latin American schedule—which, again, are all races I’m pretty sure we already knew existed, but I really just appreciate the marketing genius of putting out your own press releases for something that’s not new. (Ironman)
The Para World Tri series starts this weekend in Australia. Full schedule here. (Twitter)
Third-place at Strade Bianche (a big bike race) was DQ’d for wearing a continuous glucose monitor. Which seems stupid on many levels. (CyclingWeekly)
Different labs and scientists who care about this kind of thing are testing ways to make a continuous cortisol monitor. Because that’s what we need. (MDPI)
Envol is trying to build a Swimrun partnering app, like Tindr. (GoFundMe)
Zwift laid off 15% of its workforce to focus on product/hardware instead. (DC Rainmaker)
National media picked up on the fact that some former top Biden official’s location data could be figured out via AllTrails. And I feel like every national media outlet needs a reporter who understands how training and hiking apps work. You guys, I can find almost anything online, stop thinking it’s a secret. (VICE)
Rules restricting broadcast media and race coverage in running are limiting running’s appeal. See also: triathlon. (Outside)
Climate change is amplifying human-wildlife conflict. (Nature)
One last thing
Just an idea.