#33: Some joke about Ibiza
Get your laptops ready.
issue #33: May 3, 2023
All-sporters, sadly, I am the only triathlete not in Ibiza. But this past week I did go to the NBA playoffs instead, and it was one of the more intense sporting experiences I have ever spectated (and that includes the Olympics). I was worried someone in our nose-bleed section might have a heart attack from sheer intensity of emotion (and also because they seemed like they might have a heart attack).
Which is something our sports could learn: You don’t get the spectacle and the millions of dollars and the passion based off vaguely inspirational marketing. You get it from flames coming out of the ground and screaming fans chanting inappropriate things and real rivalries that aren’t made up and all that other stuff.
On that note, I made these women’s ‘vaguely inspirational’ t-shirts because I thought it was funny. (We can be many things other than vaguely inspirational, in case you were wondering.) I opened them up at cost to paying subscribers this past weekend, but have just a handful left now, so opening up to everyone.
We also announced the first Triathlonish Book Club for paying subscribers. More details TK.
Now, the news of the week.
Partying with the PTO
This weekend is the biggest weekend of racing we’ve had so far this year. It might end up being the biggest weekend of the year, period, in a general across-the-board sense.
First up: Eye-bee-tha. The island that has made the Europeans think they invented 20-somethings getting drunk on vacation.
The first PTO Tour race of the year is this Saturday morning in Ibiza (Friday night here in California), with $100K to the winner. Since the changes to the PTO structure earlier this year, prize money drops off drastically after that—just $50K to second place and $35K to third. In case you thought nailing that one project at your job was high stress/high cost.
There are a few last minute updates to the highly exclusive start list: Due to “personal reasons,” Sam Laidlow will not be there. (Instagram Stories, so no link.) Personal reasons is also why I am not there. Patrick Lange has announced he’s out, sick. Everyone’s favorite finish line speech-maker, Youri Keulen, is in now. And on the women’s side, Kat Matthews has said she’s officially off the PTO start list and is instead making her shot (taking her shot?) at the World Triathlon Long-Distance World Championship title. More on that in a moment. And, if I trafficked in pure rumor, which I do not, then there is one going around that Laura Philipp is also sick—a rumor she was not happy about.
Thorsten has put together a preview here and his ratings/rankings here. Sid & I covered it extensively on the podcast, too. But, in short, here’s my mini cheat sheet for you:
Jan v. Kristian: I mean that’s what we’ve all been waiting for, right? For nigh on three years now. Jan Frodeno v. Kristian Blummenfelt.
Except. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if, instead, that other Olympic gold medalist, Ali Brownlee, is finally uninjured and takes it to them. Or if Magnus Ditlev just delivers on the talent he’s been showing. Or if Cam Wurf wild cards it up and blows out the field on the bike (presuming he can catch up to the field after the swim). Any of those things would be amazing. But also, my money’s on Kristian.
Now, not to downplay the whole world champ v. world champ (v. world champ) thing in the men’s field, but there are (by my count) four world champions in the women’s field. Plus also a lot of people who can/have beat them. With Kat moving over to the World Triathlon race instead, you now have only nine of the top ten ranked athletes in the world racing head-to-head (pshaw, only nine!): Ashleigh Gentle, Daniela Ryf, Anne Haug, Chelsea Sodaro, Holly Lawrence, Paula Findlay, Lucy Charles-Barclay, Laura Philipp, and Emma Pallant-Browne. And, then, I also think it would be amazing if Tamara Jewett just runs through them all.
It’s hard to have a favorite pick for this one. We simply do not ever have this kind of a field of stars across different distances. Sure, we’ll see some of the long-course women battle it out more in form perhaps in Kona, but we probably won’t see all of these women all at once again this year. Probably. The women also have more mid-distance/100K/70.3 specialists than the men’s field, so it’s sometimes hard to predict how the longer-course athletes will do against those three-hour racers. See: Ashleigh simply could not be beat at this distance last year—so you have to somewhat favor her. But (contradicting what I just said), IMO, Daniela seems ready to lay it down. Purely me speculating wildly.
Think I’m wrong? Want to play fantasy tri? Obsessed Triathlete has a fantasy game going. Full PTO European Open start lists here.
How to watch:
Saturday, May 6 at 2 a.m. ET/Friday at 11 p.m. PT: Airing live on broadcast (depending on where you are) and streaming free live on PTO+ here in the U.S.
The other races this weekend
World Triathlon Multisport Festival: I will now attempt to explain thing #2 for the weekend—ie. what is a multisport festival.
The PTO race is happening in conjunction with and during the World Triathlon Multisport World Championship Festival in Ibiza. This is, basically, the world championships for everything that isn’t standard Olympic-distance or sprint-distance triathlon or mixed relay. That makes it the world champs for duathlon, aquathon, cross tri (ie. unbranded Xterra), and World Tri’s long-distance (ie. unbranded Ironman but slightly shorter).
Hot take: I have mixed feelings about this whole thing where we stick the best pro racing in the world into an open slot on an off day for age-group racing at some “festival” thing. It doesn’t seem like it works the way anyone wants it to.
There are real world titles on the line here and a chance to represent your country. The World Triathlon Long Distance World Champs, held on Sunday morning, also offers decent prize money and PTO points for the rankings. This is why some athletes—Kat Matthews, Joe Skipper, Ruth Astle—have opted for the Long Distance World Champs race in Ibiza instead of the PTO European Open also in Ibiza. (Kat explains it well here.)
No, you can’t do both. Due to a World Tri rule about having 24 hours between races at these festival things.
How to watch: Sunday, May 7 at 1:50 a.m. ET/Saturday at 10:50 p.m PT on TriathlonLive
N. American 70.3 Championships: And then, of course, because triathlon’s gonna triathlon, we also have the N. American regional championships at St. George 70.3, with a number of strong Americans and Canadians opting for the prize money, podium potential, and points available closer to home. See: Sam Long v. Lionel Sanders, as we often do here.
How to watch: Saturday, May 6 at 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT on Outside Watch
And just because: Ironman Australia & Marbella 70.3 are also happening with pro fields.
Clear as mud?
A semi-brief doping primer
(Not a ‘how to.’)
As the internet discoursed last week, following Collin Chartier’s bust for EPO, one thing became evident to me: We should really cover some basics first. As in, it seems like a primer on how the anti-doping system works (or doesn’t!) would help a lot of people form a foundation before having opinions. Not that that’s stopped anyone before.
Sorry if this is boring and/or you already know it all, but let’s go to the beginning:
World Triathlon is the international governing body for triathlon; each country that signs on with World Tri has their own national governing body (USAT, TriCan, British Tri).
World Tri is a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) signatory, which means to be a full national governing body under World Tri you also have to comply with WADA regulations. Those involve, obviously, following the rules about what’s banned (!) and also a certain amount of testing. (The testing part is the fuzzier part; some countries run more thorough programs—see Norway’s explanation here—and some do not.)
While in-competition testing is often conducted by race or event organizers, it’s the out-of-competition testing that’s more complicated and that is necessary in order to actually catch cheaters. To be effective, out-of-competition testing requires a pool of athletes to be eligible and to update their daily whereabouts so they can be tested (typically, they’re required to designate an hour each day when they’ll definitely be in a set spot; many of them pick 6 a.m. because they know they’ll be asleep), and for testers to be paid to go to those athletes, gather samples, and then for those to be processed in a lab. None of that is cheap.
For many Olympic sports, operating all out-of-competition testing pools through the national governing bodies works OK. However, the challenge for triathlon is that the national governing bodies are focused primarily on short-course and Olympic athletes (because that’s where they get their funding from). So, then the long-distance triathletes can get missed.
That’s where the individual long-course race organizers have come in to operate their own out-of-competition testing. Primarily, Ironman. Since 2005, Ironman has also been a WADA signatory, following WADA rules and protocols, and operating their own WADA-approved out-of-competition testing pool. However, the PTO, for example, is not a WADA signatory and does not operate an out-of-competition testing pool.
As an aside: Both World Tri and Ironman contract with the International Testing Agency to run their programs.
You can see, basically, where this gets complicated. Out-of-competition testing is necessary. It is also expensive. It also requires someone to manage and oversee it. Many top athletes, especially short-course triathletes, are in the testing pools of their national governing bodies—which vary in effectiveness. Some long-course athletes are in the Ironman testing pool either in addition or in place of; some are not. There is not some other overarching testing system for all athletes.
There was very little out-of-competition testing from anyone in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID. You can see Ironman testing numbers here and World Tri’s 2021 report here. (You can also try to weed through the entire WADA numbers for all sports.)
If I was going to overhaul or reform this system, I’d argue:
There needs to be coordination and, ideally, one agency managing the various out-of-competition testing pools and making sure both that no athlete is missed and that there isn’t unnecessary (and expensive) doubling up on athletes.
Testing is simply a numbers game. You’re never going to be able to test everyone all the time. You can’t police everyone all the time either, and you shouldn’t try. That’s why agencies need to rely also on investigations and tips. (Both Salazar and Lance Armstrong never tested positive; they were brought down by investigations.)
WADA could also reform its code to create harsher penalties, depending on the case. For instance, that you forfeit results xxx number of months preceding a positive test, too. Right now, you only forfeit results after a positive.
Personally, I’m not for lifetime bans for most first offenses, because I think there are too many flaws in the system to guarantee guilt and the standards of liability would never hold up legally in an American court. (Plus, it’s hard for me to say I believe in principles of innocence and due process only when I feel like it.)
A lot of the problem is simply perception, and the legitimacy of anti-doping rests on the majority of athletes believing that most cheaters get caught (which I do think is true in triathlon). That perception would be helped by transparent and timely posting of testing numbers, results, stats all in one place. I know lots of people want TUEs (therapeutic use exemptions) to be public too, but you’d have to hurdle medical privacy laws first.
One last thought: It’s probably important to remember that there isn’t more doping in triathlon this week than there was two weeks ago, you simply know about one of the cases now—and that’s not terrible.
Other race results
St. Anthony’s: This historic race turned into a duathlon (wind!) and Paula Findlay defended her title—pictured above—while Jason West benefited from the lack of a swim to take the tape in his Ibiza warm-up.
World Triathlon’s Multisport World Champs: Since we already explained that there are multiple world championship titles on the line at the Multisport Festival throughout this week, then you should know that the biggest ones already claimed were the Duathlon World Titles: Emma Pallant-Brown and Mario Mola took those home (in some very fast times).
Full updated results for all weekend races on our Results page.
Everything else from around our sports that I think you might want to know about, or that I just think is interesting.
One last doping thing: A thorough interview, with reported context, with Mikal Iden, Collin’s coach and Gustav’s brother. People keep saying that there’s no way Collin could have done it without help and that his coach should have known, but part of me keeps thinking: That assumes he doped successfully. (Triathlete)
And a short history of doping in triathlon. (Triathlete)
In better news: The Paris 2024 Olympic triathlon course was revealed. (Olympics)
A sub-3:00 runner on his way home from the London Marathon died suddenly. (BBC)
Continuing on her tour-of-sports-without-swimming Heather Jackson won the Canyons 50K this past weekend. (The Canyons 100-mile is a UTMB event and the 100K is a golden ticket race. And, no, I can not follow all the ultra trail qualifying systems.) (Instagram/iRunFar)
The UTMB World Series added a new U.S. race in Southern California. (Endurance Sportswire)
You think livestreaming triathlons is hard, how about livestreaming ultra trail races? (Triathlonish/Outside)
The Netflix Tour de France trailer is out. Will this be our Drive to Survive? (Youtube)
There’s also a Patagonaman doc. (Youtube)
The PTO did a nice mini-doc on Jan and Daniela. (Youtube)
Kate Courtney got another Redbull athlete on her podcast, this time it’s Kristian Blummenfelt answering questions about staying flexible. (Redbull)
Sports matter. (New York Times)
And, yes, Giannis’ NBA comments on how there is no failure in sports were nice and true and a healthy outlook on the personal growth that chasing goals offers and something we should all strive for. But, also, yes, it’s a totally fair question to ask a professional athlete if he views his season as a failure when he underperformed on expectations. If you want to be a real sport with real money, you gotta field real questions. (Youtube)
One last thing
How to beat Kristian in Ibiza. (Watch the video.)