10min into the ride at Ironman Mallorca, a few weeks back, I was passed by a peleton of 9-10 riders. At the back of the peleton was a fellow Swede who shouted – Go Stockholmspolisen. I was quite confused – I have never seen anybody cheating and cheering at the same time.
According to the rules – I fell back 10meter behind the Peleton and let them continue away. I tried to stay focused and positive and though to myself – a lot of people came out of the water at the same time – people are doing this race individually and know the rules – this was a one off.
10minutes later the next peleton comes by this time there is a Norwegian shouting Go Magnus – he is so close that he can read the name on my race number. Now I get pissed off. I fall back 10meters and keep looking at the Norwegian who is freewheeling at the back of the pack. I launch forward, pass the whole group informing them about the 10meter rule. No-one reacts to the fact that I am shouting to them – they just look away.
I push hard and stay 20meters ahead of the group until we come out on the flat and a slight headwind. They overtake me again using the advantage of working as a group.
I fall back, charge and again pass them this time I convey a more direct message in a language that for many would be considered explicit and perhaps even insulting (to say the least) – but interestingly enough no-one seams to understand what I am saying this time either.
Finally I see marshals on motorcycles and point at the peleton behind me – they make a sign to the group to break up and then drive away. The group remains and passes me again.
We do this 6 times until 80km into the race. At this point we hit the road going back towards Alcudia, my legs are fried from the intervals passing the group and we now have a long straight into the headwind. The peleton has grown even bigger and I am alone 20-30 meters behind. To my amazement the group is not breaking up even as they go into the city, it seems that theyre not ashamed of their obvious cheating not even the fact that the spectators will see them coming into the city as a pack.
Photo from last years Ironman Mallorca 2014 (not Tour de France!!) – sure hope these guys are proud of themselves when they cross the finish line.
How can people look themselves in the mirror after a race like this? Can you enjoy a fast bike split and when you know that you have broken the rules? Can you argue convincingly to yourself – everyone else did it, I was not alone in the peleton? Can you enjoy a qualification to Hawaii if you drafted and really did not earn the place?
In this race, for the first time in my life, my motivation, drive and passion sank like a stone. I was starting to think that perhaps the sport has changed and its not about a fair race against yourself and the clock anymore. Perhaps I am living in the past when there was pride riding it alone.
Perhaps the new ironmen plan their race well in a different way; get a good ride in the pack, take some risks at the first half – enjoy the shade and rest in the recovery area (also called penalty box .) if they get caught, they make sure to be more careful when the second half of the group ride. I dont know – personally I would get so embarrassed and humiliated if I ever had a single yellow card or a warning that I would probably quit the sport.
This finally brings me to the question: Why do people spend >8 000 on super aerodynamic bikes, wheels and helmet when they are drafting? It would be safer for them if they used normal road bikes. That would also free up cash so that they could buy illegal performance enhancing drugs (if they are not already using that as well to cheat ) and really maximize their time?
My motivation to get the best bike on the market ARGON 18 E-118 http://www.argon18bike.com was to get every possible advantage to be able to go as fast as possible using less energy against the wind- ALONE. Im really amazed with the development of bikes that has happened since I last raced in 1998 and the way the E-118 really cuts through the wind compared to the clunky bikes of the 90thies.
Speaking to the Ironman Europe Managing Director, Paul Huddle after the race made me realize that when we raced, in the 90ties, races were much smaller and fewer. This obviously made it possible to get competitors spread out easier but also the informal marshaling was simpler – it was to a large degree the same guys racing in the handful of Ironman races across the world and we all knew if someone was a cheater and those who did got a reputation (not a positive one…)
For the future – I hope that Ironman Corporation will come up with a way to make the races fair. It would not take a rocket scientist to come up with a device that similar to the RFID chip around our ankle, can be mounted on the bike to monitor your proximity to other riders. If they do it smart they can even equip it with GPS so that you can follow riders remotely on the web – and see who are sitting in packs and who are fighting alone, like you are supposed to.
Until then – I will train harder on the swim to get further ahead of the packs and get back into a better bike shape that I have ever been. From now on I will only do races that are extremely hilly and windy where cheating wheel suckers have less of advantage. Hello again Lanzarote! – It seams that Ill be coming back. I know I promised never to return (after the two IVs after the finish 1997) all is forgotten, all is forgiven and at least the run is not up on the motorway anymore!
This is why I love Ironman Hawaii (at least back in my days)! The Marshalls did hell of a good job – it was really an individual race! Perhaps that is why so many don’t have bike splits anywhere near their qualification times….