Eating an elephant – Addressing the draft situation
There is a saying that if you are to eat an elephant – you do it in pieces. Its a good saying that I think applies to the situation we have in the sport right now with regards to drafting.
My honest and open reactions to what has happened to long distance triathlon during my 18year break has engaged, disturbed and even made some people wake up and realize that there is a problem. Thats great! Im afraid that I lack the capacity to just accept that the sport I love is becoming some kind of mixture between a theme park ride and a marathon.
I am really happy with the fact that so many share my concern, people who spend far too much time on the bike training hard to accept that this can go on.
So to drafting; it has always been a problem but in the past it was a little baby elephant. At Ironman Mallorca I could not believe my eyes how big it had become and naively wrote – the reason I really love Hawaii is that there is no drafting – at least back in my days”.
Then I saw the pictures from Kona in more recent years and started to understand that it’s out of control – which makes sense with the number of participants starting simultaneously (now close to double compared to back when I raced before year 2000).
So what to do – well obviously just stating we have an elephant in the room is a first and important step – to ensure that other people sees it and that there is a desire for change from other athletes as well. That seems to be the case – even if the problem is percived differently depending on your point of reference and experience in the sport. People who was born with a fully grown elephant in the room probably cant even imagine how little a baby elephant is.
Its great to see so many passionate triathletes coming up with ideas of new rules and technologies to be able to (eventually) provide a safe and fair race for everyone. To implement change and eliminate drafting is not rocket science and there is plenty of technology as well as alternative starting processes (for example waves) – thats not the issue.
But that is probably a later step – once a speaking partner from the organizers is identified.
And here is the crux of the situation – what if there is no real interest from the organizers. After trying to contact one of the two large organizers of long distance events, Im starting to realize that I am not the first with the request and not the last – to get no response.
I started to contact anti-draft organizations that I could find that have interest to stop drafting – only to find that they have had the exact same experience. There seems to be very little interest from the large organizers to REALLY do something significant about it.
Perhaps because it has not been presented as a demand from a larger group or organization? Perhaps its because they still sell out the races without the necessary changes and make bucket loads of money.
There is no quick fix solution to drive the changes necessary, it will take time and effort. The more people we are who are really passionate about change and are ready to take a stand (rather than a selfi), the bigger possibility to do something about the situation. I encourage you who have a passion for the sport to at least go to saynotodrafting.org on Facebook and like and share. There are only 3,200 so far which is far too few. A good start is to get a substantial number of people who can represent a demand from the athletes side.
Given the fact that 60% of participants in an Ironman distance race will only do one race puts more responsibility on us who intend to stay in the game until we reach the +95 age group.
Personally have nightmares about my upcomming race in Cozumel – not about the distance, heat, course or race as such – but about the high likelihood that there will be drafting. I dont know if I can witness what I saw in Mallorca again. I just want to be able to race ALONE, I dont want to ride 180km again sprinting to get past big groups or sit back and see the packs go past.
To those who took offence – I am really sorry that I’m putting a big spotlight on the elephant. I just cant live with a elephant in the middle of the room and not say that it’s there. I cant glorify events and organizers that dont want to develop and deliver a fair and safe race as the sport gets bigger – that would not only be stupid, it would be ignorant.
”Mobilizing to be heard” will take big effort and I hope that many will participate – hopefully ITU/ETU will have this as an important topic on their agenda moving forward. I intend to find out. Perhaps its even their elephant?
Have a great week-end,