Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My email to the Clearwater 70.3 Race Organizers

Clearwater Ironman 70.3 Team,

I just participated wrapped up my 1st season of Triathlon’s by competing at your amazing event this past Saturday in Clearwater. I wanted to provide some feedback and ask a question that will help me in my preparation for the 2010 season.

I qualified for this race in Muskoka on September 13, 2009. I was blown away by the Muskoka event, the atmosphere, the course, the athletes, the fans, the organization, it was all amazing. I then began planning my trip to Clearwater and training for the World Championship.

The Ironman World Championships 70.3 - an awesome Brand
This event is the jewel in a sparkling crown for the Ironman 70.3 race series. The 70.3 brand depends on the success of this event as the entire race series draws athletes who are vying for a spot in the World Championships. From what I could tell you (the race organizers) took every step to make this event spectacular and I give you full credit for it. The location, the amazing setup, the volunteers, the ability to adjust to adverse weather conditions, absolutely everything was top notch.

The Problem
Unfortunately the execution of the event failed with regards to the enforcement of the rules on the bike course. There was an outright disregard for the drafting rules which spread to more than 25% of competitors; my estimation based on what I saw on the course – I started at the end of Wave 12 and had a mediocre swim – I passed hundreds of people on the bike course posting the 4th fastest time amongst amateurs 2:05.

Not only did I see individual drafting occurring, but I saw large packs of 20 or more cyclists working together. I got stuck at the back of a pack myself for a bit after the half way turn around. When my pack tried to pass a slower pack - one larger slower pack of over 50 riders was formed. It was at this point that I saw my 1st race official who sped to the front of the log jam and began yelling at people to break it up before taking notes. I did not see any violation cards handed out.

I put in a monster effort to break away from the pack and finished up the final 20 miles in front of that pack. However, some of the people in the pack who I typically would put 5-10 minutes into from the point I broke away until the end of the course, finished up less than 30 seconds behind me; which is extremely discouraging. Needless to say I was completely spent for the run but take pride in having followed the rules.

The Solution
Fortunately, there are ways to correct the problem and to restore the shine back to this Diamond of an event (in my eyes at least

1. Make it a draft legal event (I don’t like this one) this way all competitors know what to expect from the start. As a draft legal event athletes would be forced to use draft legal bikes thus increasing the safety which is sorely lacking when packs of riders are leaning into their aero bars.

2. Enforce the Rules!!! Hire out more motorcycles and get well trained officials who are not afraid to impose violations and even possibly make mistakes. You could find leaders from local bike teams who will easily be able to spot drafting. I am sure that all of the competitors would be happy to spend an extra $5 each for the additional costs to ensure that the event is as fair as possible.

The Question
Do you have any plans to address the drafting violations for the 2010 event?

Thank you,

Bruce Bird



  1. Bruce,
    The number one reason why I'll never, never, never, never-ever do Clearwater is that it's a notorious draftfest. I'm much less diplomatic than you... it's an embarassment to the sport. Even if you ride clean (possible, but difficult), your effort will still be tainted due to the overt cheating of so many. The cheaters need to caught, shamed, ridiculed and DQ'd.
    S. Ontario has so many good races with such little BS, I'm thinking of sticking around here. Was thinking of boycotting WTC all togethor, but that Muskoka IS a good race. Well that and I want rematch. :)

  2. Darren, the local races are great. I cc'ed Mitch and Janet on the email, I think that it is important for them to know as they are feeding into that event.
    I hope to get the answer I need from the Clearwater team, and I expect to. They have too much riding on the success of the Clearwater Race not to do the right thing. I will post the answer when I get it.
    I went down to Clearwater to measure myself against the World and as a result of the cheating I have no real way of knowing where I stand.