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Why race Roth?

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

There is much media attention surrounding Daniela’s (Ryf) decision to race Challenge Roth and how this will affect the rest of her season:

  • Will Daniela (Ryf) be going for the record at Roth?

  • Why is she racing Roth at all?

  • How will she validate for Kona?

  • Is she going to race Zurich next week as well?

  • But what about the 70.3 World’s in Australia?

  • Will she still go for the Triple Crown?

Let’s address the following questions one at a time. Because they raise broader issues here than one individual athlete’s season.

Firstly, no the Angry Bird will not be going for the World Record at Roth. In fact I will be very surprised if she even wins the race. Up until this Monday she was not recovered from hypothermia suffered at Ironman Frankfurt two weeks ago. So I’ll be happy if she completes the course with no mishaps.

Does Daniela have the ability to one day break Chrissie’s magical record? Yes. She’s THAT good. But it will require a changing of training focus to exclusive Ironman distance, which is difficult while still balancing the needs 70.3 racing.

Then why race Roth at all? When Daniela joined our squad as a possible Rio team-mate for Nicola in late 2013 she was on the verge of retiring; disillusioned by poor form and constant sickness.

She had lost her love for the sport that she’d dedicated her young life to. In an effort to get her back to top form we agreed her racing would never be so pressured and to enjoy all the positive experiences that triathlon does offer. Three World Championships, a Kona win and a Triple Crown later and I would say this approach has served her quite well.

Roth is an iconic and great race. Roth is a fun race. So the question is not why she’s racing it, but why she shouldn’t be?

Under my watch 2016 will be a fun year. If that means aerobics classes and yoga so be it. University studies and home life will help keep the Bird grounded. Dec. 12, 2015

BUT THEN WHAT ABOUT KONA!!!? What about it? We tried to fit it in and make it work, but Daniela is not the only athlete whose Kona preparation this year has been disrupted because of a lack of organisation at Ironman events.

Having Championships Titles on each continent (Asia-Pacific, North and South America, Africa and Europe) is a wonderful concept. But it’s very difficult to run a professional athletic preparation off the basis of an amateur race series.

Championship Races The situation that has affected athletes trying to qualify through ‘Championships’ in 2016: The North American Championships (Ironman Texas) were so bungled that no-one even knew if the race was even going to be held until a couple of weeks beforehand.

April 16 IRONMAN Texas athletes, please see the below message regarding the 2016 race. We are committed to having the event on May 14. Thank you for your continued patience as we have worked diligently to secure a bike course for the 2016 Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship Texas...

April 30 Dear IRONMAN Athletes, Everyone at IRONMAN would like to thank you once again for your patience regarding the uncertainty with the 2016 Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship Texas bike course. While we had !nalized details for a new approved 112- mile bike course late last week...

May 4 Dear IRONMAN Athletes, As previously communicated, IRONMAN has evaluated all possible bike course options with local stakeholders and is unable to replace the mileage that was lost due to the recent flooding...

May 13 Dear IRONMAN Athletes – As we approach race day we wanted to give you an update following the standard pre-race water quality tests. It has been determined that the canal portion of the Woodlands Waterway near the planned swim finish is not currently suitable for swimming...

How can a professional athlete be expected to effectively plan their training season and Kona prep around that?

Then at the South American Championships (Ironman Brazil) drafting was so endemic and ridiculous you had accomplished veteran athletes vowing never to race there again.

Athletes like 10x Ironman winner and bike animal Ronnie Schildknecht racing the Championship for Kona points left frustrated as a peloton jumped on each other’s wheels with no officiating to be seen.

The reaction of professional veterans after Ironman Brazil.

Meanwhile, at the African Championships the leading woman (Jodie Swallow) was blown off the bike by the race helicopter and broke her elbow.

Jodie would be back at Ironman Cairns.

Finally, at the European Championships two weeks ago (Ironman Frankfurt) nearly half the female contenders for the pro podium suffered hypothermia because a decision to not wear wetsuits that left several in hospital. Those who survived the swim then had to deal with a bike that was comically unfair.

For those thinking ‘this must be a bit of an exaggeration...’

Here is the recap from the race WINNER Melissa Hauschildt explaining why she won’t race here again:

That’s how the winner felt. So you can imagine the feedback in private from those who went there to try and qualify for Kona and had their race ruined.

These are just the ‘Championship’ races; I could list 10 other events that have had farcical decisions that have a!ected athletes in their Kona build up.

My hope had always been that with the Wanda Group’s acquisition of WTC they would look to revamp the Ironman series and remove a last century mentality into creating a plan to secure triathlon’s position within the global sports calendar for the next 30 years.

Instead, it’s bush league. No shake up at the top. No ‘we will be doing better in the future’. The coverage has stayed the same. The drafting is worse. The mistakes amplified. And because the people running such races don’t actually understand the sport they are administrating, the bigger problem is they don’t seem to realise that there is a problem at all.

No-one is saying that it is easy. Or that mistakes won’t be made in running events. Of course they will. All I’m suggesting is that if mistakes are made that affect say, a Daniela Ryf’s build up to defending Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Titles then you try to learn from them.

Instead, here is a list of professional DNF’s at Frankfurt. Many the result of hypothermia after a non-wetsuit swim:

  • Victor Del Corral

  • Joe Gambles

  • Christian Brader

  • Thomas Bosch

  • Astrid Stienen

  • Michal Volejnik

  • Bas Diederen

  • Ivan Risti

  • Clemente Alonso-Mckernan Marton Flander

  • Daniela Ryf

  • Gilian Oriet Gudmund Snilstveit

  • Alfred Rahm

  • Kristin Moeller

  • Diana Riesler

  • Rayco Marrero Avero

  • Remmert Wielinga

Yet at the very same Awards ceremony, to the complete disbelief of the pros who had just competed (and nearly every single person I have spoken to at the event since), organisers congratulated themselves on a well run, incident free event!

As such they didn’t feel the need to place one phone call asking about how Daniela was. Or squad member Diana (Riesler) who was recovering in hospital. No public apologies or even a suggestion ‘that we may look into changing the rules about wetsuits or bike times in the future’. Nothing. Just pretend nothing happened and hope it goes away.

Contrary to what many might think I actually hate to get involved in ‘bashing’ Ironman. Hate it. It puts our athletes in a terrible position. But the bigger problem is that if you start have athletes drift away from the sport because of the poor quality of racing then it’s not in anyone’s interest. We want to see the sport grow and show what our athletes can really do.

But it’s very frustrating when over the next few weeks Daniela will be accused of ‘over-racing’ and her Coach of ‘burning her out’ when people don’t understand the context for such decisions in the first place. We are trying to be professional as we can in an amateur environment.

If you want to win an Ironman there is very little margin for error in one’s preparation. If you are trying to defend Ironman, Ironman 70.3 and Triple Crown Titles at the same time there is basically none.

And as such people should understand why athletes may choose to focus on their own race schedule and enjoy races like Roth in the meantime.

As for Zurich and Australia? We will assess Daniela’s fitness after the race and see how she has recovered. If she wants to go to Kona and participate there, it will be her decision to validate and which race she does. As her coach I will do my best to see she is at her best for whatever she decides. But it won’t be ideal and I do believe supporters looking for real showdowns at Championship events deserve better.

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