This may be somewhat of a rant on my part, but one concept I absolutely hate is the Idea of "buying speed"! What ever happened to working hard, and not letting equipment be a factor in the the outcome of a race. Has triathlon taken things too far, by opening the doors for an Industry driven sport? In my opinion yes.
Don't get me wrong I love triathlon, and will be competing at it for many years to come. But at some point I think the governing bodies of triathlon have to start putting limits on equipment.
The suit looks pretty normal just like last years models, but one major thing is different. This suit in many places has a thickness of 10mm. This is almost double that of a regular say blue seventy suit. What does this do? Well for one it makes swimmers sit much higher in the water, causing less of a reliance on form. Instead of spending time in a pool working on your posture in the water you could just spend time on a mechanical swim machine and use the suit come race day.
cycling is also on the same train. If you have not noticed the prices of a bike continually goes up. Bikes such as the trek equinox 9.9ssl cost around $7,000, throw on a set of zipp wheels and you are easily looking at 10 grand. Yes that is a top of the line bike, but even if a new athlete buys a $2,000 bike, they are still looking at at least $4,000 for a bike and a set of race wheels. It does not matter what bike company you look at, the prices are all going up. If rider A rides a $2,000 bike with no race wheels and rider B rides a $12,000 bike and both come out with the same bike splits, who is the better athlete? and was that shown in the results? that one is up to you to
Who does this hurt? I think the athletes that are at the very top of the sport are unaffected by this, and with the introduction of Ironman many athletes are concerned on time. Finishing is the goal. It is cool to see athletes achieve their goals, but these athletes for the most part compete in only 1 major event a year. Its the developing athlete who has aspirations of rising to the top, or new developing pro that gets hit the most. To compete in 4 big events a year will now cost a fortune.
I have not been participating in triathlon very long, but I am quickly realizing that something is missing. Most other sports have this but triathlon does not. It is the presence of a younger generation. I have many athletes around my age that are interested in the sport of triathlon but as soon as they hear the prices of things they quickly back away. They would make phenomenal athletes and would quickly rise to a pro level of competition. Sheer cost is driving them away. Right now if you notice most triathlons are dominated by athletes in their mid to late 30's. But when you look at sports such as running, swimming, and even cycling. Athletes in their mid to late 20's rule the boards. Is triathlon missing out on great athletes?
The current situation seems to work for triathlon. But in the future it may damage the sport. when all these athletes in their 30's reach their athletic peaks and start to decline, who will step up to take their places? Yes younger athletes will come along and fill their shoes, but the number of elites coming through the system will be much less. There will still be a high level of competition but the athletes competing at that level will be far fewer. Will this cause the sport to become stale? I guess we will see.
Although it was not industry driven I think we have seen the same thing occur in running. in the late 70's and 80's I am amazed when I look at age group times for running races. I talk to my dad about times he ran that would win races today by a landslide, but back then he was barely in the top ten. There was a buzz in the US for not just running, but running fast. Fueled by athletes like Pre running gained greater attention from the eyes of the average person. But slowly competition thinned out, and the desire for strong competition was lost.
Yes I don't think triathlon would be the same if it was not for companies developing triathlon specific items. But at what cost to the sport? When we really look at it, has the average time for finishing an ironman gotten faster? Yes the top pros have gone faster, but overall is everybody going faster? It is probably a safe bet to say that in may ways the average athlete is getting slower, and the high cost of entering the sport is driving future elite athletes away. We may have gotten to the point where the pendulum has swung too far, and for the health of the sport we need to find balance.