As for the prize on offer, Ironman is not a brand associated with subtly, but this is about as light-touch as it gets for morphing virtual racing into real world scenarios. It’s been reported by triathlete.com that only ‘around 100’ [Ironman Will Award 70.3 World Championship Slots At Virtual Races] slots will be given out initially – a tiny percentage for a 70.3 world championship that is typically packed with 6,500 age-groupers over two days of racing.
Of all the potential triathlon races for 2021, it also has to be one of the more questionable to take place, particularly with anything close to resembling an international field. New Zealand, helped by its geography, is just about the gold standard for managing Covid, and staging a half-Ironman with triathletes flying in from all over the world won’t rank highly in the Kiwi’s health-centric list of priorities.
So, while purists becoming hung up on Ironman handing out a handful of Taupo spots cheaply shouldn’t be an issue, what might be more concerning to traditionalists is if this is the direction of travel for triathlon, and the thin end of the wedge.
If Ironman can make VR racing work just enough, it’s only a short hop to attaching sought-after places for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, and with two editions planned for 2020, in February and October, and scarce opportunities to qualify at ‘real world’ events there are currently a few going around.
It might also be worth noting that Ironman’s modus operandi is to demand entrance fees immediately after qualification, when the adrenaline is still pumping. Given its track record for refunds and that future races currently hang in the balance, you might want to give some considered thought before handing over the cheque.