Talkback: World Triathlon Leeds: organisational issues blight age-group event

27 messages
14/06/2016 at 16:03
Definitely the worst organised event I have participated in. Being passed from pillar-to-post for Registration on the sunday morning for a 7:03 swimstart wasn't the best way to start the day... neither was being given a race-pack with no swimcap (noticed only when i racked the bike with 7 minutes to go before my wave started).

The swim-bike transition was a joke having to carry your swim-bag and run your bike (in cleats or barefoot) approx 500meters before mounting for the bike section... the bike-run transition was just as absurd with its hazardous rusty nails, broken glass and wooden spikes on a hardcore ground-base - some athletes were forced to run barefoot across this ground to drop-off their bike and start their run section!

Crossing the finishline was mayhem... herded like cattle into a pen, athlete crossing the finishline were prevented from crossing the road as it would have obstructed passing athletes still on the course (why was the finishline designed to the right of the run course instead of the left - which wouldnt have caused any inconvenience at all!)

Post-finish, there was a medal, bits of bread suitable for feeding the ducks, banana, orange and water (oh, and if you like the taste of beer there was also some alcohol-free beer)... where was the finishers Tee-shirt? where were the jaffa cakes? Then to wait several hours to recover the personal belongings was the icing on the cake!!!

The cordons around the streets were also shambolic. For the Elite race (if you were lucky enough not to have been one of the athletes stuck 3 miles away collecting your personal possessions from a failed bag-drop) you were unable to to cross the roads at any point and therefore had to walk halfway around Leeds just to cross the road. During the Womens Elite, i sttod next an elderly gentleman (and his dog) who needed to cross the High Street but was told he had to walk all the way round - poor fella looked like he wouldnt make it that far!

All in all, it was a mockery of a sham... £80 for the privilege of being part of event so badly organised it would have been more suited to Sesame Street than the streets of Leeds. I, for one, will not be partaking in this event should it return to Leeds and, judging by the amount of negative comments on numerous facebook pages, not many people will be. Move it back to Hyde Park where it was organised with great precision, far more enjoyable and actually had an Expo worth looking at. Here endith the moaning... I'm off to polish that cheap medal i received !!!
14/06/2016 at 16:08
I competed at this event - it was my first Olympic distance and open water tri. Although I was one of the lucky ones who didn't have a problem with the bags, the information provided beforehand was also pretty woeful. The competitors information guide was only sent out on the Monday before the event, and even that didn't answer everyone's questions - they had to provide an updated guide to respond to the questions people were asking. The organisers rarely responded to any questions/communication raised beforehand, and judging by the comments on social media, many people chose to withdraw from the event due to the lack of communication or confusing information that was provided. As a Leeds local, this didn't effect me too much, and I actually had a great experience. Huge thanks should go to the volunteers, who were fantastic, but lessons must be learnt from this. It's a shame - it has led to many people commenting online that they hope this event doesn't come back to Leeds, or that they don't want to come to an event in Leeds in the future.
14/06/2016 at 16:12
I too was not impressed. I missed the elites race and was left feeling cold for hours trying to get my bags back. It was obvious that this day was only about the elite athletes, and rest of us were an inconvenience. I certainly won't be coming back to Leeds, to race again next year. Funnily enough I found the same problems at the UK Ironman race last year. The Ironman arrogance shone through!
14/06/2016 at 16:34
There were some great bits to this race - the swim venue and the atmosphere on the run course with such a large crowd cheering were fantastic.
Fiddling around trying to get stuff in and out of wet plastic bags was very frustrating. I had had enough experience to negotiate the first transition without any mishaps but lots of people got into a mess mounting the bike on a steep hill. The course was very congested on all three legs which made it very difficult to race without taking risks or bumping into people. T2 was ridiculous, I'm glad I didn't change my part worn cleats beforehand.
14/06/2016 at 17:23
Over 10 years of competing in triathlons and that was the most abysmal organisation I have experienced.
1) Forget about doing anything other than trekking round Leeds the day before - great way to rest up before the event. While volunteers were helpful, they had very limited information about how to get between locations - thank you to the friendly triathletes of Leeds who helped so many of us navigate!
2) The 25 minute queue for the toilets at 7am with completely insufficient facilities for athletes and spectators.
3) The 'icing on the cake' - waiting 2 hours in the cold for bags to arrive, huddled with other finishers just to try and keep warm with no way of finding friends and family. No apologies from staff and volunteers having to explain the situation, manage the crowds and lend clothing to freezing finishers. Staff members just telling people to go away and come back later, with no apology. Now an apology has been issues it negates the scale of the issue. 'We have disappointed some people' does not even measure up to the fact that only the first few hundred competitors received their bags as expected. This leaves over 4,000 competitors who suffered in some way waiting for their bags to arrive, let alone the friends and family members who also wasted hours waiting for competitors to be reunited with their bags.
I had a great race and was so happy across the finish line, but this just reinforces that the organisers don't care about athletes or the volunteers - as long as they have your money they do whatever they like.
14/06/2016 at 17:28
"...the event was organised by the Ironman Corporation, who after acquiring Lagardère Sports earlier in the year took over the running of five ITU events in 2016."

It's funny that you should be noting this because I'm pretty sure that everyone was saying almost identical things about a certain corporations last attempts at actually launching (rather than stealing) a race in the UK at Staffs last year. Did 220 not write an almost identical article with AGers struggling to get to the start, being screwed at the finish with no bags and all sorts of organisational chaos.........

It seems to be that a certain WTC couldn't actually organise a proverbial in a brewery themselves and is only good at sucking the character and money out of already established events... shame
14/06/2016 at 17:28
In addition to the many other complaints there were at least 11 men in the top 50 open sprint race who posted impossibly fast bike legs. By coincidence none of these competitors recorded a bike leg split time which suggests they didn't do the extra loop back to headingley stadium. This includes 1st and 2nd overall. I hope the organisers review the results and DQ as appropriate.
14/06/2016 at 17:39
Hi' I did the sprint event starting at 10am. Yes the organisation was poor. We waited an hour and a half after finishing our event, was then told it would take at least another hour. We decided to go to T2, collect our bikes etc and make our way to the hotel. We dumped our bikes, had a quick shower, went back up to hopefully see some of the women elites for which we had spent £60 on two tickets. We missed almost the whole bike section. We then went back to the bag collection to be told we would have to collect our bags from roundhay. We did see the me s race before attempting to get a shuttle bus. We were given directions but saw no buses. A lovely couple actually ended up giving us a lift to roundhay. We collected our bags from an unsecure tent,mid manage to get a shuttle back to the city centre. All of this did ruin our planned night out in Leeds, we were shattered by this time.
Having said all of this, I loved the race! The crowds were fantastic, I've never experienced anything like it. The volunteers did a great job.
14/06/2016 at 17:47
I was there as a spectator this time with my wife and 3 year old daughter. Staying close to the AG T2 in a hotel we walked past several times and commented to each other that it wasn't great.

Numerous AGs were coming back to the hotel and asking for the opportunity to shower somewhere (having checked out already!) before making the cycle ride back up to Roundhay to collect belongings. There were lots of unhappy bunnies.

I myself cycled up to Roundhay to watch the Elite women swim and passed numerous cold, tired competitors on their way up there from the city centre too. Definitely not good enough.

On the flip side we had a great vantage point for both Elite races and the organisation around this that we witnessed was without any problems. I can fully understand the feeling from the AGs that they were second best....

In my experience a split transition is always more difficult and stressful to contend with for competitors. It can be dealt with better than this though apparently....
14/06/2016 at 17:50
+1 to all the previous comments - what could have been a stunning event started badly with lack of clarity around the pre-race info, tailed off in the middle by turning the event into a plastic bag relay with some triathlon in the middle, and quite frankly the less said about the borderline hypothermic end the better. Feel particularly sorry for the first timers who probably think that all events are run this way and it's probably put them off a great sport for life.

As a Leeds local I do hope the event comes back, but if it's organised as badly we don't deserve it - and the "apology" issued afterwards is frankly insulting. Come on guys, you can do better than this.
14/06/2016 at 18:00
Unfortunately, all of the comments are spot on. It was such a good event to take part in for the course itself, the closed roads and the crowds in the city centre, to say nothing of the whole experience of being so close to the elite races that followed us. Yet almost all of that is completely undermined by the awful logistics both pre, during and post race. I was fortunate to have to wait 'only' 2 hours to get my second bag, having already received the first one with warm clothing in an hour prior. Little did I know then how lucky I was! However, the bag issue was simply the last in a catalogue of errors, miscommunication, confusing and contradictory information and non athlete-centred organisational decisions you can imagine. The dreadful transitions; the lack of information given to the volunteers (i.e. when I set up T2 on Saturday at about 4.30pm, still nobody could tell me where the bike dismount line was likely to be); the bizarre finish chute which meant then having to cross over the racing athletes to get your bag and refreshments; the bizarre rules about bags; the appalling communication about and subsequent delivery of the shuttle service (took a taxi in the end!); the late-changing communications when AG'ers work for a living and have so many logistics to prepare when they travel for races...I could go on but it becomes a rant and the bike route, lake, crowd and unbelievably patient volunteers/marshals/officials don't deserve that. Moreover, the Brownlee brothers don't deserve that either. I will be forever grateful for the chance to race the same course as the elites on closed roads with great crowds. They were key drivers in bringing the event to Leeds and are in no way associated with any of the logistics mentioned above. They deserve the salutations for the elite race and for having the vision to create this race in Leeds - sadly, the organising body/bodies responsible for the detail of the AG race let the participants down badly. Such a shame.
14/06/2016 at 18:50

Firstly, based on many conversations on the Sunday morning, I would like to suggest that, because of a whole variety of issues, many athletes were already not intending to return to Leeds prior to the bag return fiasco. Most notably; the quite unbelievably poor and contradictory pre-event information, the opening of registration at 9am but not opening T2 in the city centre until 2pm, the bizarre organization of the event and route, most obviously the extraordinary long run out from T1, the dangerous uphill bike mount, the scary narrow and too fast and technical bike course and the awful condition of T2, the peculiar choice and awful condition of refreshment at the finish, the lack of toilets; not to mention officials who said we could lay our gear out on Sunday morning and then other officials who came and stuffed it all back into bags whilst we were swimming! I do apologise for the hyperbole and overuse of adjectives but in this case the circumstances do warrant it. Certainly, before the race had even started my wife and I had also decided that we would not be entering this event again.

Enough has already been said about the bag collection debacle but I would like to comment on the e-mail sent around to competitors from ‘World Triathlon Leeds’ and entitled “Blue and green bag collection information”. It is not “a solution” as the e-mail says that competitors can pick their bags up from the start; it is a cop-out, a derogation of responsibility, and furthermore suggesting the use of the shuttle bus service when most of us had already collected our bikes, because of the long wait, was also of less than no use. Finally to end the e-mail with “We are sorry for any inconvenience caused” as an apology to athletes who have had their day ruined, who have waited for many hours and many of whom are virtually hypothermic is simply appalling.

As many people have said on social media and in the press this had to be the worst, most poorly organized and managed event that we will ever attend. Like many of the other athletes I have taken part in triathlon for many years and in many countries and I would certainly agree with this viewpoint. Leeds was intended to be the highlight of our triathlon year and instead it has turned into a bitter memory. I also paid £25 for an event T-shirt which, because of the enforced trip back to Roundhay I was not able to collect. In addition we had booked an extra night’s stay in Leeds to enable us to watch the elite events without having to worry about a return journey. Again, because we had to make our way back to Roundhay, bear in mind that we had no warm clothing, no money, no phone, no car keys etc, we missed seeing the elite events. At the very least I would expect a refund of our total event payment.

14/06/2016 at 19:06
Come to Chester next year. The Deva Triathlon was brilliant. Seamless organisation, fantastic volunteers and transition all in one place.
14/06/2016 at 21:23
You want positive comments? Most of the volunteers were great and very helpful. It didn't rain during the race. Roundhay Park seemed really picturesque.

As for more positive comments, I am really struggling.

Why wasn't the whole event held around Roundhay? Why did the organisers opt for a 2 transition set up? Do the organisers think half a banana, a slice of orange and a bottle of water is adequate at the end of a race? Do the organisers think that a medal and nothing else is value for money for the race? Why was T2 not cleared up beforehand, and left with screws, nails and broken glass? Why did they have to charge for the shuttle bus? How did they expect to transport 10000 bags back to city centre when they didn't have enough vans? Why didn't they organise more or bigger vans? Why did so many emails before the event go unanswered? Why did the routes change?

I don't imagine that we wil get answers; the organisers haven't answered anything yet. The attempt at an apology was a further slap in the face.

What I would like to see is a refund to competitors: make good any loss people suffered for missing trains etc.; pay the volunteers and/or donate substantially to their running/triathlon clubs.

I'm sure other readers will come up with other compensation options.

All in all a very poor experience.
14/06/2016 at 22:38

If you buy goods and they prove faulty you are entitled to get your money back. That is exactly what has happened here and every competitor is entitled to a full refund. If Ironman do not refund money and you paid by PayPal or credit card raise a dispute on the transaction, you did not get what was described in their marketing literature. If PayPal and the credit card companies get thousands of disputes raised against one company they will take action and help put the pressure on Ironman to resolve this with full refunds.

I wasn't a competitor I was a spectator and saw the 30/40 deep mass of shivering triathletes in Leeds centre desperate for clothing and food when they should have been celebrating completing an event they had been training for for months! Some were very very distraught as they could not contact relatives, they had missed trains, they had no clothes, no money, no food, no car keys, no drink, no way of getting warm or dry. Triathletes had been up since 4am to navigate the ridiculous registration/double transition set up and they were simply abandoned in a strange city for hours and hours by the event organisers.

The event for a spectator was incredible but what went on behind the scenes and the impact and disregard for the health and safety of competitors was outrageous. Whoever is responsible for this needs to APOLOGISE AND COMPENSATE for their failure to deliver a safe "fit for purpose" event.

15/06/2016 at 00:15

To the ITU age-groupers are just cash-cows to support the vast number of blazer wearing hanger-ons and to provide prize money for pros. My last ITU race was the world long course in Canberra in 2004 and I have refused to race another.

15/06/2016 at 11:23

I did the open sprint race and can only echo the comments made here and amplify them. This is my second season in tri and my sixth race overall. I've also competed in a number of 10k and OW swim events over the last 18 months. Without a shadow of a doubt this was the most poorly organised event I have taken part in. It was also the most expensive entry fee I have paid.

The organisation from start to finish was, simply put, shambolic. Having been unable to register on the Saturday (though from the reports I've been given by others, this was equally chaotic) I gave myself plenty of time in the morning and duly arrived at the 05:30 am registration time, only to be told by the ITU official (not a volunteer) that the registration packs were locked inside Leeds Beckett Uni, which wouldn't be opened until at least 6 am.

Whilst the swim location was undoubtedly picturesque, the location of the green bag drop and swim entrance created a bottleneck and it was very crowded. The toilet situation has been commented on by others and no more than 20 portaloos for 6k+ competitors was woefully inadequate. At 8 am several of them were, by that point, unusable.

The placement of T1 was a joke. Clearly the AGs had been shunted as far out of the way as possible in order to make space for the event sponsors' VIP competitors transition, which would later double up as the elites' area.

The least said about T2 the better. It was a waste ground. A local person after the event told us that it used to be a swimming pool that had been demolished. Whilst I luckily didn't suffer any of the glass or nails others had described getting running shoes on without stones all over your feet was a challenge to say the least.

The end of the race was another epic fail. Crossing the finish line, you were herded into a pen. An overzealous official would not hand me a bottle of water until I had removed my timing chip. A little thing really, but quickly took the shine of the euphoria of finishing.

The post race offerings were, as others have commented, woefully lacking. Half a bread roll, a segment of orange or half a banana. No athlete goody bag (would all those race sponsors not be keen to provide the usual promotional freebies?) I know competing should not be about the post race offerings as much as it should be about the race and the achievement of finishing it, but when you pay £100 to compete in the race its not unreasonable to expect the organisers to provide something like this. I've done races costing less than half this with some great freebies after the race, so why the supposed Premier League of tri cant muster this up is beyond me.

I pre-paid £25 for a finishers' T-shirt (you'd be forgiven for thinking an entry fee of £75 would get you this). Sadly there was no signage as to where to go to collect this, so I've not been able to claim it. I've emailed the organisers once a day for the last three days to enquire about this with zero response.

The bag drop issues were just the icing on the cake. Having been told I was going to have to wait at least two hours for my bag to reach town, I decided to bike back up to Roundhay to pick up my car and  bring it back into town. Having done this, I was caught up with the traffic and parking restrictions so had to walk (in cleats) around the entire city centre bike/ run course only to arrive and be told the bags were now not going to be delivered from Roundhay. No announcement had been made.

Subsequent investigation showed that a message had been posted on facebook (which I'm not on). To be fair, they did send competitors an email - at 19:00hrs! Which would not have been received as my phone was in my green bag!

I could go on and on, but this would be futile. My long suffering family, including my five year old son, were forced to traipse around Leeds for hours. My wife now reasonably says she doesn't want to bring my son to another event. How this inspires the next generation is beyond me.

Edited: 15/06/2016 at 11:31
15/06/2016 at 11:40

I should add that the registered company address for Ironman Unlimited Events UK Limited (which is the company which Lagardere Unlimited Events UK Limited changed their name to when IMCORP bought them out) is as follows:

4th Floor 80 Victoria Street, London, United Kingdom, SW1E 5JL

Disgruntled athletes might want to cite in correspondence the implied contractual duty of care and skill that is required of service providers by s.13 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

15/06/2016 at 16:43

Has the time come to boycott the money making machine that Ironman has become?

15/06/2016 at 23:57
I have competed in over 50 Triathlons/Duathlons (home and abroad) and unfortunatley this was the most badly organised one with regard to logistics I have ever encountered. The race itself was generally good (apart from having to carry the wet-suit etc while pushing the bike for 400 metres). To have registration and two separate transition sites - all that needed servicing with bikes and gear on Saturday was terrible. Could it get any worse - YES it did with lots of Age Group competitors not reunited with there kit and warm clothing bags for hours after they finished and then some poor unfortunates had to find their way back to Roundhay Park to retrieve them. The Elite race and course from a spectating point was great but the Age Groupers, all of who paid good money needed looking after - they were badly let down. Loved Leeds (would have have seen more of it on Saturday if I wasn't chasing down transition sites). Having raced at London/Hyde Park three times lets go back there, so much better for all concerned -Sorry Alistair and Johnny but the logistics and operations team let you and us down!! I do get it - we were the supporting role to the main event but all sports need to look after the grass roots, especially those whose money help fund the event!