Credit: Dave Pearce - www.different-perspective.co.uk

World Triathlon Leeds: organisational issues blight age-group event

While the elite races went down a storm at the World Triathlon Series race in Leeds on Sunday, age-groupers who competed in the morning described scenes of chaos

On first impressions and via the television coverage, the Leeds ITU World Triathlon event appeared to be a great advert for British Triathlon and the city of Leeds. However countless athletes who competed in the age-group event before the elite races on Sunday have complained of poor organisation, with some forced to wait for hours before they could collect their bags containing warm clothes, mobile phones and cash, from transition. 

While it was a great day for British triathlon in the pro ranks, with a Brownlee 1-2 in the men's race and a podium for Vicky Holland in the women's, age-groupers were left to feel second best, as reports of the transition areas being unsafe were reported on social media the day before the event. Athletes spotted hazards underfoot such as glass and nails and no carpeting was in place to protect bare feet and bike tyres.

Numerous athletes also complained about the baggage collection system. The vans for transporting bags to and from the transition areas were reportedly not big enough to take all luggage to the city centre collection points, meaning later waves were sent back to the swim venue at Roundhay Park (a 30min shuttle bus journey) before having to wait even longer to collect belongings while missing the elite races. Many complained of being cold and frustrated after finishing. 

Mike Higgins said: "I was annoyed and disappointed. I quickly realised I was going to miss most of the women's (elite) race. My second race of the day was to get to Roundhay and back in the time Gwen, Non and Flora could do a 40km bike and a 10 km run if I was going to see the finish!

"If a van can take three boxes and a box can take sixty bags and you have 6,000 competitors with two bags, and a maximum of eight vans, and each journey takes about one hour return and needs some loading time, I worked out that would take 14 hours to transport everything – it's no wonder we were waiting for hours!"

A photo of the transition area for age-groupers, which many participants have said was "unsafe underfoot". Credit: Don Whiley

Age-grouper Claire Fineran also highlighted the health and safety implications of competitors being left without access to warm clothing, money or means of contacting friends and relatives: “Numerous cold, wet, tired, frustrated and angry competitors were told to navigate their way on their bikes back to the start to collect their things. This was meant to be world class event. Imagine being a visitor to the city and being told to fend for yourself in such a despicable and quite frankly dangerous manner.

“I for one finished my race at 11am and was finally reunited with warm clothing at 4.30pm following five and a half hours after standing around in wet, cold clothing. Had the weather not held, Leeds General Infirmary would have been inundated with hypothermic competitors. I do not say that lightly.”

British Triathlon released a statement from CEO Jack Buckner apologising for the issues with baggage collection; however many participants commenting on the BTF's Facebook page were not impressed, with some saying the apology fell short of the mark. Below are some of the grievances aired on Facebook by age-groupers: 

In association with British Triathlon, 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. 

Did you race at WTS Leeds, or were you a spectator? Did you have a positive experience of the event? Let us know in the comments, or email us at tritalk@220triathlon.com


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leigh stace

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 !!!


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.

Melanie Johnson

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!

Graham Thorley

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.

Ursula Hankinson

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.

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