Windsor Triathlon incident: what we can learn from it

The Windsor Tri seemed to showcase the worst of triathlete behaviour. But look beyond the hue and cry and there lies an opportunity to learn

Credit: Daniel Seex

It was the final throes of the Bournemouth marathon. The course narrowed along the seafront and the line of spectators thickened. A lad, no more than eight years old, ran across my path. Tired, I didn’t fully have my wits about me, but it fleetingly struck me that should I make little effort to deviate from my path, it’d be his own fault if I trampled him.

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It’s a vivid enough memory to recall over two years on. I can only explain it as an irrational thought in an emotionally-challenged state. Had we collided, even if I’d justified my innocence to others, I’d have known the shameful truth. We didn’t. As it happens.

More public, and perhaps sinister, was when a jogger crossing Putney Bridge in London last year barged into a woman and almost knocked her under a bus. It was criminal, unprovoked and grotesque. But it also looked really odd. Why would someone perform such a inexplicably vindictive act when exercising? While indefensible, I wonder if the assailant knew himself where that action came from. Or if there were any motive at all.

After June’s Windsor Triathlon, a short video clip emerged of cyclists speeding past and undercutting a horse rider. The damning footage shows one racer clipping the horse.

How to cycle past a horse and rider safely

Predictably social media went into overdrive with most of the ire reserved for arrogant cyclists, some for the horse rider for being there, and a little extra opprobrium for the organisers.

The emotion was evident from the outcry, but did any party head out that morning with malicious intent? The horse rider didn’t jeopardise the safety of her steed purposefully. The cyclists minds were on racing, not animal welfare and the organisers, Human Race, didn’t deliberately keep the equestrian community in the dark.

As triathletes in the same situation, we’d like to think we’d have acted more cautiously. But in the moment, would we? Perhaps it’d depend on our experience? Our competitive nature? Our equine empathy? What is certain is that it’s easier to be righteous from behind a laptop than on the road.

The police are dealing with the two triathletes that undercut the course. One came forward, the other did not, and Human Race has banned the latter for life from its events. But rather than apportioning blame, could the rest of us adjust our attitudes to be kinder and grow from the experience?

Human Race has pledged to hold a review with local road safety groups, improve signage, communication to the horse riding community, and Highway Code education to participants – and share learnings with other organisers. Independently, the BTF are also holding consultations with the British Horse Society to discuss joint safety initiatives.

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No-one says what happened at Windsor wasn’t unsavoury, but humans – perhaps even more than horses – can be unpredictable creatures. If we can at least accept that, we might get on just a little better