The announcement from Ironman UK that they are to shorten the bike leg by 17 miles, making it 95 instead of the custom 112, has caused debate and outrage on social media.
Ironman made the decision because of the Winter Hill fire near Bolton, saying that this was the only solution, “which enables the race to go ahead, and ensures our athletes, volunteers, marshals and staff remain safe.’
However many are questioning on social media whether those that complete have the right to call themselves an Ironman, and why they couldn’t include an extra loop to make up the distance. There are also calls for compensation/entry fees to be reimbursed or the right to defer the entries.
So with the implementation of the new bike course #IMUK is no longer an IM. 6 months of hard training feels like it’s no longer worth it. Still they’ve got our cash now, haven’t they?
— Ben Belcher (@BenBelcher76) July 10, 2018
If you were gonna run a marathon and the distance was cut from 26.2 to say 23.1 miles. Would you still have the balls to look back on your day and say you’ve completed a marathon or just a long old day in your Asics?? #imuk #ironmanuk #itwontbeanironman
— Rob Irwin (@RobbieSwayzie) July 11, 2018
There are also concerns about the swim going ahead due to higher than normal blue-green algae levels at the swim venue Pennington Flash, however indications are that the swim quality there is improving
We spoke to Ironman and put these questions to them;
What’s been changed on the bike course and why?
Due to recent wildfires, and after extensive consultation with our council partners, local authorities and other key stakeholders, a decision was taken to implement an alternate bike course for IRONMAN UK. Athletes will exit Transition 1 at Pennington Flash as normal and ride 15 miles to the start of the 2-lap section.
After climbing Babylon Lane athletes will now TURN LEFT onto Nickleton Brow instead of heading past New Road Rivington. The aid station will now be located on Nickleton Brow.
Athletes will cross Rivington Reservoir via Knowsley Lane and continue onto Moor Road. Moor Road is a technical climb with a long descent. After climbing Moor Road athletes can enjoy panoramic views of the North West before starting the technical descent.
The course will then merge onto Higher House Lane before taking a right onto Hollin Lane, left onto Coppice Lane, right onto Tithe Barne Lane merging onto Chapel Lane before re-joining the original course in Wheelton on the A674.
What will happen to competitors who decide to repeat a loop on the bike leg to make up the distance?
Athlete safety is our priority. Athletes who decide to repeat a loop will present a safety risk to other competitors which can result in a disqualification, in accordance with Competition Rules 5.01.e
Has the bike cut off times changed?
No. Cut-off times have not changed.
Are those who really want to do the distance allowed to defer their entry?
Deferrals are unfortunately not possible. All events are subject to change due to external occurrences and with this year’s race affected by wildfires, the changes are necessary for the race to safely go ahead. While we sympathise, we aim to continue to deliver an athlete experience to its fullest possible extent. Unfortunately the environmental effects on Ironman UK have occurred beyond our control and our team, who have planned and prepared for the race for more than a year, do not take lightly this decision to change the planned course.
Why has the race remained a Kona qualifying race?
Kona slots are allocated to all Ironman races on a pre-determined basis. It is standard procedure that an adjusted race remains an official qualifier. Kona qualification is awarded to athletes that perform top in their age group. As all Ironman UK athletes will continue to compete against others in their age category, and all complete the same race distance, Kona qualification still stands.
Does these changes make it easier to qualify for Kona from IMUK, compared to other Ironman qualifiers?
No, Ironman UK remains a challenging event and every athlete completes the same distance. Qualification is based on age group position, not finish time in relation to other events.
Is the swim affected by algae?
The recent heatwave across the UK has caused a rise in blue-green algae levels and rising water temperature at the swim venue at Pennington Flash. With weather conditions affecting the presence and dissipation of blue-green algae, we will continue to monitor the swim venue through water quality testing. If the swim gets cancelled the event will commence as a bike-run.
Was cancelling or postponing the race ever an option?
Our aim is deliver a safe race despite the circumstances. Cancellation is a last resort if the race cannot be delivered safely, however the changed course allows for a safe race.
What do you think? Should Ironman have offered compensation/deferred entry?