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

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

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. 

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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!”

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