Every triathlete will have a race to forget – the runs legs turned to jelly; the bike lost in transition. But nothing quite matches the tail-between-legs ignominy of a disqualification. Aerobicmonster.co.uk and Ironman certified coach Phil Jarvis points out 10 ways your race could end rather faster than you’d hoped…
1. Not putting your foot down at a junction.
Not all races are going to be on closed roads. In fact, it’s quite rare in the UK to ride completely traffic-free and sometimes the course will dictate that a busy junction has to be crossed. Be warned, race organisers will not compromise on health and safety, so if there is a directive to put your foot down ie. stop, you’d better abide. Often this is pointed out in the pre-race briefing, but not always, and it can be easy to forget when the adrenaline is flowing. It’s also likely that the marshal posted on said junction will be there for his or her no-nonsense manner, so excuses are not going to wash.
There are always a few tales from the continent about unabashed nakedness in transition, but indecent exposure in triathlon can result in more than one kind of embarrassment, in the form of red faces and red cards. Change tents are almost always provided for longer course races, and if you have to change in transition, think it through beforehand. The only lunchbox anyone needs to see is on the bike’s top tube.
3. Crossing the centre line
This is another health and safety no-no, but is far easier done than you might imagine. Often one side of a highway will be open to bikes and the other free to traffic. No matter how congested your side of the road, you must not cross the divide to overtake. It can happen to high level performers. Andy Greenleaf, a top UK age-grouper, was DQ’d for this at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship last year. Thankfully for Andy there was a silver lining. With his day cut short in Austria, he made the late decision to compete at Ironman Wales and qualified as top age-grouper for Kona.
If ever there was a subject to get the keyboard-warriors tapping away, it is the thorny issue of course-cutting. Rarely is it deliberate, although there is the odd bamboozling case, such as Julie Miller, who was disqualified at Ironman Canada last year. But because of the spread of chip timing mats around the course, it is usually picked up by officials. This year’s Ironman 70.3 course in Mooloolaba, Australia was an example of where a number of triathletes were DQ’d for cutting the course. Protests that it was confusing and poorly signed fell on deaf ears, because – take note – it is ALWAYS the athlete’s responsibility to know the course.
This can be both verbal and physical and thankfully – with triathlon’s reputation as a friendly sport – is not too common. But with the pulse pounding and athletes physically and emotionally spent, it is not unknown for the occasional outburst. South Africa’s Richard Murray, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in Glasgow, was wound up in the 2016 World Series race in Hamburg. Having disagreed with a time penalty for a transition transgression, he produced an Up Yours gesture to the technical officials and having crossed the line second was subsequently DQ’d.
The curse of endurance sports, cycling, athletics and swimming have all had high profiles scandals over the years. All major race organisers should undertake post-race testing for the professionals, and there have been isolated incidents of age-groupers being caught too. Quite how big the problem among amateurs, no-one is quite sure, but it is a worrying facet of our sport. In recent times ‘doping’ has also been prefixed with the word ‘mechanical’. Belgian Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a motor hidden on her bike at this year’s Under-23 world cyclocross championship. It goes without saying these offences result in an instant DQ… followed by a hefty ban.
7. Falsifying data
Triathlon prides itself on fierce age-group competition meaning there is always something to shoot for whatever stage you’ve reached in life. So putting down the wrong date of birth on an entry form to sneak into an older or younger division, could have grave consequences. This clearly relies on a little self-policing, but if someone who is yet to have a wet shave cleans up in the male 65-69 age-group with a sub-9 hour Ironman, it’s likely a few questions will be asked.
8. Too many penalties
Penalties can be picked up for a variety of reason: drafting, blocking, littering, not having the requisite number of safety pins on your number (yes, this does happen in France), but pick up too many cautions and your day is done. Drafting is a contentious issue, but while one transgression might be at best clumsy, there will be much less sympathy if you are shown a card on multiple occasions. If you receive penalties, make sure you take them in the designated spot – usually a tent serves as the sin-bin. In some races littering may also be a straight red card, as organisers cannot afford to fall out with the local authorities and residents.
9. Outside assistance
Was Ali Brownlee right to help brother Jonny over the line in Cozumel? Should Chrissie Wellington have accepted a CO2 canister from Rebekah Keat in Kona? The laws on outside assistance have long been debated, but what is clear is that you cannot – or at least, should not – receive help from anyone outside the race. In both the cases outlined, the supporting athletes were competing. If your loved ones start pushing you way up a nasty incline on the bike, then it’s over stepping the line. A footnote to this is that while you should not receive help, there might be situations where the organisers aren’t so strict. If a frozen triathlete cannot change a puncture in order to finish his or her race for charity – and is not going to trouble the leaderboard – most officials will turn a blind eye.
10. No tie
While the Brownlees might have finished hand-in-hand in Blenheim and Abu Dhabi they have been warned off in no uncertain circumstances by the ITU for the World Series, where any contrived tie will result in an instant DQ. Thankfully, or sadly, as the case may be, it’s not a situation many of us ever find ourselves in. But if you do, take the opportunity for a rare sprint finish rather than a waltz to the line.