by Tommy Morwood
Fresh off the back of Super League Triathlon success where the triathlon world has come to love shorter, faster racing, World Triathlon sought to introduce this exciting new format into their world series for the first time in Montreal last weekend.
It should have been a weekend full of excitement and exhilaration... And yet, World Triathlon managed to make the event dull and uninspiring.
The initial concept was a great idea: two days of racing, with qualifying events on Day 1, then three elimination-style rounds on Day 2. All racing would be held over a 300m swim / 7.2k bike / 2k Run.
There were 3 main mistakes made though. (But while I say "mistakes" these can be also "opportunities for improvement"...)
Firstly, the course itself. There were no hills, no bike features to help shake things up, no real opportunities to make the race seem exciting for the viewers.
Secondly, the viewing was turned into a woeful experience thanks to a combination of extremely bland commentary, no race splits showing who was about to be eliminated, and really poor camera direction.
During the heats and knockout races, the cameras were only ever focused on the race leaders. As the event was designed to knock off the back athletes, once onto the run the leaders were able to comfortably jog to the end. Meanwhile the back makers were involved in sprints and were digging deep to make the cut -- yet the audience got to see VERY LITTLE of this action.
The timing didn’t ever identify who were the athletes at risk, it was left to the commentators team to casually mention them in their dull, uninspiring conversation with little to no enthusiasm.
Thirdly, the package released to the triathlon community was an overwhelming 8 HOURS of video. I completely understand the low budget of the production means the video feed gets no basic editing (e.g. just cutting out the non-action between the heats). So next time to make the package more relevant, perhaps the format needs to shift slightly to just feature either a heats and a final ORT a knock out, not both. With less breaks between events, and at least a count down timer on screen as to when the next race will get underway.
But don’t worry, MX: as your most passionate diehard WTCS fan boy, I took one for the team and watched all 8 hours of content.
As expected in both men’s and women’s, the cream rose to the top, and the final round in the last race to crown the champions had all the expected big names.
For the women’s, in the final, the remaining 10 came out of the water all together. However, Spivey & Knibb used their raw power to open up a tiny gap. A few of the others were taken off guard and just couldn’t hold on. Duffy was the only one who saw what was happening and instantly jumped across.
It was a really excellent and exciting piece of race analysis and reaction timing from Duffy. You wouldn’t know it from listening to the commentary team though; they might as well have been explaining what it would be like to sit and watch paint dry.
With three athletes now up front and a decent gap opening up, it looked like the medals would surely get sorted from this trio. For once though, it wasn’t Duffy on the front driving the break: Knibb was absolutely drilling it like a woman possessed, and Spivey was there from sheer stubbornness and anger at being left out of the USA women’s Olympic team a few weeks prior. So Duffy was able to just suck wheel and conserve some energy for a change.
Out of T2 for the final time, and it was Spivey with Knibb who went out hard to begin with, though it would prove to be a case of too hard too soon. The master tactician Flora Duffy, executing a perfect run once again on the world stage, was able to pace herself and comfortably run past the two Americans to take the win.
Over to the Men’s racing and into the final, the only big name to miss out was Jelle Geens from Belgium who didn’t make the cut past the 2nd round in the final.
Though with the likes of Vincent Luis, Jake Birtwhistle, and Hayden Wilde toeing the start line the stage was set for an exciting conclusion!
Luis took the swim out super hard, though over the shorter 300m distance and a loooooong run to the bikes there was only 6 seconds separating first to last out of T1. A few sneaky bike breakaway attempts were all closed down pretty quickly, so the entire weekend was going to come down to the final 2k run.
Dorian Coninx quickly made his way to the front, and was shortly joined by Leo Bergere and Luis. It came down to a three-way Frenchman sprint finish. Bergere was the first to take the lead, though in the final 100m was overcome by his countryman. Coninx was able to take the tape one second in front of Luis for his second individual win in a WTCS event.
Sadly, the weekend of stellar athletic performances were overshadowed by the poor planning to produce a quality broadcast package by World Triathlon, who over regular sprint and Olympic distances actually do a pretty good job.
So in 2022 and beyond, maybe just let Super League look after the supersprint events, and do your fans a favour.