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Ironman to offer 70.3 world championship slots through VR race series

New Championship VR series becomes a means where people can qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

Ironman will “tighten the rules” for the Challenger division of it’s Ironman VR race series and will offer a four-week championship series with qualifying races for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Taupo.

Athletes will be able to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship through virtual racing.

After races were cancelled around the world due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Ironman started a virtual racing series, which has provided some welcome motivation and a race-like experience for thousands of triathletes around the world.

The goal, according to Ironman’s CEO Andrew Messick, was to “be as inclusive as we possibly can be – to give people with all abilities the opportunity to race with purpose. For a lot of people its helped them from a structured training perspective.”

“The platform we built (Ironman Virtual Club) does a great job of that,” Messick said during a conference call yesterday. “Where it wasn’t as good was being able to create a consistent playing field.”

Related: No more fake times – Ironman looks to regulate virtual racing

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Questionable performances abounded in the Ironman VR races, including 60 km/ hour bike splits and sub-4 hour virtual half-distance races. Even last weekend with the advent of the new Challenger division, the eventual winner, Jessey The Elf, was moved from second to first in the overall standings after the winner’s results were moved out of that division due to discrepancies.

Last weekend’s Challenger division required athletes to ride either outdoors or on the Rouvy virtual platform and prohibited treadmills for the run.

Andrew Messick at the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship press conference.

“It was a big step forward,” Messick said. “The results from last weekend feel dramatically better – there were lots of familiar faces where we expect them to be.”

“Now we’ll take the next step,” Messick continued.

The new Championship series will consist of four races – three 5150 and one 70.3 simulated events. While there will be “classic division” for participants just interested in taking part, the Challenger division will have stricter rules. For those competing in the Challenger division, the top three scores will count towards an athletes final result, with the 70.3 event weighted more heavily in the standings. Athletes will be required to complete the bike on the Rouvy platform, while runs will have to be done outdoors.

“The riding leg will be as fair as we have the ability to make it,” Messick said.

The winners of the Championship series will earn slots for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Taupo. (That race was supposed to take place in November but has been postponed – it’s expected to take place early in 2021.)

Ironman will release a series of competition rules for the series over the next few days.

Virtual Racing Biological Passport

To be eligible for the Championship series athletes will need to have competed in an Ironman event in the past.

“If you’ve never done a race with us, you can sign up for VR9 or VR10,” Messick said. “We need to have something to gauge the calibre of each athlete.”

The results of each race will be analyzed and “outlier” performances will be flagged, Messick said.

“It (the races) has to, at its heart, be something our community is OK with,” he said. “It can only work if the community generally believes that the competition is fair.”

“We would rather try to create something that is broadly speaking fair and we can manage the imperfections to the point where people believe there is some integrity in it,” he said. “If there isn’t, my instinct will be to shut it down.”

The Championship series is expected to include the VR10 through 13 events. Ironman says more details will be released soon.