It was big news when we learned that British star Lucy Charles-Barclay wasn’t planning to defend her Ironman World Championship in Nice this October, instead choosing to focus on the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) T100 World Triathlon Tour in 2024.
The news wasn’t exactly a surprise – Charles-Barclay spent much of 2022 and 2023 dealing with some major injuries (one even endured during her big win in Kona). So, heading into 2024, despite the demands that come as one of the sport’s most popular figures and an Ironman World Champion, it was obvious that the British star was going to have to be careful when it came to selecting races. She’d made it clear that she wanted to be a part of the PTO series this year, so combing that with the demands of a full-distance race, on an extremely difficult and technical course, seemed like an unrealistic gamble.
Charles-Barclay’s decision makes a lot of sense both in terms of her own health and career, but also, one would imagine, financially during a time when there’s never been as much opportunity for professional triathletes. Gone are the days when success at the Ironman World Championship was the only viable option for long-distance professional triathletes to earn a decent living. The PTO has given athletes like Charles-Barclay the opportunity to make more money through the sport right now, something that Ironman had failed to do. That’s what opened the door for a new organization to step in. (Yes, you can debate how realistic that new organization’s future might be, but for now the PTO has proven to be a game changer for the sport. It has an ambitious multi-year plan and apparently the money to back it up, too, all of which is good news for the pros.) Why on earth wouldn’t Charles-Barclay take advantage of that opportunity if it makes sense for both her career and health?
All of that said, Charles-Barclay’s statement did come at a PTO event. Whether they like it or not, the PTO and Ironman are most definitely rivals in the triathlon space, so you can see how the Kona champ’s reference to Nice and Kona could set up some controversy.
Response to race plans
Charles-Barclay was part of the official press conference announcing the T100 World Triathlon Tour, and posted a video after the event both explaining the series and her race plans for 2024, which would not include the race in Nice.
“My race calendar in 2024 is just going to be the T100 series,” Charles-Barclay said in the video. “I will not be racing in Nice … For me defending my title is racing in Kona in 2025, in my opinion. In fact, to put the energy to defend the title in Nice and what it would take to do well there, it would take too much time away from doing this series. I think any athlete who wants to be in contention to win this series needs to be fully committed to this series.”
Charles-Barclay said that she would likely compete at a few Ironman 70.3 events to keep the option to race at the 70.3 worlds in Taupo.
As we reported last month, while Charles-Barclay hopes to compete at all eight of the T100 events, she’s going to hold off on committing to the first race in Miami as she gauges her recovery from a torn calf sustained during her win at the Ironman World Championship.
It would appear that there are those in the triathlon fan ranks who took Charles-Barclay’s decision as a negative dig at Ironman and the course in Nice. Since making that announcement, Charles-Barclay has come under fire on social media and received “some inappropriate messages,” which prompted her to respond with a statement on Instagram that provided more detail on her decision:
“While making my race selections for this year, I was keen to focus solely on athletic performance and personal growth. However, my comments about my race selection this year has inadvertently landed me in the middle of the ongoing debate between Kona and Nice, as well as between Ironman and T100. My intention was never to take sides in the politics surrounding these events or organisations. I simply wanted to make decisions based on where I felt I could perform my best and contribute positively to the sport.”
After a few years of battling injuries, Charles-Barclay also acknowledged that she was also taking into account the demands of all the high-level racing.
“Qualifying for Nice would require to complete either two 70.3 distance races or one full Ironman distance race. When combined with the T100 series, this would total at least seven championship-level races, plus one to two qualifying events within a single season. It’s unrealistic to expect to perform at my best across such a demanding schedule, not to mention the heightened risk of injuries.”
“The level of competition in this series is on par with any world championship race I’ve participated in, demanding my full attention and effort. Attempting to compete in both the T100 series and the Ironman World Championship in Nice, for me personally, would be too much of (a) risk and likely lead to a lot of average performances or worse case, injuries.”
“Lastly the decision was made based on the course in Nice. It is known for its technical challenges, it would require a significant portion of my time for course familiarization. This would inevitably divert time and energy away from my commitments to the T100 series. Given these considerations, my decision to focus solely on the T100 series is one I’ve made with careful thought to where I can best apply my efforts and excel this season.”
“My recent remarks regarding the defence of my Ironman World Champion title in Kona, rather than in Nice, were not intended to undermine the Nice course or undermine the achievements of the Nice World Champion in any manner. I recogise the beauty and the challenging nature of the Nice course, and I believe that the winner of that race is wholly deserving of being crowned the Ironman World Championship title.”
“My decision to not compete in Nice is purely strategic and personal, and it does not reflect any negative sentiments towards the event or its participants. I look forward to competing in Kona in 2025, returning as the most recent Kona winner, albeit not as the reigning Ironman World Champion.”
You can read Charles-Barclay’s full statement below.
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