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Ironman offers “bike & run” option for athletes who want to skip the swim at races in 2021

Reaction to concerns from athletes who haven't been able to swim due to the pandemic

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a dent in many people’s swim training, which is why, in Europe, anyway, Ironman has decided to allow athletes to compete at events but pass on the swim this year.

“Over the past 14 months many athletes in Europe have seen their access to swim venues for training severely limited due to COVID-19 and its effect on all of our lives,” Ironman Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) managing director Stefan Petschnig wrote to competitors yesterday. “We know this has made it extremely difficult to prepare for triathlon racing in 2021. Many of you have reached out to us and expressed your wish to race this year while voicing concerns about your lack of swim training. We hear you loud and clear.”

“We’ve taken the feedback on board and are pleased to be offering you a once-off option to decide whether you want to complete the swim at the race you are registered for,” Petshnig continued. “While we will continue to host all three disciplines of swim, bike and run, we understand that some athletes have had little to no swim training due to circumstances outside of their control. It will remain an individual decision for each athlete to select the best option for them based on their personal situation.”

Athletes will receive an email four to six weeks prior to their race with information on how they can opt for the bike and run race, and must make the decision at least 14 days before the event. Once an athlete has opted for the bike and run option, they will not be able to switch back. Athletes will still receive a race package, athlete bag and finisher’s medal, but won’t be eligible for awards or Ironman World Championship or Ironman 70.3 World Championship slots. Those who finish a full-distance race will still have that performance count towards the Ironman Legacy Program, too.

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Athletes competing in the bike and run events will be staged next to the transition area, then allowed to head to their bikes in a rolling start format.

The new program is unique to the EMEA region (so far) “due to the restrictive COVID measures here that have locked people out of pools and swimming halls for almost a year,” according to Ironman officials. Ironman has offered a number of races in the United States already this year including Ironman 70.3 Texas and Florida, that have not provided this option, but lockdowns in many parts of the United States have not been as restrictive as those seen in Europe and here in Canada.