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Over 4,000 athletes on a two-loop course with a short swim … how good is your pack riding?

Crowded, multi-loop course in Barcelona lends itself to large packs on the bike

Photo by: Ironman.com

There has been quite a bit of outrage over the drafting that took place at Ironman Barcelona on the weekend. Ironman Barcelona has a reputation as being somewhat of a “draft-fest” at the best of times. (The photo above is taken from the Ironman site.) This year, though, served up the perfect storm for a crowded course – COVID forced Ironman to host both the Ironman and the 70.3 on the same day, then the swim had to be shortened because of high winds. What was advertised as a 950 m swim was likely closer to just over 600 m. That meant the 2,461 competitors in the full-distance race (who started their rolling start at 8:30) and the 1,409 in the 70.3 event – who started a half hour earlier all hit the bike course close together. (There are no results posted for the bike/run athletes – one assumes there were some of those in the race, too.) The entire group would have ended up on the bike course at the same time, with little room to spread out.

Which led to some frighteningly large packs on the bike, according to social media posts, including this one from @BcnSpy on twitter:

As mentioned, the race has a history of large packs:

Photo: Sergi Sierra

“Do you think it is a cycling tour? No, it is the Ironman Barcelona, ​​without drafting they say, of shame,” Sergi Sierra posted on Twitter with the photo above … in 2014.

Even the Ironman Spain Facebook page posted photos with obvious packs:

Photo: Ironman Spain Facebook
Ironman Spain Facebook

We’ve reached out to Ironman for comment on Sunday’s race and will update this story with any information they provide.