STATE OF PLAY
Why Ironman professionals releasing their power numbers from races would be a step forward in the progression of the sport
For professional endurance sport to succeed, transparency has to be a cornerstone. As history shows, if there’s an aura of secrecy, faith in the product ebbs away. But is there a limit? At what point does disclosure in the name of fair racing become both invasive and erode any legallygained competitive edge?
To test attitudes in tri, I asked the top 10 male and female pro’s from the Ironman Worlds to reveal their power data from the 180km bike leg. Power – measured in watts – simply shows how much force cyclists are pushing through the pedals, which combined with other factors such as aerodynamics, weight and resistance, determine how fast the bike travels.
The responses covered the spectrum. Of the 20 triathletes, just one failed to reply, and both the women’s champion Daniela Ryf and Germany’s third-placed Anne Haug, said they didn’t ride with power. Five others said they wouldn’t share the data, including men’s champion Patrick Lange. Four said their power meters either faltered or weren’t calibrated properly before the ride and the remaining eight – David McNamee, Andy Potts, Joe Skipper, Michael Weiss, Cam Wurf, Linsey Corbin, Angela Neath and Kaisa Sali – all provided figures. Why is transparency over power data important? While the single average watts metric asked for tells us only a fraction about any given race, a deeper look at the files, either retrospectively, or in real time, reveals far more. For example, sustained low power output could show if a triathlete is cycling in the draft zone, or, even if riding at legal distance, might provide a real-world test environment as to whether the current 12m rule is sufficient.
Visualising the data also offers a more robust defence against motors being used, and, on a more positive slant, makes for a more interactive viewing experience, showing who has an efficient bike position or aero equipment, for example. Michael Weiss’s British coach, Garth Fox, even advocates power files being included with an athlete’s biological passport, with big spikes in performance raising a red flag to anti-doping officials.
“The bottom line is that the only reason for not releasing power files is obfuscation,” Fox says. “In six years of using SRM power meters on all of Michi’s bikes, I cannot recall a single corrupted powerfile or a power meter failure in a race, so that reason should also not be an excuse.”
Fox openly publishes data and insight on all Weiss’s training and racing. Given the Austrian served a ban in 2011 for a doping offence, it’s easy to be cynical of the motives, yet their willingness to engage in debate should be applauded.
I’ll accept releasing training power files is contentious. They can be manipulated, it could be deemed onerous and invasive, and provide detailed training approaches. Yet for a one-off race those arguments quickly dissolve, and given the upside of fairer racing and more fan engagement, it would be a step well worth taking.
“Releasing power files is contentious, but the upside is fairer racing”