Why Iron­man pro­fes­sion­als re­leas­ing their power num­bers from races would be a step for­ward in the pro­gres­sion of the sport

220 Triathlon Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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”


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