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Champions crowned but many disappointed at the Windsor Duathlon
It was with high hopes that 1,400 duathletes descended on Windsor for the inaugural British Duathlon Championships, and indeed a fair race did see elite champions crowned at the Royal Estate, however poor feedback and reviews circulating on social media show that all was not well at the new British Triathlon blue ribbon event.
Richard Horton and Emma Pallant rounded off a day of tough racing in Windsor Great Park to win the first elite senior domestic titles of the season at the British Duathlon Championships.
Horton celebrated victory after completing the sprint distance course in 54:16 to finish 10 seconds clear of Calum Johnson in 54:26. The Racetime Triathlon Club athlete also saw off competition from former Commonwealth Games representative, Liam Lloyd, who clocked 54:35 to take the final podium spot.
Horton said: “Being crowned national champion feels really good, it’s taken a while to become a senior champion but it’s a big relief to finally win this event. I knew that there would be some strong boys racing today such as Calum Johnson and Liam Lloyd, along with a number of others, but a group of seven of us got away on the bike and we worked together really well.
“The course was really cool, it was challenging but a really interesting venue compared to previous National Duathlon Championships.”
In the women’s event, reigning ITU Duathlon World Champion, Emma Pallant, took the chequered flag for the third year in succession in a time of 1:02:57, over a minute clear of former Olympian and Pallant’s coach, Michelle Dillon who finished in 1:04:02. Gillian Palmer took bronze in 1:04:14.
Upon finishing, Pallant said: “It was a great experience to be racing with my coach (Michelle Dillon), I had fun out on the course and the event went really well. This year I’m aiming to defend my World Duathlon Championship title as well as having a go at 70.3 racing. I’ve got a huge amount to learn, having never time-trialled before but I’m really excited about getting a year of experience in.”
Athletes feedback on social media and review sites
Following the event, it is clear from the social media feedback that all was not well at the Windsor Duathlon. At the time of writing, the event was rated just 2.9 on the popular review site RaceCheck, with reviews posted such as:
“Terrible event, Save your money for new shoes instead.”
“Lovely course – shame the organisation was hopeless.”
“The organisation and logistics were bloody awful.”
Whilst on British Triathlons social media pages there has been clear feedback that expectations were not met by those that entered, with complaints including a muddy, boggy transition, poor event layout and logistics, a lack of recognition of the other races taking part on the day, athletes being pulled from the course before the cut-offs to allow for the elite wave to start before the cut offs and even that the race was stopped mid-way through the event to allow Her Royal Highness The Queen to go to church. A few examples taken from www.facebook.com/BritishTriathlon and on Twitter can be found below:
What has British Triathlon’s response been?
Beyond the official press release celebrating the event and some positive Facebook posts reflecting on the achievements of the winners, very little. Within the official press release issued at 7.30am this morning, was a statement from President and Chair of British Triathlon Ian Howard, who commented commented:
“This sold out event featured an incredibly high standard of competition in the age-group, elite and paraduathlon events, with worthy winners taking home the medals in each and every category. The team at Windsor Great Park have been great to work with and a number of athletes have mentioned what an honour it is to compete in the Royal Park.”
The lack of response to what is still a reasonably recent event is understandable given what must have been an unexpected response and the responsibilty and hard work likely going on right now by the event team to restore the Royal Park back to its natural state and closing down the race. As an event professional myself, I certainly understand that unexpected or poor weather can have a huge impact on an event and that entrants often have very unrealistic expectations of what is possible or what event organisers can do in the event of mud. Triathlon is an outdoor sport and was born out of a sense of adventure and a challenge against the elements as much as a challenge against the course and one another, plus we are in the UK where rain and its subsequent effects is more than likely and athletes should take some responsibility themselves for adapting to the conditions. However, not all criticisms can be attributed to the poor weather.
Comments persist on social media and continue to ask why British Triathlon, as named organisers, have still failed to respond directly or offer a formal response almost 24 hours later at the time of writing. Some might say that given the undoubted resources that a governing body has over, say, a smaller independent company or even a club, and its reputation which is at stake not just nationally but on an international level, a response could or should come sooner rather than later.
Beyond Going Long reached out to British Triathlon with 7 key questions raised by the online feedback. We were reminded that the core event team were still on site and unable to respond directly to our questions at this time but we did receive this response below:
British Triathlon would like to apologise to any competitor who felt the Windsor Duathlon did not meet their expectations. We recognise that combining for the first time the Standard Distance Age Group Championships alongside four elite Championship races whilst also offering a mass participation Sprint distance race was an ambitious change to our racing programme and was not without challenge. We value our competitor’s views and will of course be offering all competitors the opportunity to feed back via our post-race questionnaire that will be issued shortly. Following that and our own race de-brief we will review our plans for 2017.
The questions we asked amongst others were:
- How would you answer criticism that there was not enough planning, infrastructure or contingency planning for poor weather conditions
- How would you answer the criticisms posted online that athletes taking part in the sprint distance were not considered to be part of the event – with no age group winners recognition, prizes or comment in any of the post race media or social media commentary?
- The race is reported online to have stopped to allow the Queen to pass through – can you give us more details on this and how it affected the race?
- Do you have any comment on online reports that age groupers were pulled from the race before completing the second run to allow the elite race to start, despite them being within the cut off times?
- Will British Triathlon be responding to these criticisms and what is the timeline for a response?
Beyond Going Long will update this article as and when we receive additional responses from British Triathlon and if this story develops.
Did you race the Windsor Duathlon? Leave your comments below.