Future of professional triathlon racing

I wasn’t sure if the future of professional triathlon racing exists, but after a few recent events I’m almost sure there will be something. Triathlon became quite popular and most of the races (at least branded ones) are sold out way in advance. The question arose whether the professional racing brings any value to races? Would they still sell out if there were no professionals competing? I hope former one remains unanswered.
Based on direction WTC was moving it became quite obvious they don’t care much about professionals. There was no increase in prize money for a very long time and entry fees and number of competitors grew significantly in the mean time (so the money is there). Professional triathlete can’t rely on prize money to make a living out of the sport. Here’s prize money break down from Ironman 70.3 Antwerpen last year:
1st 5.500 USD
2nd 3.000 USD
3rd 1500 USD
4th 1000 USD
5th 800 USD
6th 700 USD
So you had to finish at least in top 3 just to cover your travel costs (unless you had to travel overseas).
The number of Ironman branded races keeps growing which dilutes the field on most of them and makes for some unattractive races. A couple of months ago WTC introduced a new rule which should limit the number of professionals and make the fields more competitive, but I don’t think it will do so. The only good thing that could come out of this rule is out of competition doping control. We won’t see deeper fields until more money becomes available to competitors (not only trough prize money).
High majority of today’s long distance triathletes are not actually professionals. They have to do something else to make a living. Besides that they have to invest a lot of time and energy into marketing themselves in order to attract sponsor interest. That leaves them with a lot less energy and time for training. It’s hard to expect they will close the gap to the top guys who can concentrate almost solely on training.
But there’s a hope for professional triathletes and I see that hope in recent emergence of professional triathlon teams. Until this year there were only a couple of teams but lately new teams started to pop up. It’s almost a trend now. Team TBB, Comerzbank, Team Abu Dhabi, Trek K-Swiss and I heard the news that Specialized is about to announce its triathlon team also. I assume athletes in those teams receive some kind of salary. They can concentrate on training and racing and all other things (marketing, travel management, training camp organisation…) are handled by their team manager. If other big triathlon companies jump into this bandwagon we could see much more competitive fields in the near future.


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