Triathlon: Team or Individual Sport?

Recently, a tiff began between Lance Armstrong and someone doing an Olympic triathlon on Twitter. In this case, I agree with Lance. Triathlon should be, and always should be, an individual sport. Here is the article and my response:


Twitter by newly-minted pro triathlete Lance  Armstrong has stirred up a hornets nest of controversy in the world of triathlon.

When Lance twitters about anything it never fails to create interest considering he has almost 3.5 million followers.

According to an article in the National Post Friday 27, 2012 publication Lance Armstrong was dismissing the Olympic-distance triathlon-Simon Whitfield’s triathlon-as “a shampoo, blow dry and 10k foot race.”

Olympic gold medalist Simon Whitfield responded with “Disappointed to read Lance Armstrong’s comments that those of us working so hard towards our Olympic tri dreams are participating in a joke.”

It really re-hashes a subject that has been swirling around triathlon circles for years. Lance Armstrong is just saying what many triathletes have been thinking for a long time.

The Olympic-distance triathlon allows drafting and to many hard core triathletes it does not seem right that competitors are able to sit on the wheel of a team-mate during the 40k bike leg in order to conserve energy.

With drafting allowed there is a feeling among many triathletes that the Olympic-distance event is a team race and not an individual challenge as triathlon was meant to be when it was created.

Simon Whitfield will once again be representing Canada in the upcoming Olympic Games in London. Gaining a podium spot will hinge on being in the first break-away group on the bike course.

At the Olympic level most triathletes who get left behind on the bike have little chance of making up the time and gaining a spot on the podium is all but impossible.

When the Ironman Triathlon was first conceived it was meant to be an individual challenge and drafting is not allowed in the full Ironman bike distance of 180 kilometers or the Half-ironman distance of 56 kilometers.

Lance Armstrong defended his controversial statement with this response to Simon Whitfield’s twitter “Not bagging you or your peers. Just feel as it drafting ought NEVER be allowed.”

Lance Armstrong has been a pro triathlete for a short time and just recently in Ironman 70.3 Texas 2012  finished in 7th spot and was not a happy camper.

In his very first attempt as a pro triathlete he was sensational in finishing second in Ironman 70.3 Panama 2012.

Interestingly enough it was hard-charging Olympian and Olympic-distance specialist Bevan Docherty who ran him down in the final kilometer to take top spot in the race.

Ultimately, I feel Lance is right.

Drafting in Triathlon is like Cheating at Poker. I feel drafting has no place in this sport, but then again – I choose to never compete in Drafting-legal events. That’s my choice. Those who wish to use teammates for the podium in a “team” triathlon event is a choice I choose not to make.

In my opinion, those who finish “drafting-legal” events aren’t triathletes. They’re team competitors, and that’s fine. But I feel that the results are not a true test of a man/woman as an individual – it’s a team victory.

Which is fine. Personally, I think Olympian Simon is wrong in this argument. In triathlon, drafting minimizes your individual success and just points to a team success. You’re not a triathlete – you’re a teammate. Triathlon is about the individual at its core. That is not to say that team events are out of the consideration. But triathlon was conceived as an individual sport, and the team elements are something new and not holding in what triathlon was and is (in my opinion, like the marathon) all about.