Dylan Cleaver on sport

Sport analysis and comment from APN's Head of Sport Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: Take away strength, tactics and it's boring

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The fast pace in the run took its toll on New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt who came sixth in the triathlon. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The fast pace in the run took its toll on New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt who came sixth in the triathlon. Photo / Mark Mitchell

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, all things going to the grand plan, one of the fabulous Brownlee boys of Britain will be crowned Olympic triathlon champion.

Then, hopefully, we can get back to the business of putting real triathlons back on again. Races that stay true to the prefix 'tri', not the quasi-footrace we saw on Saturday.

The broadcasters would have been delighted with the women's event. They got a photo finish and some pretty pictures of Hyde Park to beam around the world. Talk to people who have an interest in the spirit of triathlon and they have another word for the race won so narrowly by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig: boring.

In all but name it was a swim-run duathlon - and the swim was really only important because it was a place to start. The bike leg was irrelevant. It made for some picture-postcard programming and even provided the odd spill, but in terms of having any meaningful effect on the race, it failed completely.

Instead the race became what everybody predicted and many feared - a straight-out foot race between some of the best runners in the sport.

That took its toll on New Zealand's main hope, Andrea Hewitt, but this is a bigger issue than the success or failure - and sixth is hardly a failure - of one athlete.

Triathlon bosses are in danger of killing the ethos of their sport if they continue to promote races on this sort of terrain.

A bike leg must have a hill of some description. This brings two elements into play that were sadly lacking around Hyde Park - strength and tactics.

It's where you give athletes who are less confident in their ability to run a 33-minute 10km a chance to split the field.

A 43km bike leg on the flat, whether it is staged around Hyde Park, Hagley Park or the Taj Mahal, is meaningless.

"It was frustrating," 10th-placegetter Kate McIlroy said of the bike leg. "We probably wanted it to go a bit faster but when you've got the best girls in the world in the front group it's silly to sit on the front the whole way."

In other words, nobody is going to do anything other than go through the motions when the course is designed to give you no chance of success.

Perhaps somebody will have a go in the men's event, if only to get Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee something to think about. But who's going to want to do it? Bevan Docherty, Kris Gemmell or Ryan Sissons? Maybe the latter, but the other two aren't going to want to compromise their run.

Let's hope somebody has a crack. If not, you might as well do something more interesting, like getting your GST up to date, before coming back for the final 400m.

- NZ Herald

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