Covid-19 coronavirus has brought the sporting world to a halt but The Ironman Group have come up with a solution to keep athletes motivated.
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A series of virtual racing will be offered through the soon to be launched Ironman Virtual Club, a web-based platform allowing athletes to train and compete from anywhere around the world at any time through the Ironman VR Series of weekly races and challenges.
The Ironman Group president and chief executive officer Andrew Messick said the organisation's goal was to "provide exceptional, life-changing race experiences for athletes of all levels from their first step to the finish line".
"We believe that under extraordinary circumstances such as these, athletes should be able to maintain the structure and continuity that training and competition provides. The Ironman Virtual Club is an innovative digital platform that enables our athletes to continue training with purpose, remain connected to our community and provides an opportunity to compete through the Ironman VR Series."
Athletes will compete in the traditional age-group categories and for select virtual races will have the opportunity to earn qualifying slots to the 2020 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Taupō, scheduled to take place on November 28-29.
During each weekend of competition, there will also be a Women's and Men's Ironman VR Pro Challenge. Two professional female athletes will compete on Saturday and two professional male athletes will compete on Sunday for prizemoney. Anyone around the world will be able to tune-in through the Ironman Now Page on Facebook Watch.
Tauranga triathlete Hannah Wells, who has already qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, said anything that helped motivate people to train was a good thing,although she had some concerns about the consistency of virtual racing.
"There is still more information to come on April 1 but I do wonder how they will regulate it fairly. I assume they'll use things like people's power meters but the trouble is each one reads differently. For example; I have two power meters and they vary by about 10 per cent.
"However, if it means people have a community to go and race against or race with, then I think it's a really good thing. A lot of people struggle with the motivation now because we don't really know what's going to happen - it could be six months, it could be 12 months before we get another race.
"If it creates a community and some fun sort of competition, it will be really cool to see it go ahead. I'm just not sure if they should make it super competitive."
Wells, who loves her training, said despite the uncertainty around future events, she felt as motivated as ever.
"I was planning on doing my first full Ironman in Cairns in June but obviously that has been canned. But this has affected everyone, it is what it is.
"I'm in a big training block now which is fun, I don't personally struggle with motivation myself, I'm loving the training. Obviously I can't swim, unless I go in the open water which I'm doing a bit, but that will get too cold eventually.
"I'm ticking along pretty steadily on the bike, for sure. I'm really lucky that I can still do a lot of biking at home in my garage and out on the roads as well. Obviously in New Zealand we're really lucky to be able to go out on our own to run and bike so I'm just going to make the most of that and appreciate what we do have," she said.
Full details and specifics regarding the IRONMAN VR Series and IRONMAN Virtual Club will be available at launch on April 1, 2020. For more information go to ironman.com