Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman 70.3 Augusta will feature female professionals, while Ironman Canada, Ironman Chattanooga and Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz to feature male professionals.
Ironman today announced a change in race structure for select Ironman and 70.3 events in North America during the 2016 race season. Three races will feature only females in the professional field, with three different races featuring only males in the professional field. Ironman Lake Placid (July 24), Ironman Wisconsin (Sept. 11) and Ironman 70.3 Augusta (Sept. 25) will include all female professional fields, while Ironman Canada (July 24), Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz (Sept. 11) and Ironman Chattanooga (Sept. 25) will include all male professional fields.
According to the press release, the selection of these races was based on the dates on which they are held and the overall qualifying schedule to ensure both genders have the opportunity to compete in a race on the same weekend. A race that hosts a female only professional race will be countered by a race on the same day which holds a male only professional race.
“We are always looking for ways to improve our events. Guided by professional athlete feedback which was shared with Women For Tri board for further dialogue, we are taking this important step in the next progression of competitive racing,” said Andrew Messick, Chief Executive Officer for Ironman, in the announcement. “We are excited to try this pilot in 2016 and provide our female and male pros a unique racing experience, and a platform for each athlete field to shine. We hope to see an amazing professional line up and outstanding competition at these races.”
“I think that this change for 2016 is a great step forward for female professional triathletes and I am pleased that Ironman is implementing new ways to highlight their female pros,” said reigning and three-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae in the press release. “Women will be the first ones into the water and out on the course—this will help eliminate many of the crossover issues pro women face racing between the pro men and age-group athletes.”
Multiple Kona podium finisher Rachel Joyce was also optimistic about the new strategy. “I think this has the potential to be a very positive move for the women’s professional race and for Ironman racing more generally,” she said in a statement to Triathlete.com. “This gives the women professionals the opportunity to start first. I hope the time gap to the age group start will be such that women professionals will experience a fair race without influence from the age group fields. Having a woman break the finish line tape first is a huge deal. I haven’t seen that in Ironman racing during my career! A great move by Ironman in my eyes.”
“It also means more races will include a professional race next year, which I see as something that will add to the age group experience,” she continued. “I know when I raced as an age grouper I wanted to see what the pros did racing the same course as me in the same day, then hear about the race through their eyes.”
Below are schedule changes for the 2016 North American Season:
All Female Professional Field
Ironman Lake Placid – July 24, 2016
Ironman Wisconsin – Sept. 11, 2016
Ironman 70.3 Augusta – Sept. 25, 20126
All Male Professional Field
Ironman Canada – July 24, 2016
Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz – Sept. 11, 2016
Ironman Chattanooga – Sept. 25, 2016