Many athletes are turning more than ever to virtual training and racing platforms like Zwift and TrainerRoad. Now they’ll have another online race to line up for, this time it’s a virtual race series from Ironman.
Ironman announced today that on April 1 it will be launching a series of virtual races and a virtual training app—with many details still to come.
Ironman spokespeople did clarify, however, that the Ironman Virtual Club will be via Ironman’s own proprietary app and web-based platform, which they have been developing for some time but accelerated given the latest news. (It will not simply piggyback on existing virtual training platforms, but will compete with them.)
Signing up for that Ironman Virtual Club will be free and will allow you to track your training and participate in weekly challenges, as well as work as a sort of loyalty program, earning points for merchandise and discounts. Once you’re a member of the Virtual Club and have the app, you will then be able to sign up for the virtual races, which they’re calling Ironman VR races. The races will have a yet-to-be-revealed registration fee.
Races will vary in format so that you don’t necessarily have to have a smart trainer or treadmill to participate in all instances, but a schedule has not yet been announced.
Most interestingly, some (though not all) of the Ironman VR races will also earn age-group athletes slots to the 70.3 World Championships in New Zealand in November. Athletes will compete in their regular categories and Ironman officials are still working out how they will prevent cheating — which will rely on some combination of heart rate data and GPS. Slots will be awarded the following Monday evening via a Facebook Live show on Ironman’s Facebook Watch page — the exact logistics of which are also still coming.
The Facebook Watch page will still provide coverage of pro races (as well as the corresponding age-group race, with virtual leaderboards), and anyone can tune in to watch. The difference now is those pro races will also be virtual.
After the Ironman Virtual Club launches on April 1, the VR races will follow that weekend with two pro women going head-to-head on Saturday and two pro men going head-to-head on Sunday. There will be prize money, but who and how much are also to come.