This blog post describes my thoughts around another KPR issue – the number of races that have Kona qualifying points. (Just to be clear, this post discusses the total number of Kona qualifying races on the calendar for the professionals, not the number of races that count for the final KPR standing – I will probably take up that issue in another post.)
Currently, there are more than 30 full distance Ironman races and an even larger number of 70.3s where you can collect points for the KPR. In addition, WTC is steadily increasing the number of races. The way the system is now, it requires and thereby encourages frequent racing to collect as many points as possible. As examples consider Maik Twelsiek and Lucy Gossage. At the end of April, both had won an IM and placed second in another one, yet they can’t be certain of a Kona slot. (Maik should be fine with a few more points 70.3s, but Lucy even raced another full-distance Ironman.)
Andrew raised another point in his interview with Bob Babbit:
With the number of races that we’re adding on our global series, you could argue that it’s outstripping the magnitude of a quality professional athlete pool.
and outlines how a changed system could look like:
And so one of the things we’re having a serious look at is whether we should have fewer races that have points [..] and have those [..] points be higher.
While Andrew made these statements in the context of 70.3s, this is a pretty clear indication that the number of races that offer KPR points will go down – in other words that there will be Ironman races that do not offer any KPR points.
The first of these races is going to be Ironman Maryland – the old Chesapeakeman rescued by WTC. This is a race that never had a Pro division, so it’s relatively easy to use this as a trial for a non-Pro Ironman. However, I believe that we will also see a number of existing Ironman races that will not offer a Pro race (or at least one that is relevant for Kona qualifying).
There are a couple of different scenarios how this could work. In a blogpost, Brandon Marsh suggests that only a reduced number (probably around 20) have points that count towards Kona qualification. All other races still offer points, but these would just be used to determine who gets to race in the bigger races once they get close to capacity. Another suggestion (in his post „A way forward for pro Ironman racing“) comes from FirstOffTheBike’s Tim Bradley: He suggests that there are 12 races that qualify for Kona. These 12 races could be on a rotating schedule among the existing races – so that each race is a Kona qualifier every three years on average. (He also suggests a slot-based system that I’m going to have a look at in a later post.)
One of the main criticisms of the KPR system is that athletes have to race well in at least two Ironman races (and possibly more) in order to qualify for Kona. Therefore, I think that ultimately a reduction in the number of qualifying races should create a situation where one really good race (winning, maybe even a podium) is sufficient to qualify for Kona. I’m even thinking about a scenario that only about 10 races will have points that qualify for Kona. A possible breakdown could be Kona, three Regional Championships (currently Melbourne, Frankfurt and Mont Tremblant) and five other races across all continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia/Pacific). Even sticking to the current points system levels of P-8000, P-4000 and P-2000, this reduced number of races practically guarantees that a podium spot even in the five continental races would probably be good enough to qualify for Kona.
Of course, this is not a complete discussion of the issue of reducing the number of races, and I’ll go into further details and consequences in my next posts.
My assessment: Changes likely, possibly reducing the number of KPR races as far down as to about ten. Maybe 70.3 qualifying will be used as a trial for a modified system.