Pros, WTC and Messick
11 days and counting since International Women’s Day and still no response from Messick/WTC on the #50womentokona campaign. In 2 days the first IM championship race of the year will be contested in Melbourne. Hopefully I am wrong, but I think chances are slim Messick addresses this issue before the gun fires.
Why? Here are my theories:
-He doesn’t give a shit and will do what he wants (ego).
-He is not going to be swayed by anything unless the bottom line is affected (races still selling, it’s all good).
-He wants less pros overall, not more.
Last August I listened in via conference call on a meeting that took place in Boulder the week of the Ironman. I am not really a “player” in this game because I have never participated in the points chase for either 70.3 worlds or Kona, however, I wanted to hear what was discussed at the meeting.
Here is the impression I came away with: Messick can be pretty unprofessional (example: calling out Pete Jacobs for making a “fucking joke” of his validation process) and there are only a certain group of professionals he actually “cares” about. Who are these people? Well, most certainly not me. He described himself as “Kona centric” and only caring about “100 or so of the pros.” As evidenced by the #50womentokona campaign I would say it is 85 pros, not 100, but I digress.
Given that Lifetime canceled it’s prize purses pretty quickly after partnering with the WTC here is where I think professional triathlon is going. Either in the toilet so to speak, or over time, there is going to be a big reduction of 70.3s and Ironmans paying out prize purses across the board. This will cause head to head racing among the marquee professionals and ultimately, lessen the amount of professionals overall. Those still standing will be the stars of the Kona show and perhaps become more famous, which Messick has said he wants. It will also make some those former professional triathletes move back into the amateur ranks, which is great because they become paying customers (WTC pro license < multiple race entry fees)!
For those making the jump from the ITU to 70.3 and IM, Messick is banking on the Javier Gomez types; those that come in and kick ass immediately and don’t need “development.” That’s why he and Lifetime probably feel canceling the non drafting Olympic prize purses is okay. If the athletes are strong enough they can probably make the leap pretty seamlessly. If not, they will finish up their Olympic careers and retire without stepping over (or down as some say) to Ironman racing.
It’s hard to know how to counteract the WTC’s approach. Other races are stepping up and offering prize purses; independents like Wildflower, and the Challenge Family series of races. However, the professionals (and amateurs) need to support them. Right now, everyone is still doing the Kona/70.3 WC chase. Believe me, I get it, sponsors want their athletes at those events. The WTC gets it too. And, unless, attitudes among sponsor and athletes start to change there is pretty much no stopping the WTC. Jim Gourley wrote a great piece about this on the TRS Triathlon website.