Big changes at Ironman for 2015

Bigger and deeper prize purses, new regional championships and a new staggered swim start at the GoPro Ironman World Championships in Kona was announced by Ironman today.

Kona swim start

Many folks have asked for for changes to the swim start at the world championships and the Pros already got their wish with a solid head start in front of the age groupers in Kona. Now the age group athlete field will have two separate starts at the Ironman World Championships. The professional men’s field will start at 6:25am, with the professional women beginning at 6:30am, and they will then be followed by the men’s age group field at 6:50am. The women’s age group race will go off last - 10 minutes later at 7am

According to Ironman the decision to split the age group field was made following a thorough analysis of participant data and with the goal to reduce athlete density coming out of the water and on the bike course and to give female age group athletes their own swim start. The men who now will start 10 minutes sooner will still have the same cut off times - 2:20 swim and 10:30 bike, and a 17 hour total time. So the final male will have to cross the finish at or before 11:50pm to make it count. The final age group woman must complete the course at the traditional midnight hour for an official finish.

“We believe this will give an opportunity to significantly improve the bike experience for everybody,” said Ironman CEO Andrew Messick. “And it has an opportunity to enhance the fairness of the women’s race for all age groups.”

Bigger and deeper prize purses, plus changes at venues

In 2015 only selected Ironman and 70.3 races will have a professional prize purse structure that is richer and, at regional championships, deeper. That means a total purse of $150,000 for all regional Ironman Championships including the new Ironman Latin American Championships in Florianopolis, Brazil, and the Ironman North American Championships which moved from Mont Tremblant to Texas. In addition, there will be a fifth $150,000 regional championship to be announced later.

The Ironman European Championships in Frankfurt, Germany and the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne, Australia will continue as before but with $150,000 purses that pay 10 deep. While the winner’s shares for the regional championships have not been announced, presumably they will be a little more than the current $25,000 offered to the victors of regional races with total prize purses of $125,000.

All in all, there will be 9 North American Ironman races which will not have prize purses, Kona points and will not be eligible for Kona validation. Those races for 2015 will be Boulder, Louisville, Wisconsin, Maryland, Lake Tahoe, Florida, Muskoka, Los Cabos, and Lake Placid.

At the same time, there will be 11 Ironman 70.3 races for age group athletes only. Those races that will not have pro purses, no prize points and no validation for 70.3 Worlds. Those 70.3 races will include Steelhead, Lake Stevens, Muskoka, Lake Tahoe, Augusta, Haines City [Florida], Honu, Boise, Victoria and Syracuse.

Messick said that there are two big reasons to eliminate pro purses from many North American events. One is the determination by Ironman officials that recent increases in the number of Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events made maintaining pro purses for every event no longer economically sustainable. Second, Messick stated that including pro purses at late season events at which no serious Kona contenders were racing was a waste of money that should be available to top tier pros. Still, said Messick, there will still be some late season races with lesser pro prize money. Those races will include Ironman events in Malaysia, Chattanooga, Barcelona and Mallorca. While Ironman Florida will not offer prize money, the pro purse for Ironman Arizona will be increased.

Messick says that the elimination of prize money at many Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races will not reduce the total pro prize money pool for 2015. “All of the prize money we are taking out of those races will be redirected into larger prize purses at the races where we will have pro prize purses,” he said. “So, this is a redistribution. In 2015, we will have $5.085 million of total global pro prize purses, an increase of 3.7 percent from the 2014 total pro purses of $4.9 million. We think by taking some races and having them not be professional races and being age group only races will allow us to shift a certain amount of prize money earlier in the season when the charismatic top performing pros will be contending for Kona slots.”

All regional Pro champions will also qualify automatically for their respective World Championships. So if you win the Ironman European Championships in Frankfurt you are automatically in the big dance in Hawaii. The same is true for the various 70.3 championships. So, for example, a win at the 70.3 Latin American Championships in Panama gets you straight to the 70.3 World Championships.

“This is a philosophical and concentrated move to provide our professional athletes with a competitive calendar and to help build rivalry and competition while generating excitement around the races,” said Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman. “This has been an important change that we have been working towards for the past six months.”

Details of the new race purse structure can be found here.