Ironman to Tighten Virtual Racing Rules

The IRONMAN Corporation’s Virtual Races have enjoyed a lot of success, with tens of thousands of folks participating. But it’s also taken a lot of heat for performances that are too hard to believe. It knows this. And it was inevitable. Therefore – and predictably – new guardrails will ensure a more fair and uniform set of performances.

The most far-reaching changes involve what constitutes a qualified effort and the easiest way to explain it is this: Nothing but an indoor ride counts; and nothing but an outdoor run counts. Further, the indoor ride must be executed on Rouvy, IRONMAN’s partner in stationary cycling, and it must be on the prescribed route for that week’s event.

The run must be performed outdoors, and the proof of the effort is the .fit file generated by your GPS device, such as a Garmin watch.

When will this change take place? “Probably still a few weeks away,” was my reply from IRONMAN. Also, this change does not necessarily signal the abandonment of the current free-for-all, anything-goes racing, where you could literally ride from the top to the bottom of a mountain outdoors (as has already been done in a Virtual Race), or ride in among a pack of cyclists in Zwift (as has already been done in a Virtual Race), and have that count as the cycling leg effort.

This is still being worked out, but as of this moment it appears that the anything-goes class of racing will remain and what’s announced here, by us, today, is a second division of racing that will be more fair, and perhaps more meaningful for those whose virtual results will qualify him or her for something (like an outdoor WC slot).

There will also be a time window, 12 hours, inside of which a contestant much start and end all events comprising that weekend’s race. (Once you commence an effort that starts the clock on your 12-hour window.)

I asked about the mechanics of this. Will there be a distinctive name or branding to this division? Will it be clear what division you’re signing up for when you register for a Virtual Racing event? “It will have a distinctive name to be confirmed,” from IRONMAN, and "when details are further confirmed it will have outward facing messaging to help people know the difference. This is where any qualifying would happen.”

The change may happen before any qualifying is on the line, that is, the first racing by those in this division may be for nothing more than bragging rights. Perhaps IRONMAN wants to see if any enterprising contestants figure out how to work this new system before slots are on the line.

This advent of this new division at least partly solves another problem IRONMAN faced, which is the use of STRAVA as a file clearinghouse for efforts destined for IRONMAN’s Virtual Racing events. Rouvy efforts can move straight from Rouvy’s platform to IRONMAN’s Virtual Club platform, sidestepping STRAVA’s data gateway and omitting any conflict STRAVA might have with IRONMAN’s endeavors.

As we know more about this, you will too. The quickest way to follow the news on this is via the thread on IRONMAN VR on our Reader Forum.