Outgrowing the team

The Slowtwitch forum and the triathlon world as a whole was occupied on Friday with the news that Chrissie Wellington, Belinda Granger and Hillary Biscay were leaving team TBB and coach Brett Sutton.

A blog post by Hillary Biscay with the line "I am really excited to announce that my best friends and training partners, Belinda Granger and Chrissie Wellington, and I will be forming a new squad under the direction of renowned coach Cliff English" had started the ball rolling and before too long the story had spread like wild fire. Experts far and wide discussed the reasons and had all kinds of explanations for that move.

When asked about the announcement, Team TBB manager Alex Bok said: "It (the blog announcement) at least caught Chrissie's manager and myself by full surprise while he and I were trying to write a joint statement about how Chrissie has enjoyed the team but is no longer a development athlete on a development squad, so we are proud what we have been able to do for her and are very happy for her to move on to a next stage in her career."

This would certainly make sense, as that is an issue Team Timex had to deal with over the years. Once athletes are more successful they can command a higher salary and usually get better sponsorship offers from outside the team. Belinda Granger pretty much confirmed this statement and said: "I can only speak about myself here, but I can honestly tell you that the one and only reason that I was forced to leave Team TBB was sponsorship issues. I was only ever an 'associate' member of the team as I had my own set of sponsors. I had been told that I needed to make a decision by the end of this season- whether I remained loyal to my sponsors or I left them and joined Team TBB as a full member. Financially it just was not viable for me to do this. I have been with most of my sponsors for a very long time and have an incredibly good relationship with them - it would have been very difficult to just let them go."

That however would still bring up the question, why a new coach and why did all 3 athletes go to the same coach? Especially a coach who is married to one of Chrissie Wellington's fiercest competitors - Samantha McGlone.

Coach Cliff English unfortunately wasn't available for comments and coach Brett Sutton simply wrote in an email to Timothy Carlson "I am not commenting on rumors." But in an earlier interview with Timothy Carlson about Joanna Zeiger, in which Sutton explained that the excellent swimmer-bikers like Zeiger and Biscay who must exert full energy in all three disciplines face an almost insurmountable handicap competing with poor swimmers - great runners who derive great energy - saving benefits from riding with strong age group men and thus save energy for the run, Sutton had quite a bit more to say about one of the three athletes in question. "Hilary Biscay faces the same problem (as Zeiger regarding riding out front after the swim and losing the opportunity to ride with strong age group men). (Because of this unfair situation) I’d advised her to retire after she won that race. That shows you how seriously I think about that issue. You have done all you can do. I advised her to get back with her life. They way races are, you will always be knocked (back) by a runner who cannot swim and bike and takes you out with a three hour run. (But) she wants to keep training herself to death when every race will work out the same old story. Come get carted up and outrun . I’d give her that advice. You have done all you can do (under present starting times and draft enforcement). You won a race in a magnificent way."

When asked about Sutton, Granger added that "it was also an extremely hard decision to make as I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the team and with Brett - he is an amazing coach and the guys in the squad are simply awesome. I am definitely going to miss being a part of the team but of course I look forward to new beginnings."

In a press release on Monday, Chrissie Wellington finally confirmed the news herself and stated: "With the Team I reached heights that I never thought possible, and for that I am truly grateful. ... Under my new coach, Cliff English - and with the incredible support of my friends, family and sponsors - I will continue to throw everything I have into being the best athlete I can possibly be. ... May I take this opportunity to thank Brett, Alex Bok and TeamTBB, for everything they have done for me and I want to wish them every success for the future."