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A TOs take on IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong

The Bellarine Peninsula turned on the charm for the Baker Institute IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong with perfect weather greeting 1650 athletes, teams, event staff and Technical Officials.

Our Technical Official teams started to arrive on Friday afternoon to view the course and get in a good nights rest, with many up early for the Kids Tri on Saturday morning.

Once all teams had arrived, it was all systems go for bike check-in, athletes collecting their kits from registration, and lining up to rack their bikes overnight in preparation for the early start.

Eastern Beach was a bustling transition area for our two teams of Technical Officials who checked race numbers, brakes, handlebar ends and chatted with athletes as they arrived.

The full Technical Official team met up for a Pre-Race briefing in the afternoon, where they talked about the plan for Sunday. 

The team covered how they would be looking out for athletes who displayed an intention to gain an unfair advantage in some way, and how Technical Officials could use the day to educate inexperienced athletes about safety and fairness in the sport of triathlon. 

Sunday morning was a very early start and when transition opened for athletes to enter to set up their gear, it was all hands on deck. In the dark, teams checked bike helmets were correctly fitted for safety and that only registered athletes were able to access the transition area. 

Roads on the run course were closed off and the swim start for Elite men started on time. Technical Officials took to the road on motorbikes to follow the bike course, while penalty box Officials prepared to start receiving “visitors”, and our senior technical team ready to follow the elite athletes closely.

This year Technical Officials were in the Event Organisation Centre to communicate face to face with the traffic, medical and event directors teams. 

This was of great help to the whole team in understanding where the race schedule was up to, where there were incidents on course, and in being able to get messages out onto the bike course to let athletes know that the bike mechanic or sag wagon was on its way to them.

A new tool being trialled race day communication is using WhatsApp. This came about because sometimes the Technical Officials on motorbikes have a hard time getting their messages back to the senior team, due to being so far away out on the bike course, or wind distorting the sound.

 WhatsApp is simple to use and if radio communication is not possible a simple text message on WhatsApp can be seen by the whole technical team. This is also an improvement for the way we notify penalties as on more open bike courses. The motos ride into the penalty box and drop off the penalty notices to the Technical Officials there. 

In Geelong, the Penalty box was located towards the western end of the gardens, so it’s unsafe for motos to go through there due to the narrow winding roads and number of cyclists. 

By using WhatsApp, the penalty box crew and the senior team can all see which penalties have been issued and when they have been served. This was beneficial for the team and also helped towards the end of the bike course in reconciling the penalities and making sure that each penalised athlete had served their penalty. It also created a good record for later of who issued the penalty, what time it was issued and served.

The other very useful function in WhatsApp is the location finder. It’s easy to share your location with others, and then they can look you up regularly. The Technical Officials in the Event Organisation Centre was able to see the positions of the motos, in particular those following the lead male and female elite athletes, to know where they were on the course. A heads up could then be given to Technical Officials in transition and marshals on the course to ensure transition, and the run course was clear.

One thousand two hundred ninety-eight athletes completed the course and they kept the team busy as 26 penalties issued and served on the bike course, mostly for drafting.

Our duties wrapped up on the bike course around 12.30 pm and we came together again to talk about what worked well on the day and if there were any recommendations for IRONMAN to make the event more successful. 

It was a great event and a beautiful 31-degree day. Hopefully, everyone was able to have some relaxing downtime in the afternoon after working so hard to contribute to a fantastic sporting event.

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