Ironman launches Virtual Racing series

The finish line at the women's race at Ironman Barcelona on October 6, 2019 (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

The Ironman Group has announced that it is set to launch an all-digital version of its iconic triathlon series, Ironman Virtual Racing, allowing athletes to continue to train and compete from anywhere in the world throughout the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

The Ironman VR series will be available through the Ironman Virtual Club, a new digital platform that will launch on April 1.

Utilising wearable technology and fitness tracker apps, athletes will be able to compete in a series of challenges over the course of a weekend, with the first race, Ironman VR1, beginning at 6pm (GMT) on Friday, April 3 and closing at midnight the following Sunday. 

The format of the races and the nature of the challenges will vary each weekend, and upon completion competitors will receive a finisher package, including medal and t-shirt, just as in regular Ironman competition. Additionally, the series will give athletes the opportunity to earn qualifying spots for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in November this year in Taupo, New Zealand. 

With mass gatherings currently banned in many locations around the world as governments attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Ironman has been forced to postpone upcoming events in Uruguay, Malaysia and Florida. Earlier this month, Wanda Sports Group, the owner of Ironman, warned of a “material adverse impact”, particularly on its mass participation vertical, as a result of the spread of Covid-19 and associated cancellations and suspensions of events. 

Andrew Messick, chief executive of the Ironman Group, said the series would allow Ironman to fulfil its mission “to provide exceptional, life-changing race experiences for athletes of all levels from their first step to the finish line.”

He added: “We believe that under extraordinary circumstances such as these, athletes should be able to maintain the structure and continuity that training and competition provides. The Ironman Virtual Club is an innovative digital platform that enables our athletes to continue training with purpose, remain connected to our community and provides an opportunity to compete through the Ironman VR Series.” 

Earlier this year, Wanda announced that it was considering the possibility of selling the Ironman Group, valuing the property at $1bn (€920m), after rebuffing two approaches  to take over the business by the Professional Triathletes Organisation. The PTO is a body representing athletes that has secured funding from Crankstart Investments, a vehicle led by British venture capitalist and billionaire Michael Moritz. 

SportBusiness reported earlier in March that the PTO had responded by saying that Wanda’s attempts to sell Ironman may be “adversely affected” if it were to continue to fail to engage with the PTO’s offers.