Wednesday, 05 Oct, 2022

PTO heavily criticized: “A popularity contest, no objective ranking criteria”

Team Europe arrives at the Collins Cup as the prohibitive favorite. Will the matchups change that? Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

The movement of the Professional Triathletes Organization (PTO) is refreshing and warmly welcomed by most long-distance triathletes. The organization provides them with some extra (financial) support, it makes the triathlon sport more professional and their ranking system gives us a chance to compare athlete with one another. However, the latter, has received a lot of criticism during the last few months. Only last week we wrote about pro triathlete Laura Siddall questioning the system, but this week Instagram users were again rough on the PTO after the organization shared a list of the top five performances – based on their points – in 2021. Besides some replies with words like “huh?”and “wtf?”, people discussed the possible solutions for a fairer system.

Short explanation about PTO-ranking

We’ve discussed the PTO-ranking in detail before, but what follows is a brief explanation of how it works. For every race, the PTO gives athletes a certain amount of points: the winner will be given a little less or more than 100 points, depending on their finish time. In case their finish time is faster than the ideal time the PTO has set for that race, based on weather conditions and the course, an athlete receives 100+ points. On the other hand, if they would be slower than the “Adjusted Ideal Time” (AIT) that the PTO has drawn up, they receive less than 100 points. The bigger the difference between their finish time and the AIT, the more points it will differ from the 100 points that would be given to anyone finishing right at the AIT. In the 2021 high score that the PTO shared on Instagram, all men finished (way) faster than the AIT:

  1. Jan Frodeno 112.86 (Collins Cup)
  2. Gustav Iden 111.34 (Collins Cup)
  3. Gustav Iden 110.18 (Ironman 70.3 World Championship)
  4. Kristian Blummenfelt 109.29 (Ironman Cozumel)
  5. Patrick Lange 108.88 (Ironman Tulsa)

Too many points for The Collins Cup? 

Many athletes commented that the PTO’s own race – The Collins Cup – got too many points. Instagram user “Lewis.donovan3” for instance said: “Clearly the points from The Collins Cup are super inflated. I would argue they shouldn’t count, as the race format gave everyone different conditions, and they were not racing simultaneously, instead it was just races between three people and not the clock. However, even if you do count The Collins Cup in the rankings, it’s insanely overvalued in points. Gustav’s 70.3 worlds performance was the best long-distance showing of 2021 by far. He had a four-minute lead on second place in the highest quality field of the year, and yet it was only the third in points this year. Frodeno got more points doing a race against two people in Slovakia? It doesn’t make sense. Athletes should get the highest scores in points from winning the biggest races against the best competition.”

America’s Sam Long – current number four in the PTO World Ranking – feels the same way: “I agree with this comment 100 hundred percent.”

“P_owell” thinks that Frodeno scored too many points during The Collins Cup: “Jan’s fastest time at The Collins cup counts for more points than Gustav’s 70.3 worlds or Kristian’s Ironman Cozumel? Aight…”

“World records don’t count unless Jan sets them”

“Kris_haisch” refers to another discussion about the PTO not counting the Ironman “world record” that Kristian Blummenfelt set in Cozumel: “Let’s only invite a few people to a race and then make it worth more than all the other races. Also, world records don’t count unless Jan sets them.” 

“Popularity contest”

Due to this situation – that the PTO sat straight in the meanwhile – people have started to feel as if Frodeno gets a preferential treatment. “Why don’t you just say you like Jan the most? Your rankings are nothing more than a popularity contest. There are no objective ranking criteria. Please establish one that can be taken seriously”, “Mwanner13” commented. 

“Absurd”

Alec Riddle explains why he believes The Collins Cup winners shouldn’t be given as many points: “Surely the points earned by Gustav Iden illustrates the flaws (subjectivity) of the points ranking? Gustav beats two athletes ranked outside the top 20 at The Collins Cup, so effectively it’s a time trial with no pressure, nor tactics, and it earns more points than when you’re crowned World Champion in the most competitive race of the year. At the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, a race where peaking; handling pressure; nutrition; tactics & conquering a world-class field is important, Gustav beat anybody and everybody, while racing in cruise control. Tri Rating (the website behind the calculations of the ranking) please explain as this is absurd.”

100 points for the winner? 

Another user suggests athletes should just always receive 100 points for the win. Other people replied that this situation of course wouldn’t work either, as it would only motivate athletes to go look for the weakest races in order to collect a lot of points. Likely a combination between looking at a finish time and looking at the average strength and depth of a field, would be a better next step. 

“The Collins Cup was the highest level”

Not everyone disagrees with the amount of points credited to the winners of The Collins Cup. Dennis Matheson said: “The Collins Cup was high level. Of course, athletes should get more points.”

Even though Matheson feels that way, the current system would not look at it like that: it would only credit The Collins Cup winners with a lot of points in case they actually managed to be surprisingly fast on that day.

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