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Pro Triathlon Money List: WTS + Kona Points Season Wrap-up | TRS Triathlon

SystemAdminSystemAdmin Administrator
edited September 2015 in Articles

imagePro Triathlon Money List: WTS + Kona Points Season Wrap-up | TRS Triathlon

The first ever comprehensive pro triathlon money list, spanning the 2014-2015 Kona Points season and the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series.

Read the full story here


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    MattMatt Member, Administrator
    Thanks for the detailed breakdown! Very insightful.
    HSeeley14
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    @Cody Beals wrote an interesting blog post about his budget for his rookie year. It is a bit outdated by now provides interesting look into someone breaking into the sport:
    http://www.codybeals.com/2015/02/my-rookie-pro-triathlon-budge/
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    James LangeJames Lange Member, TRS/Baucco Team Member
    Great work Brian. Definitely a lot to think about.

    One thing I'm a little confused with is when you say: "pay the top 100 athletes $100k/year, and the top 10 close to a million." It's a little confusing but I believe that would be $19 million for the top 100. Are you proposing that that should be replicated for both the men and the women, or is that just for the top-100 overall? Considering that there was only $9.5 in prizes this year the $19mil would be ambitious, but $38 million seems totally unrealistic.

    Also, I found it interesting to go to the bottom of each list and work my way up till I saw a name I recognized. For me that was "402 Matthew Sharp" and "344 Leslie Lamacchia."


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    James LangeJames Lange Member, TRS/Baucco Team Member
    "The earnings prospects for a rookie pro triathlete fall somewhere in between “unskilled illegal immigrant” and “preteen babysitter”." - @Cody Beals
    MattAaronWebsteyScolly


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    MattMatt Member, Administrator
    As a former preteen babysitter, I could make that in 2 months.
    Dustino
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    AaronWebsteyAaronWebstey Administrator, TRS/Baucco Team Member
    Wow, that's some great writing and a very impressive attitude from @Cody Beals . Reminds me of my buddy Colin Edwards back in the day, who became an ITU pro after graduating from Harvard. As pragmatic and organized as he was hardworking and talented.
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    Thanks, James. Yes, I'd like to see the top 100 of each gender making $100k/year in prizes, and the top 10 of each gender making $1 million . And you're right that's $38 million, four times the current total prize purse.

    Ambitious? Yes. Requiring some big title sponsors? For sure. Needing a big change in how Ironman views pros? Absolutely.

    But I don't think unrealistic. Ironman has likely quadrupled its profits in the past 8 years? Why not spread the wealth around to boost the long-term viability of the sport?

    But I'm not a financing guy who can figure out the details of who pays. I just know: 1) that other sports have done it; 2) the prospect of $100k/year would attract a lot more top athletes into the sport; and 3) the chance at a million would bring out a deeper field of world class talent.

    Great work Brian. Definitely a lot to think about.

    One thing I'm a little confused with is when you say: "pay the top 100 athletes $100k/year, and the top 10 close to a million." It's a little confusing but I believe that would be $19 million for the top 100. Are you proposing that that should be replicated for both the men and the women, or is that just for the top-100 overall? Considering that there was only $9.5 in prizes this year the $19mil would be ambitious, but $38 million seems totally unrealistic.

    Also, I found it interesting to go to the bottom of each list and work my way up till I saw a name I recognized. For me that was "402 Matthew Sharp" and "344 Leslie Lamacchia."

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    trsradio69trsradio69 Member, TRS/Baucco Officers
    edited September 2015
    What should triathlon podcasters make? This seems light: https://www.patreon.com/trs?ty=hpatreon.com/trs
    AaronWebstey
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    EmilyCocksEmilyCocks Member, Pro Triathlete
    You can add $1500 to me for Pacific Grove. And $200 for swim prime at Wildflower. #ballin
    James LangeAaronWebsteyDawnCGranpa ChookDane Conley
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    James LangeJames Lange Member, TRS/Baucco Team Member
    @TheRealStarky According to the article my measly $1 Patreon contribution means you make more than over 500 "Pros".
    Jennifer PostbalsdorfDustino


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    Just focusing on prize money will not help the sport. Income for athletes should be from other sources also, but then you need a sport that actually has value for fans. I know other winter endurance sports where the best athletes are getting $2m in just sponsor money, where teams are paying salary for athletes (also national team). Where the biggest sponsors are not sports equipment companies.

    Triathlon has to be a product (and it is in some countries) before you will get sponsors to see value.
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    Sorry, Emily. I was a bit scattered about recording non-draft Olympic distance races. It quickly became a rabbit hole to decide which ones to include or not, and tracking down prize purse breakdowns for most of them extremely difficult.

    For that matter, halfway through the season I almost stopped recording Challenge races because their results pages suck, not to mention they couldn't even figure out at which races they were paying or not.

    EmilyCocks
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    Jennifer PostJennifer Post Member, Level 2 Supporter
    I enjoy watching ITU WTS races because I know the top pros are racing. They have to prove themselves before they get their WTS starts. The top athletes race against each other all year long. And I love the Olympics every 4 years. I understand athletes choosing to follow the ITU path if they are fast enough. What I don't understand are all the 'pros' racing long-course and not making any money. And there are a boatload of them that show up and get beaten by AGers at every race. What's the point? Are they really just doing it to save money by paying a one-time annual race fee and to get free homestays? I think it's the joke and hurts any fight for the legitimacy of Pros and their value for long-course racing outside of Kona.
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    idking90idking90 Member, Pro Triathlete
    @alwayscurious I really like this. I think one of the tough parts is that there are always little races here and there missed, especially if you're willing to include purses <$5,000, some of which pay far more to first place than 6th at IM 70.3 XX.
    I do appreciate that you made it clear that you're only including ITU WTS events, excluding World Cups and Continental Cups.
    You're missing one entire did upon of triathlon, though! Some of the off-road guys actually make a reasonable living, at least enough to keep them from having to work "real" jobs. XTERRA of course is the main event organizer there, but TNatura is pretty big in Europe as well.
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    Thanks, Ian. My ultimate deciding factor for which races to include was that the goal of the project was to get a big-picture view of the sport, not to account for every last dollar that each individual made.

    While there are a handful of pros who make half-decent wages by doing a number of small races (Eric Lagerstrom is one), those races really don't total all that much, and they don't meaningfully affect the top 100 in the rankings.

    As for off-road tri--I considered that as well, but it really is a small niche. XTERRA's total prize purse (for 6 races) is $245,000. Which means that even if one person won each race (spread all over the country), he/she would win $40k.

    TNatura has a bunch of races in Europe, but even smaller prize purses. Their European Championship has a prize purse of $18,000, with the winner getting $2,000. Maybe those athletes get better sponsorship to allow them to be full-time athletes?
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    Jennifer,

    If one qualifies for a pro license, and wants to race Ironman, there are a few big advantages to racing as a pro, even for those who know they won't finish in the money.

    1. It's cheaper than registering as an age-grouper. There's even a one-time race entry fee for those who don't want the unlimited $800 season registration, that's still cheaper than age-group registration.

    2. The ability to register for sold-out races all the way up to ~2 weeks before the race.

    3. The ability to race in uncrowded conditions.

    The only real disadvantage is that those athletes have no chance of qualifying for Kona or 70.3 Worlds. But if that's not important to them, it's of no consequence. In fact, most of the age-groupers who beat a handful of pros each race are simply athletes who decided they'd rather get a Kona spot (or have the "glory" of winning their age group) than to race as a non-money-making pro. Many of them actually do end up taking a pro card for a few years though, and then dropping back down to age group.

    In short, I don't blame someone for taking a pro card if they qualify for it. The problem, in my mind, is that USAT has made it too easy to qualify for one. In addition, Ironman gives a big incentive to take it.

    The cynical part of me thinks that Ironman does this simply to ensure that there are many more men than women racing pro, even though most of those extra men are simply pack fodder. (My experience is that men in this category are much more likely than women to take the pro card.) This allows Messick to have an excuse for unequal men/women Kona slots, however flimsy that excuse may be.



    AaronWebsteyJennifer Post
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    Heather LendwayHeather Lendway Member, Pro Triathlete
    Could you post the list of races that were included in this analysis? It seems races like Challenge Knoxville, Challenge Penticton, St. Anthony's, Tri Rock Philly, Des Moines Tri and Las Olas weren't included (all with 20K+ pro prize purses). Maybe New York Tri, Alcatraz and Beijing as well. I see you only included WTS races not world cup and continental cup so maybe I missed a note about excluding some of the non-draft?
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    Challenge Knoxville is in there, but Penticton slipped through the cracks because in 2014 it happened before the kona points year, and in 2015 after the KP year had ended. I should've grabbed one of them anyway, my bad.

    I think I got all the ITU World Cup, but none of the Continental Cups--they pay the winner ~$1700. See my above note to Emily about non-draft Oly races. For them, and Continental Cups, once you start including regional races, you have to look at them all over the globe. I bet I could find 3 dozen spread amongst Europe, Australia, and S.A., most paying the winner ~$1500-$2000, and most of them being raced just by locals who don't accrue much prize winnings through the year.

    One of the reasons I started compiling this list last year was to spotlight just how little attention was paid to the topic. Ironman disappears the total prize purse once the race is over, so there's no retroactive calculating these without a lot of digging. Challenge's results are just a frickin' disaster, not even going into the last-minute changing/eliminating of prize purses.

    ITU spotlights the WTS, but good luck finding a comprehensive list of World Cup & Continental Cup races without digging through pages of their entire race calendar.

    Most of the other Oly-distance races don't even list prize purse breakdowns on their websites--simply the total. I've been amazed that--in a time when race directors complain about "pros not returning value to the race,"--that the race directors themselves do so little to spotlight the amounts won, and by whom.

    Anyway, my starting this last fall seemed to attract attention to the issue, and it seems at least entities are now tracking it (Challenge, and the new pro triathlete union). Hopefully they, or someone else, will build on this effort and make it even more comprehensive for next year.

    And hopefully, entities like Challenge and ITU, and independent races as well, will make their info a bit more transparent and readily accessible.
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    edited September 2015
    @Jennifer Post So I kinda think the opposite of what you think with pros and triathlon. In fact, I'll relate a story. This past year at a race one of the athletes qualified for his pro card. Immediately after his coach and I were texting about taking/not taking the card. I told the coach, he should take it, mainly because I think the sport needs 15th place pros. Yeah maybe a race here or there they get beat by an AG'er, but that's really insignficant in the grand scheme of things. So for me, if you have the stuff to qualify for a pro card, I don't think it hurts the sport. One of my former athletes was an Continental Cup ITU level pro (C level pro essentially), and average at best on the national/international scene (about ~20th overall USA ITU pro in the rankings for those years I believe), who had won money at maybe 2 or 3 races. BUT where he made a HUGE impact is on his local community. He was a well respected triathlete, helped do clinics, etc., so in that aspect he was doing the sport justice. The "too many pros" I don't think really matters, because the top pros will make their money and be there, while the struggling pro will still have to struggle. I don't think having too many pros necessarily devalues the pros overall. Where it can hurt is the things like the pro union where there really are different objectives for the level of pro athlete you are.


    I'd also make the caveat that this is for athletes who qualify legitly, not some home town sprint that no one shows up to and said athlete isn't really close to a mid-pack pro level. I also think that getting your pro card is going to get harder and harder, so it is taking pro level like results in order to get the elite card now.
    AaronWebsteyJennifer Postidking90Scolly
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    BW_TriBW_Tri Member, Pro Triathlete
    @AlwaysCurious great work, love the analysis! Quick question, what did you do for converting Euros to USD, since that is what Challenge pays out in?

    And is the time period of this 1 September to 31 August? I know you say 2014-2015 Kona Points season, but then you said 70.3 Worlds Kicks off the Kona Points Season, which I do not think is a correct statement.

    Or is there not an exact date range because the WTS Series and KQ points season are on different time lines?

    Thanks again for doing this, hopefully it sheds light on the subject and is a good education piece for the pros to share to the general public.
    Brad Williams
    Website | Twitter | Instagram |Strava
    Clever Training (BRADWIL10)-Kiwami Tri (BWTRI10) - Precision Hydration (code bwtri)-FireStar Energy (save 10% w/ BWTRI-351)


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    Thanks, Brad. I think I converted at ~1.20 euro to the dollar, and then rounded a bit.

    The long course season went from August 24, 2014 to August 23, 2015, coinciding with the Kona Points year. It does indeed start with the 70.3 WC, so last year with Mt. Tremblant WC, and the 2015-2016 KP year started on August 30 with Zell am See WC. http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/organizations/pro-membership/qualifying/ironman-qualifying.aspx#axzz3mru5XrY0

    The short course season started late September, 2014 after the WTS championship, and went through Chicago, so Sept. 20, 2015.

    I played with a bunch of scenarios to make the two seasons coincide exactly, but then accepted that, to top ITU folks, the WTS is what really matters, and to top long course athletes, the Kona Points year is what really matters. There's so little overlap between the two athletes that there seemed to be no downsides to those dates.

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    This conversation too often leads to: WTC should just pay more b/c they are making lots of $$$.. That's extremely nearsighted.

    Make Triathlon (all distances) more marketable:
    1.Increase live TV coverage on cable sports networks- this will draw bigger sponsors who will provide the $ for bigger purses
    - To increase viewership, step up game with gopro/ garmin/ shimano sport cameras and better gps for live action.

    2. Replicate ITU style points system for non drafting sprints/ Oly's
    - One way to do this: make regional champs for non drafting with better coverage (i.e. Pan Am games) .Everyone loves rooting for his/her country's colors.

    Super sprints, Rev3 Rush, etc are good ways to do this. These formats should be easy to build solid TV production on and generate interest in the sport.

    Although logistically challenging: more events in Big Cities - NY central park should host an ITU race each year, Chicago's done one, Philly/ Boston/ DC would be easy to do.
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    Jennifer PostJennifer Post Member, Level 2 Supporter
    @Brooks Doughtie I see some of your points but I do agree with tightening the qualifications standards as @alwayscurious says above. For example, you say 15th place Pros still help. Perhaps at some races but looking at the closest race to my hometown Seattle, Cd'A 2015 as an example, I don't see how a male pro that finishes 15 MPRO, 66 Male, and 78 overall represents the Pro field well. I think those racing Pro should represent the very, very select best of those in the sport if there's any hope in building the pro side of the sport to allow top pros to actually make a living.
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    BW_TriBW_Tri Member, Pro Triathlete
    @AlwaysCurious - Copy thanks. I posted the article in a FB Group and one of the pros in there mentioned there money wasn't right. The Challenge Half race in Mexico, San something I think. I looked at the website and it shows "$" next to prize money but then explains it as Euros, so yeah, not your fault at all. The person probably only looked at that one scenario, and when the exchange rate is that close it isn't that big of a deal, especially if only that one race was overlooked.

    Love your work, and love that you published the complete list. I have nagged challenge to publish their "whole list" but they seem to only like publishing the top 25 or 50 or however many ti is. Bit biased in my opinion for them to be doing their own prize money list. You guys are unbiased and are doing great analysis and providing the data publicly, so thanks!

    And thanks for the lesson in KPR timeframe!
    AlwaysCuriousAaronWebstey
    Brad Williams
    Website | Twitter | Instagram |Strava
    Clever Training (BRADWIL10)-Kiwami Tri (BWTRI10) - Precision Hydration (code bwtri)-FireStar Energy (save 10% w/ BWTRI-351)


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    @Jennifer Post fair point. I just don't think the middle of pack who may at times get chicked or AG'd is really holding the sport back. I think elite status is becoming harder to get, which may take a while to cycle through for it to really matter.

    Idk, to me it's more a non point than anything for my take on pro development. It helps to make tighter standard but I also don't think it matters honestly. The structure of triathlon is what is restricting for more pro money. Too many companies are dependent on AG registration to pay for prize purses. Majority of sport is dependent on AGer to make it.
    Jennifer PostAlwaysCuriousAaronWebstey
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    Brent_RBrent_R Member, TRS/Baucco Team Member
    "[Pro sports ownership] should just pay more [to athletes] b/c they are making lots of $$$." Is probably the start of every professional athlete labour movement ever.
    trsradio69
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    trsradio69trsradio69 Member, TRS/Baucco Officers

    This conversation too often leads to: WTC should just pay more b/c they are making lots of $$$.. That's extremely nearsighted.

    Make Triathlon (all distances) more marketable:
    1.Increase live TV coverage on cable sports networks- this will draw bigger sponsors who will provide the $ for bigger purses

    You might be interested to know that one must pay a cable network to get a triathlon on television. Even WTC pays for the NBC Kona commercial show.

    AaronWebstey
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    I have been in the sport for 40 years, wining the early first ever tri's in SD in the mid 70's, have the oldest trophy that has the word triathlon on it. Over the years I have seen the growth in participation but not the growth in prize money. Go into the sport as lifestyle not to make lots of money. Spend more time getting your education versus training 20-30 hours per week and will make far more money doing that. My daughter makes more money that the top triathlete in the corporate world by doing that, Or spend those hours learning/playing golf/tennis, the hundred best golfer/tennis player makes more than the top triathlete. Coach Russ Jones
    James Lange
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    Brent_RBrent_R Member, TRS/Baucco Team Member
    @TheRealStarky I didn't think that applied to ITU WTS on NBC sports or whomever the carrier is down there. Does ITU pay for US cable presentation?
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    trsradio69trsradio69 Member, TRS/Baucco Officers
    Can't say for sure. However, insiders have told me that virtually all of the triathlon you see on television is paid for by the race or race company. None of it generates money. It's an opportunity to advertise your product (a race).

    Why is Cross-fit on TV? They pay to play. Why? It gets people to join a cross-fit gym.

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