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Frederic Funk hits out over Mallorca ‘draft party’ as refereeing in Spain is a hot topic yet again

Drafting is becoming an increasingly problematic issue at Spanish races

Staff Reporter
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Drafting at races in Spain is a hot topic again following back-to-back middle-distance races at Challenge Barcelona and Challenge Mallorca this month.

Off the back of Saturday’s race in Mallorca, sixth-place finisher Frederic Funk took to social media to express his frustrations with the issue, vowing he will not race again in Spain until changes have been made.

A number of other professionals, including British stars Joe Skipper and David McNamee, were quick to echo Funk’s thoughts as the debate raged.

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‘Draft party’ in Mallorca

Explaining the problems which arose on the bike in Mallorca specifically, Funk referenced what he claimed was the reluctance of Spanish race referees to penalise drafters, whilst also calling out the fact five motorbikes were allowed to ride with the front pack.

aaron royle frederic funk challenge samarkand 2023 photo credit Challenge Family
[Photo credit: Challenge Family]

“First of all, what I didn’t even talk about [on Instagram] because it’s an entirely different theme is that there were at least five motor bikes with the front pack. I have no idea why they needed to be there, because there was no livestream, so only one motorbike with a referee would have been necessary.

“The whole race just became a draft party. The Spanish referees are known for not giving out any penalties and a lot of athletes utilised this.”

Funk claimed it was apparent some athletes were not following the rules, a fact he claims was reaffirmed by witnesses in the form of “fans, supporters and lapped amateurs” out on the course.

“At the end of the day we are doing this sport for ourselves, pushing our limits everyday in training and mostly on race day,” he said.

“I’m not only a professional athlete because I want to have the best results possible but mostly because I want to test my limits and reach my maximum potential. I‘m not saying everyone has to race like me but it’s part of the game to respect the rules and part of being a professional athlete is to also respect them when no one is watching.”

Challenge Family responds to Funk claims

When contacted about the matter, a spokesperson for the Challenge Family told us that local federations are paid a fee to officiate races fairly and consistently in line with the rulebook.

“Challenge Family works closely with the national federations in each of our host countries to provide technical officials and referees and it is only these officials who have the responsibility for ensuring a safe and fair race by applying the rules effectively. As organisers, we are not the officiators, that is the federation’s role and they receive a fee for this.

“It was suggested multiple times by Challenge Family representatives on course that there was a clear case for stricter drafting officiation to be applied. However, this was not acted on by the officials. As you know, drafting damages the integrity of the sport, fails the athletes riding fairly and fails the race organisers and is something Challenge Family will continue to work on with its partner federations to improve.”

Funk, for his part, was quick to defend the race organisers in his initial statement on Instagram.

“I want to protect the Challenge Family because this ‘chaos’ today and in several other races is not in their hands, but in the hands of the national federations, like here [in Mallorca] with the Spanish federation.”

Skipper echoes Funk criticism

Funk said he would not return to Spain to race until things change, a stance echoed by British pro Skipper, who commented: “I don’t race in Spain anymore as every race there is a s*** show”.

For Funk, the adoption of Race Ranger drafting technology and a 20m draft zone are now desperately needed.

“As much as I love the Spanish races, as they are often beautiful, especially Mallorca, this was my last one until they have Race Ranger and the 20m rule, as the 20m rule alone doesn’t help in Spain because the referees still don’t do anything, like in Barcelona last week.”

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Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.

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