Underneath the amazing results in Ironman racing in the last few weeks, a trend is more and more noticeable: top athletes have "their" races and no other top athlete shows up to contest them. So you have races like the men's races at Roth, Austria or Switzerland, where besides the designated winner, there really wasn't any competition. On the women's side, it's been the case that top athletes absolutely avoid racing Chrissie Wellington.
These severe cases of "cherry picking" are even more pronounced in 1/2 Ironman racing, where you can have some races that are moderately competitive, while others are not competitive at all. Just as an example, Rhode Island 70.3 had 11 male and female pros starting the race.
This trend isn't happening by chance, but it's the product of the pro rules that the WTC has implemented in the last few years, and particularly since it implemented the new Kona qualifying scheme.
In my opinion, the watering down of fields isn't helping the long-distance professional athletes in particular, but also the sport as a whole. A race where there really isn't any competition is not a race, but an event. In order for long-distance triathlon to grow into a serious sport, we need the best athletes racing each other at a few select events, where they compete for real prize-money. In order for us to have a sport and for it to grow, we need real racing, not cherry picking.