April 23, 2015 - 2:33 PM
PENTICTON - The world of triathlon racing has been changing in recent years, and the management team with the Valley First Challenge Penticton wants to lead the pack in participant satisfaction.
Building the brand and providing race participants what they want are two keys to success, says Kevin Cutjar, who co-owns the race with Michael Brown.
This year’s Challenge race is the first for the new management team of Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown.
“It’s been a busy time. A lot of energy goes to trying to get athletes in the race,” Cutjar says. He said he has been working with other Challenge races to build the brand, especially here in North America.
“There are a lot of other races on the calendar. While the Challenge brand is consistent and established in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the Penticton race is the first in North America. Many triathletes have barely heard of the brand here,” he says.
Cutjar says it was widely assumed when the first Challenge race took place in Penticton two years ago the race would pick up where Ironman left off.
“It didn’t get off to a flying start. After the initial announcement, the excitement didn’t continue,” Cutjar says.
Introduction of the half distance event in 2014 boosted the race, and Cutjar remains excited about the future of that event. However, he thinks participation in full distance triathlon races is peaking, or has already peaked.
“The whole sport was changing even as Penticton took the Challenge race. For the first 15 years of the race here, this was the only Ironman race in North America. There are 50 world wide now, and several of those are in North America,” he says.
He used the example of the new Ironman race in Lake Tahoe, which attracts California racers who used to come to Penticton.
“People are also looking for quicker events. Many want to participate, but can’t devote enough time to training for a full distance race. We need to look at things in a different way going forward. The marketplace is changing,” Cutjar says, adding the idea of turning the race into a week long festival of events that would include racers’ families is one way of responding to that changing marketplace.
“We are still getting foreign athletes, and I continue to be passionate about the long distance race. That’s where my passion, my heart is,” Cutjar says. “But we can’t get stuck in the history of the event. We can embrace it, but we have to think outside historical boundaries.”
Cutjar says many people feel Penticton’s traditional Ironman course is what brings athletes to the region, but he’s also hearing many people are interested in a flatter course where they can finish with better times, so earlier this year, Penticton Challenge announced a new, flatter run course for this year’s race.
“We need to innovate in a changing market. If we want to see endurance athletes for a week like we used to, it won’t be because of a single long distance endurance race,” he says.
Cutjar believes strong races will survive and he considers Challenge Penticton in that category.
“We have everything it takes to put on a top class event. We can create a race with an atmosphere and a sense of occasion in this city,” he says, also noting the volunteer sector for the race continues to be strong. A recent open house held by Challenge Penticton saw more than 150 people turn out to hear about plans for this year’s event.
Cutjar says Challenge Penticton is about halfway to their registration target of 1,200 entries for the August 30 race day. He said he’d like to 500 of those athletes participating in the full distance event.
“I think we’ll hit those targets,” he says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015