August 27, 2015 - 8:35 AM
PENTICTON - The Challenge Penticton triathlon has been changing since its inception and nowhere does that seem more apparent than in the event’s race participant statistics.
This year’s race involves a total of 1,171 registered athletes as of August 23. Of that total, 201 solo athletes will compete in the full distance race, including 39 relay teams.
That’s quite a change when compared with the final year Ironman Canada ran its triathlon in Penticton in 2012. That year, 2,500 athletes signed up for the full distance event.
It’s not an apples to apples comparison, however.
Challenge Penticton has seen numbers in the full distance race drop each year since, from a high of 1,100 in Challenge’s inaugural year to 238 solo racers in 2014, along with 98 relay teams.
Those numbers are offset somewhat by the increasing number of events hosted by Challenge Penticton. Since 2014, the race has included a half distance race that has seen participant numbers rising in the two years since its inception, from 355 solo and 52 relay teams in 2014 to 541 solo and 100 relay teams signed up this year.
It’s a sign of the changing nature of the sport, says Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, who says he sees the Challenge Penticton directors very committed to growing the race as they host the 2016 Canadian National Long Course Championships and the International Triathlon Union Multisport World Championships in 2017. Those two events are hoped to generate more triathlon traffic and interest to Penticton, which it’s hoped will increase long distance numbers in the future.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get back to that 2,500 number, just because the whole industry is changing so much,” Jakubeit says, noting other triathlons are now adding half distance races to attract participants. He attributes the move to the fact there are many full distance races in North America and around the world, resulting in a thinning out of racers available for each event.
Jakubeit admits the present scenario is not one that could be considered “sustainable,” describing the long distance race as using 65 per cent of the race’s cost while only delivering 10 to 20 per cent of its revenue. He says core costs of the the long distance race probably wouldn’t change much whether participation was high or low, but traffic control and traffic management plans, which are big ticket items, would still exist.
“Our intention is make triathlon more accessible, and getting more people involved in the event, says co-race director Michael Brown, who says the number of registrations has continued to grow each year since Challenge’s inception.
"It’s a brand new brand, a new event in North America and athletes were a little unfamiliar about what we were, what our brand is. There seems to be more awareness that we have a high value, high quality experience where we put the athlete first,” he says.
The half triathlon event has been made the focus of this year’s Challenge and has cash prizes this year. It will see 541 solo athletes and 100 half teams participate, while the aqua-bike event has 14 entrants.
Forty-five professionals have signed up for this year’s Challenge, and 27 athletes will have completed 10 or more triathlons.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015