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It's now Ironman Cairns!

Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Mon Mar 12 2012

The popular Challenge Cairns race will be rebranded Ironman Cairns, according to World Triathlon Corporation. The rebranding will be effective this year, for the upcoming event scheduled for June 3, 2012.

According to spokesmen from World Triathlon Corporation (WTC)—the company that produces the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 triathlons—an inability to strike a deal with the Challenge family of triathlons to continue a license arrangement resulted in the discontinuation of the Challenge affiliation for the race in Cairns, and the subsequent name change.

In late February, 2012, WTC purchased USM Events, owners of Australia's major triathlons in Noosa, Mooloolaba and Geelong, as well as the Sydney WCS race, a slice of the Olympic-style World Championships. USM Events also owns and produces a race in Cairns, Australia—a full Ironman distance race, won last year by 2-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack—under license from Challenge.

One result of the acquisition of USM Events was that Challenge, and its rival Ironman, were joined together as strategic partners in a popular event. As of three months before the upcoming June race, 1300 registrations have been taken for full distance and half distance races.

Felix Walchshofer, managing direction of the Challenge family of events, was apprised of the impending sale of USM Events to WTC in February, prior to its announcement. USM managing director Daryl Herbert, and Andrew Messick—who joined WTC as its CEO last July—independently called Walchshofer, before the acquisition of USM Events was complete, to give Walchshofer notice that the acquisition was forthcoming.
Last week both Herbert and Messick flew from their respective headquarters to Nuremberg to meet with Walchshofer.

"'We're happy to keep the race a Challenge as long as you want,'" was the message to Walchshofer, according to Messick. "'We'll honor our contract, it's awkward for everyone, but, we're okay with it.'

"It became clear during the meeting," continued Messick, "That it did not work for the Walchshofer for us to own one of their licensed races."

The very popular Challenge Roth triathlon, held outside of Nuremberg, Germany every July, was the original "Ironman Germany." It was one of the early, longest running, and most popular among Ironman races around the World. The race ceased its licensing deal with WTC in 2001, and debuted as Quelle Challenge Roth, to great success. Rather than cede the entire German triathlon market to its former licensee, WTC subsequently incepted Ironman Germany in Frankfurt. Relations between WTC and Challenge remained strained since.

The Challenge brand has worked at expanding its reach, licensing or producing a dozen triathlons worldwide including, until today, Challenge Cairns.

"Daryl did the [licensing] deal with Felix," said Messick, "I have a good relationship with Felix and like him a lot. We picked up two very important relationships [with the acquisition of USM Events]—Challenge and the ITU—and these are important to me. But I take Felix at his word that it just doesn't work for him. I understand that what happened in Germany, eight years ago, the depth of feelings."
As to the mechanics of this for Ironman entrants, there will be age-group Kona slots awarded this year, for this year's 2012 Hawaiian Ironman World Championships, and the number of these slots will be around 40, in line with the two existing Ironman races in Western Australia and Port Macquarie.

This race will become a P-2000 event for pros, which means in future years a $75,000 prize purse and enhanced Kona qualifying points. However, for this 2012 edition, "We're keeping Challenge's pro purse [of $100,000]," said Messick, "because we think it's the wrong thing to do to change things for our pro athletes."
Walchshofer responded to the events above via an email interview, the text of which is contained in the link referenced below.


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