The Challenge Family this morning announced they were expanding its global series of long distance triathlons to North America with the launch of the August 25, 2013 Challenge Penticton in Canada.
Challenge Penticton will join the Challenge Family worldwide series of triathlons that includes Challenge Roth, the world's largest long distance triathlon, the classic race that began as Ironman Germany and later Ironman Europe before the Challenge group split with the World Triathlon Corporation a decade ago.
While the Challenge preview press release studiously did not mention the World Triathlon Corporation's Ironman Canada, which is scheduled to be held this weekend, the rights agreement to the Canadian classic race are widely known to be elapsing. Sources familiar with the agreement say that the Challenge Family organization will be taking control and the classic long course triathlon will no longer be a World Triathlon Corporation event and will no longer be known as Ironman Canada.
The Challenge Family acquisition of the rights to hold the classic Penticton event can be seen as balancing the loss earlier this year of Challenge Cairns following the WTC's acquisition of USM Events, who had been contracted by Challenge to organize and run the race. Although the WTC offered to let the event be known as a Challenge race, the WTC demanded that their personnel would organize and run the race. Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshofer refused the offer and it became known as Ironman Cairns.
The Challenge Family sees Challenge Penticton as the exclusive long distance Challenge race in Canada, and they claim the long-distance race will be "returning to its roots with community support and ownership."
Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshofer said " I am absolutely humbled to stand here today. What I have seen here from first visit to the city is that we are all on the same page. And bringing the triathletes back to the center of attention is what we really loved about the Mayor and the Town Council. We are delighted that Challenge Penticton will be our first event in North America. It is great that Roth and Penticton, which were both founded around the same time, will now be under the Challenge umbrella. Indeed our race in Roth and Penticton are both community-driven. And Challenge Penticton will definitely be driven by the community."
Penticton mayor Dan Ashton was passionate about the strong community focus he believes that Challenge brings to the table - which apparently made a key difference to the Town Council vote Wednesday night which chose the Challenge organization to run the event after this year.
"For more than three decades, Penticton has been a prime destination for long distance triathlon," said Mayor Dan Ashton. "Not just because we have a one loop course. And not just because of the gorgeous lakes and the wine country backdrop. Triathlon in Penticton is successful because of our citizens. Challenge Penticton Triathlon will be about people. It will be driven by the community, from the community, a week long festival of activities welcoming athletes, families and residents alike."
Penticton native Steve Brown, who is the race director of Ultraman Canada and who has been a long time observer of the Penticton triathlon scene, had this perspective on the town's shifting sentiment.
"WTC took the community face off the race and put on a corporate face," said Brown. "It doesn't sit well here and the people noticed it. The athletes noticed it. It's just not the race that it was. Because the experience has been diminished. And even on behalf of the corporate face, they diminished it by deemphasizing the prize money for the pros and the points for Kona qualification. They reduced the Canadian race to the point where it made no sense for the pros to even come here."
The Challenge Family also announced that legendary Canadian three-time Ironman world champion Peter Reid would serve as the Challenge Penticton ambassador.
"It was always my biggest dream to end my career with a race at Penticton but sadly, it just didn’t work out," Reid said. "I've watched the race many times with friends since and am looking forward to being a part of this new era of triathlon in Penticton."
The Challenge Family announced that registration for their proposed 2013 event will open at 9.00 AM Monday, August 27 at the South Okanagan Events Centre ticket office in Penticton. There will be a ticket system for both locals and volunteers as well as other athletes lining up. There will also be entries available online for international athletes. Starting at 2pm today and running throughout the weekend, there will be a Challenge Penticton information booth at the SS Sicamous tourist ship where Felix Walchshofer and other members of the Challenge organization will be available to answer athletes' questions.