When it comes to racing in North America, the first few months of 2021 have gone about the same way that all of 2020 did: things were few and far between, and those events that did successfully go off where congregated in a select few states in the southeastern United States. And even that wasn't a guarantee of success, as IRONMAN Texas was indefinitely postponed.
As the calendar is now barreling towards summer, we wanted to take a look at the likelihood of given events taking place over the course of the next few months. After all, this weekend's North American 70.3 championships at St. George, Utah, could really be viewed as the kickoff of the IRONMAN branded season. But we'll also take a look at both Challenge and independent races through the first half of summer.
As we led off with, there's this weekend's event in St. George. With a very deep professional field, and 300 qualification slots for this year's 70.3 Worlds, it should promise to be a breath of normalcy. That said, as with any IRONMAN branded race that has taken place over the course of the last 8 months or so, there's some changes that you should expect: social distancing, no awards ceremony, masks up until you're in the water on the swim, and so on and so forth. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, and will likely be the case through the remainder of 2021. (Will things like wetsuit strippers or changing tents ever come back?)
The remainder of May bounds through locations that you should expect an event to go off in: Panama City Beach, Chattanooga, and Tulsa. It's when we get to the front of June that things get a touch more interesting, with 70.3 Hawaii. Hawaii continues to have stringent travel restrictions, including but not requiring a negative NAAT test from an approved testing facility within 72 hours of your travel to the island. Otherwise, you are subject to a 10 day quarantine. And note: Hawaii is serious about their quarantine policy. Per their site: "During your time in self-quarantine, expect to receive emails and texts from the State of Hawai‘i COVID-19 Quarantine Enforcement Taskforce to check on your compliance. You may also be visited by plainclothes investigators from the State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General and or Honolulu Police Department officers, who have been conducting unscheduled visits to self-quarantining visitors and residents. Self-quarantine violators will be fined, arrested and prosecuted."
Other races in June you should expect to go off: Blue Ridge, Eagleman, Des Moines, Lubbock, Steelhead, and Couer D'Alene. The exception currently on the calendar is Mont Tremblant. Canada continues to have additional travel restrictions, as well as outdoor recreation restrictions within some provinces. Within the province of Quebec, June's Formula1 race in Montreal has been cancelled, with the race date now awarded to Turkey. This one will be a close watch, with no real indication given yet.
July has four races on tap, with three events that seem most likely to happen: Musselman, Ohio, and Oregon. The question mark in the schedule is Lake Placid. There are two strikes against the race potentially occurring. The first is political; during the course of his election campaign, trustee Marc Galvan said that, “We really can’t stress out our limited medical resources here by bringing 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 people here and have an outbreak. We just don’t have the resources to deal with that.” Fellow trustee Jackie Kelly also expressed doubt following the collapse of the National Women's Hockey League bubble in Lake Placid this past winter: "If you can't control the entire environment, you can't control anything. We can't do large-scale events. It's just an impossibility to keep everything under control." The second strike? The famous oval and Main Street are both undergoing construction. Per sources, Lake Placid intends to inform IRONMAN of their decision as to whether to move forward with the event by the third week of May.
Challenge and Independent Races
Challenge's last big event in North America until December is also this weekend -- Challenge Cancun. The race features many of the same types of safety measures that you would expect under any of the return-to-racing guidelines published: self-service aid stations, masks and social distancing mandatory when not racing, and more. Despite being the same weekend as St. George, there should be a decent professional field racing, as well as a sizable age-group event.
Kinetic Multisport will be offering two races during the time frame we're reviewing: May's Kinetic race and June's event in the Poconos. Both appear to be gos, with Virginia and Pennsylvania continuing to ease restrictions, particularly for outdoor recreation. Similarly, as Massachusetts recently moved to Phase 4(b) of their re-opening plan, Sun Multisport's long-running Patriot Triathlon looks to be moving forward. Again, for all of these events, expect social distancing, masking, no award ceremonies, and more. But it's racing.
Michigan's Grand Rapids Triathlon also is pushing forward, and has earned USA Triathlon's COVID-19 Safety certification. The long-running event will now take place over two days. And last but not least, there's Rev3 and their race in Williamsburg. It was recently announced that the two-day event will feature a PTO-supported prize purse, and will see Andrew Starykowicz as one of many professional athletes racing.