The ITU World Triathlon Series race taking place this weekend in San Diego is only the second time a U.S. city has hosted a round of the series, the first being Washington, D.C., in 2009. As the second to last WTS in the Olympic qualifying period, it will serve as a qualifier for the U.S. team and will help other countries name their final teams.
For the athletes racing, it has special significance, as the race will be held in Mission Bay, known as the birthplace of triathlon, dating back to 1974. “Until this race, our athletes traditionally have not had the opportunity to participate in this caliber of event on our home soil, particularly with Olympic qualification at stake,” says Rob Urbach, the CEO of USA Triathlon. “San Diego joins other iconic cities around the world like Sydney, London, Madrid, Kitzbuhel and others. It’s been a long time coming. This is the birthplace, this is the mecca of triathlon. We’re thrilled to come here and put on what we think will be an epic race.”
The women’s elite race will start at 2 p.m. today, and the men’s race will start at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Many of the elite athletes will be fighting to earn a spot on their country’s Olympic team, something that’s extra special for the U.S. athletes. “This is perfect timing to get some buzz going for an Olympic team,” says Sarah Groff, who has already earned her spot on the U.S. Olympic team. “This is a selection event, and three of those spots are going to be decided on home soil in a pretty competitive field. … To be able to name our U.S. team while we’re in the U.S. is great.”
The fact that the race is in a U.S. city for only the second time in the history of the series is significant because it will draw extra attention to the Olympic, draft-legal format of racing. “It was very important for us to grow the Olympic sport here in the United States,” says Marisol Casado, president of the ITU. “I wanted the best races on the planet connected with the World Triathlon Series. There’s nothing better than having the trials of the U.S. team here in San Diego. I think this is a special event.”
Groff hopes that the U.S., and specifically San Diego, will be able to appreciate the draft-legal style of racing by witnessing it in person. “In the U.S., we don’t get to showcase ITU a lot, well not at the WTS level,” she says. “This is also a non-draft town—this area is so focused on that, and maybe to get some people out there and seeing what we do and highlighting it, hopefully they’ll appreciate our format a bit more.”
Live video coverage be available on race day at Triathlonlive.tv. The women’s race is set for today (Friday) at 2:00 p.m. PDT. The men will compete on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. PDT.