Between flights en route to this weekend’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene, WTC CEO Andrew Messick offers up some insights on the newly announced Ironman Boulder to Triathlete editor-in-chief Julia Polloreno, and explains the unique and significant challenge presented by growing a global race series while trying to keep up with an insatiable demand for a coveted Kona slot.
Julia Polloreno: How long has the plan to bring an Ironman to Boulder been in the works and can you tell us about the inaugural race venue?
Andrew Messick: This was really [Boulder Tri Series race director] Dave Christen’s dream. It’s one of those classic things where in principle everybody says ‘that’s a great idea, of course, it’s obvious,’ but the actual planning of the race—figuring out the course, date and getting support from the Chamber in Boulder and the city and figuring out all the community impact issues—took an immense amount of work and an immense amount of subtlety. Dave and I spoke last August at the 70.3 there and I told him, “Look, if you want to try to figure it out, great, it’s the type of race that has the sex appeal that will really make it resonate with athletes.” Despite the fact that it’s a Colorado race it shouldn’t be exceptionally difficult. It is not a hugely mountainous or hilly bike, although I think it’s going to be harder than people think because of some of the wind challenges. But there’s not a huge amount of climbing like at Lake Placid or even Tahoe. The run will be a little bumpy but not too much so—it’s a couple loops on the Boulder Creek Trail. They’ve chosen to use parts of the road and trail that are used frequently by athletes in Boulder. It will be a really familiar course. And Boulder just being what it is, it’s going to be a great event and a great experience.
JP: Have you had any reaction from the large pro community in Boulder? I imagine you can anticipate a deep pro presence.
AM: I think that winning the hometown race is going to be something that’s very appealing to the pros. I suspect there will be great bragging rights and it will also resonate with age-groupers all over the world who will really look forward to racing in one of the real meccas of triathlon.
JP: As you continue to introduce new Ironman races, how will that affect the field size and number of qualifying slots for Kona? You have a certain number of slots and a growing race series.
AM: It’s exceptionally difficult. We’re putting more races into North America, we’re putting more races into Europe, and more races into Latin America. We expect to have a second event in Brazil in 2014, and to have two new races in Europe, and our series is going to keep growing. As we continue to grow, I think none of us like the notion of reducing the number of qualifying slots we have for existing races. That creates other issues for us. As we expand in Latin America, Asia, Europe there is this relentless, insatiable demand for participation at the Ironman World Championships at Kailua-Kona. And so we’re working diligently to try to manage those issues because field size at Kona puts forth its own unique challenges for us. There are no easy solutions, and we think about that a lot every day. The broader issue is: How do you create the race that everyone wants in Kona and be able to satisfy the type of demand we have? We’ve got a lot of ideas and are going to start testing some things.
Stay tuned to Triathlete.com for future WTC acquisition announcements.
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