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Athletes Roll Dice One Last Time In Vegas

  • By Kim McDonald
  • Published Sep 7, 2013
  • Updated Sep 10, 2013 at 6:35 PM UTC
The palm trees and tripe-digit heat will not be a part of next year's race in Mont-Tremblant. Photo: John David Becker

How do athletes feel about the decision of the World Triathlon Corporation to rotate the Ironrman 70.3 World Championship around the world? And what about the selection of Mont-Tremblant for 2014? Athletes competing this year—both pros and age groupers—weigh in.

Lots of us love Vegas. What’s not to love?

It’s an easy flight or drive, the hotels are plentiful and relatively inexpensive—and if you can stay up until the wee hours of the morning there’s plenty to see and do.

So you would think the World Triathlon Corporation’s plan to move the Ironman 70.3 World Championships after three years in Las Vegas to Mount-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada, on Sept. 7, 2014, would be an unpopular decision to those who made their way to Sin City this week to roll the dice one last time for a world title when they start at Lake Las Vegas tomorrow morning. But for a variety of reasons, that’s not the case. Each time the race has moved, it’s improved. Consider the history.

The first Ironman 70.3 World Championship took place in November of 2006 in Clearwater, Fla., where it remained for five years with mixed reviews. I did the race in 2008 and thought the venue was gorgeous, befitting of a world championship, but my running legs were wrecked from finishing Kona only a month before. The November timing of that race, as well as the blatant drafting from large packs of cyclists who passed me on the pancake-flat bike course, kept me and a lot of other athletes from wanting to return again.

The move to Las Vegas in 2011, when I did the race for the second time, eliminated those drawbacks. The hilly and windy bike course made it much more challenging and fair. And the timing of the race, one month before instead of one month after Kona, seemed to help with my fitness and heat acclimation on the Big Island. But the Vegas run course? Sure, it’s hilly and plenty tough for a world championship, particularly in 90-degree temperatures. But running three loops around a suburban sidewalk and the coned-off section of a busy road with few spectators made the last part of the race (which finishes next to a smaller expo area than you’d see at some local races) much less world championship-like than it was in Clearwater.

RELATED: Ironman Announces Mont-Tremblant As 2014 70.3 Worlds Host

The move next September to the hilly and beautiful Mount-Tremblant course should eliminate those problems. But unlike Clearwater and Vegas, the race won’t stick around for the following year. Each year, the event will rotate to a different region of the world. Good idea? Bad idea? Here’s what some of the pros and top age groupers I caught up with in Vegas had to say:

Kelly Williamson (USA), last year’s runner up: “The move to Mount-Tremblant? Well, coming from someone who loves heat, I personally am not a huge fan! I know that Clearwater was the set location for five years, despite the issues with it being too flat, but it stayed there for five years. I like that because it almost creates a playing field that is pretty even for a set time frame. People can come to learn and know the course, know what to expect. So for my own selfish reasons, I would have loved to see it stay here another two years. Coming from Austin, Texas, I will always opt to race in the heat, but I also like that this race is usually non-wetsuit which to me makes it an even more even playing field. That said, there is no doubt that Mount-Tremblant will still be challenging, hilly and hopefully also fair; and no doubt beautiful. So we’ll see. I do feel like it will be much cooler there, if not on the cold side, so that could change the dynamics and outcome of the race significantly.”

Bryan Dunn (USA), three-time Ironman and two-time Ironman 70.3 World Championships finisher from Phoenix, fourth in the 40-44 age group last year: “I think WTC’s decision to have a rotating 70.3 World Championships is a good one. Kona will always be so iconic, but can be a very U.S.-centric event despite the numbers of foreign athletes who make the effort to race. I think it demonstrates a willingness on WTC’s part to be more egalitarian towards the non-U.S. competitors and provides a nice variety of venues and courses. From what I understand from friends who have participated in the current Mount-Tremblant events, it sounds like an ideal spot. It is, obviously, still in continental North America. It will be interesting to see if and when they choose to contest the race in Europe or Pacific Rim and see how that might impact attendance. I loved the venue of Clearwater, the swim was terrific and the beach community is lovely. But the issues with the bike course were too challenging logistically to overcome. The packs were just huge and some of the side streets heading back to the beach were so narrow it was downright dangerous being surrounded by nervous riders trying to draft, some trying not to draft: others just caught up in the mess. I think this Vegas course is a real gem and test befitting a world championship event but as a resident of the Southwest, [I know] Sept. 8t is a real challenge weather wise. It’s really a bit too hot.”

RELATED: Ironman 70.3 World Championship To Rotate Around The World

Terenzo Bozzone (NZL), 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champion: “I had the privilege of racing the Mount-Tremblant 70.3 a few months ago…In the morning we walked out in the village where everything is—the transition for the race site, all of the hotels, all of the race grounds and it was absolutely amazing. It was like being in a Swiss ski town. It’s a beautiful place for a race to be put on; it’s top standard. The course was really good, the community really got behind the event and I think it’s going to be a great place for a world championship race next year.”

Heather Wurtele (CAN), 2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Ironman 70.3 Calgary and Ironman 70.3 Panama Champion: “As a Canadian, I think it’s huge to have the world championships up there. I think it’s really exciting to have it in different places around the world for the triathlon community in general. I’m really excited about racing in Mount-Tremblant because it’s likely to be a wetsuit swim and it’s not going to be 100 degrees Fahrenheit like it is here, so it may favor another set of athletes. It won’t be as much a fight against the climate conditions like it is here. It will be just more about racing fast on a course in temperatures that are a little more pleasant to have a triathlon in.”

PHOTOS: Pre-Race Swim From Lake Las Vegas

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