Dan Ashton wishes Whistler well with their new Ironman race, but thinks the World Triathlon Corporation could have done better with their choice of date.
“Instead of the predatory nature that WTC has shown on this, if they had of picked an earlier date it would have been that much more of a success for everyone,” said the Penticton mayor. “However, this is how they conduct their business and I am not surprised they did it on the same date.”
The site of a new Ironman has been a topic of debate since Penticton severed their 30-year ties with the Ironman franchise in August, in favour of a deal with the competing Challenge Family races.
Whistler, Kelowna and Huntington, Ont. had been shortlisted as possible sites, with an announcement expected at Ironman Kona. But in a leak that was first denied then confirmed by Ironman Canada, Whistler Tourism announced the success of the community’s bid Thursday on their website. The leak was first denied, then eventually confirmed by the WTC, with the date for the first race set for Aug. 25, 2013, the same day as the first Challenge Penticton race.
Ashton had championed the idea that if the WTC was to place their replacement Ironman in the Okanagan Valley, they set the date at the start of the season. With two long course triathlons combined with Kelowna’s Apple Triathlon and other tri’s in Penticton and Osoyoos, Ashton said that the valley could have become a triathlon capital.
“We would be known world-wide. But the WTC has made this decision and I wish them the best on it,” said Ashton. “I am sure, because of the experiences that Challenge has had in Roth, Germany that we will not be looking back.”
The WTC attempted to match the Roth Challenge race with an Ironman race in nearby Frankfurt a week before the popular Roth race.
“They went head to head; that one didn’t work after a while and Roth numbers far exceeded whatever Ironman had over there,” said Ashton. But having another race in B.C. changes nothing for Penticton, he continued.
“The race is world-renowned, Challenge is an incredible organization, Penticton and the Okanagan-Similkameen have an incredible race course and wonderful volunteers,” said Ashton, adding that Penticton has a record of 30 years of great hospitality.
“In a continual basis, we have always been the number one race for hospitality. Kona was the No. 1 race, but for our hospitality, we were always rated right at the top and that is not going to change with Challenge,” he said, then corrected himself. “To be honest, it is going to change with Challenge. We own it, and it is going to be better.”
Ashton said Whistler is going to face some challenges of their own.
“No. 1 is the volunteers. It takes up to 4,000,” said Ashton. The race course itself presents some unique challenges, with double loops necessary on the swim and run portions, with the bike portion crossing active railroad tracks and a long uphill climb back into Whistler on the return.
Penticton and the South Okanagan Similkameen have much more to offer, according to Ashton, who lists 30 years of experience, a solid volunteer base and incredible vistas along the single loop swim, bike and run routes.
“The course itself sells it. What we have to do is prove the Challenge name, which I don’t think is going to be an issue whatsoever,” said Ashton. “I look forward to going head to head with Whistler.”