There will be battles.
Challenge Penticton’s Long Distance course of a 3.8-kilometre swim, 120-km bike and 30-km run will feature 27 pro athletes fighting for the $30,000 worth of prize money on Sunday, as well as qualifying positions for the International Triathlon Union World Championship in 2017 in Penticton. Penticton is one of 11 series races this year offering qualifying spots according to the Triathlon Canada website.
Among the big names competing are Penticton’s Jeff Symonds and Jen Annett, along with Jordan Bryden, Kamloops’ Nathan Champness, Davide Giardini, Bryan Rhodes, Jenny Fletcher, Elizabeth Lyles, Mackenzie Madison and Karen Thibodeau.
“I’m very pleased to see some of the big names that we have,” said voice of Challenge Penticton Steve King. “I’m saddened to see that we still only have seven females. That’s a shame in a sense that they are battling for some big money there as well. Given the numbers in the women’s division, we do have a battle on our hands. It’s good that there is not an obvious person who is a runaway winner. We’ve got some very talented athletes. I look forward to that.”
King said Lyles, who won Ironman Brazil, will be one to watch after she set a record in eight hours, 54 minutes, 10 seconds. At Calgary 70.3, Lyles came fourth. King said Lyles is in great form, as is Fletcher, who competed in Challenge Roth and finished in 9:36:01 placing 12th.
When asked who he thought might win on the women’s side, King said Annett is in really good form and knows the course.
“She’s become such a power house on the bike, that a lot comes down to mechanical issues,” he said.
On the men’s side, King spoke highly of Symonds saying he’s in great shape. King talked about how Symonds lost ground on the bike in Calgary, but made up for it on the run to finish eighth. Bryden, from Calgary, finished Challenge Roth in 8:28:38, which was a personal best for him and good for 12th. He was the top Canadian at that event. Giardini, of Boulder, Col., finished third last year in the half distance of Challenge Penticton. King said he is one to watch for, especially in the swim.
Rhodes, a former Ironman Canada champ, is another King said spectators should watch. Competing in the masters division, Rhodes is someone who can be in contention and amongst the leaders in the swim. Also in the field is Drew Scott, who comes in with famous genes, as his father Dave is a former six-time Ironman World Champion.
As for the athletes approach to the race, King is curious what pace they will take since its an unusual distance. To King, that is a big issue.
“Do they go too hard too early or hold back just enough? Transitions are always going to be exciting. I think to see who tries to blast things away,” he said.
German Elmar Heger is competing in the distance for the first time and is looking forward to it.
“I think it brings the best from long distance and 70.3 together,” said Heger, 36. “Whenever I start personally hurting on an Ironman, I kind of start stopping at the ITU distance. I’m excited to run only 30-kilometre instead of 42. The last 10 are never fun any way.”
Heger likes his form, but said he wants to peak next month in time for the Oklahoma ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships as a member of the German team. Heger failed to make the team in 2007. It’s the first time for the 36-year-old to represent his country.
“I feel honoured to go. It’s a big deal for me,” said Heger, who has been living in Canada for five years and resides in Calgary with his girlfriend.