Australia's Carrie Lester crosses the finish line in first place among female full distance competitors at the 2014 Valley First Challenge Penticton.

Australia's Carrie Lester crosses the finish line in first place among female full distance competitors at the 2014 Valley First Challenge Penticton.

Challenge Penticton switching prize purse to half race this year

Valley First Challenge Penticton will alternate prize purses between full and half distance year-to-year to help grow event

A desire for professional triathletes to compete in the Valley First Challenge Penticton (VFCP) half distance event has led to a switch in making that a professional race.

VFCP race directors Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown made the decision to put a $30,000 prize purse to the half is an effort to attract more top-level competitors. The full distance triathlon consists of a 3.8 kilometre swim, 180-km bike and 42-km run, while the half distance is 1.9-km/90-km/21-km.

“We just really feel that even since we’ve made the announcement (on May 16), we’ve had a lot more top-level pros show interest in Challenge Penticton,” said Brown. “There is a lot of people that want to get a race in, that’s a high level race. We’re just not getting the top-level pros to do the full distance race because it’s too close to Kona.”

“There are more long distance races on the professional circuit now, making it increasingly harder to attract top professionals to race here,” said Cutjar in a press release. “We used to see some of the best athletes in the sport go head-to-head in Penticton. This has changed over the past five to 10 years and in the last two years, both men and women champions have posted world class performances, winning by 15 to 20 minutes, yet these efforts go largely unnoticed due to lack of competition.”

Challenge Penticton’s office has received interest from several top Canadian, U.S. and other international professionals, looking to compete at the half distance race.

“We have the potential to attract a very good professional field at the half, due to our location and timing,” said Cutjar.

Penticton’s two-time defending champ Jeff Symonds wasn’t going to compete in the full distance race. Since qualifying for Kona, Brown said Symonds may enter the half distance and try to win money. Challenge Family events across North America have recently notified professional athletes of prize-money restructuring, following similar moves by Ironman branded races, which have some half and full distance events without a professional field. Challenge Penticton will offer the largest prize purse for a half distance race in Western Canada, a total of $30,000 CAD will be awarded equally to men and women for top-five placings in each category:

First – $6,000, second – $4,000, third – $2,500, fourth – $1,500 and fifth – $1,000.

Challenge Penticton organizers insist that having a high quality professional field raises the event’s profile and that seeing top pros in Penticton again will benefit the race, the age-group athletes and spectators alike.

“We’re absolutely committed to the iconic, full distance event, allocating more resources to offer better value for age-group competitors and enhance the overall race week experience for everyone involved.” said Cutjar. “We intend to alternate prize-money each year from half to full, until overall participation in both events can support a professional prize purse in both events.”

Brown said the prize purse of $75,000 in the full distance wasn’t attracting the top pros.

“It’s amazing we do $30,000 on the half, because of the timing, we’re getting them to come,” said Brown.

The full distance race will be an age group only competition in 2015, with awards to the top three competitors in each of the five-year age groups, which is also the award structure for the half distance race. Athletes will also receive $150 transition bag and receive high-end finishers garments.

“We’re not just putting the money back in our jeans,” said Brown. “We’re putting the money back into race to make sure that they are going to have an amazing experience.”

Top three overall finishers in the age group full distance triathlon will be recognized. In addition to the individual athlete categories, two and three person relay teams are also welcome to compete in both distances.