It seems like every year I am saying that (whatever year it happens to be) is set to be a HUGE year for duathlon in Canada. So I love my sport…sue me. However, I do think we have some pretty wicked momentum going for duathlon in this country over the past several years. I started racing duathlons at what was apparently a low point for the sport in Canada. Elite nationals was a thing of the past, several high profile duathlon-only events were on their way out, and the Ironman bug had everyone convinced that the only real multisport was that one where you have to splash around in a lake or a pool before you get to do the fun part.
However, I am pretty excited about this little bit of an upward trend we have going on right now. We have a pretty vibrant community linked by social media that is starting to creep out nationally. Nationals was a pretty big deal last year, and new athletes are starting to think of duathlon as something more than just a multisport event that you try a time or two when the water is too cold or they are not quite ready to swim in open water yet. It’s been a pleasure to watch genuine new duathletes get integrated into our community and start loving this sport as I do. I love it!
So I want to kick off this new focus of my site by highlighting some of the fantastic events that are coming up for duathletes in 2016. 2012 was pretty bad because there was not a national championship for duathletes. In 2013, we got that back and it went pretty well as part of the Esprit Triathlon weekend in Montreal! 2014 started off great with a prime venue for Nationals at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, but with the accompanying sprint distance race being about as far south as it can get (Belle River) and only a week before, the fields were pretty watered down. Things looked up in 2015, as Esprit once again hosted an excellent Nationals and Triathlon Ontario stepped up with the fantastic Du the Double Challenge in Bracebridge that got quite a bit of hype.
It all set the stage for a pretty awesome announcement for the country: Penticton, BC was named the host of the World Duathlon Championships in 2017 (as part of the World Multisport Championships Festival), and that the organizers were tasked with hosting a Canadian Multisport Championships Festival in Penticton during 2016 as a test event for Worlds. How awesome is that?!?! That set off a chain of events that I’m pretty excited about, highlighted by the fact that with Challenge Penticton being the highlight of these two festivals the eyes of the world are going to be on Canada…and duathletes are going to be right in the middle of it. But let’s see what we have in store for us this year…
WORLD DUATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS IN AVILES, SPAIN
The first thing in store for us this year has already happened! I know, what’s wrong with me to be so far behind the times! Don’t worry, I’ve just been busy training hard. But seriously, 2016 was another year for an early Worlds. A decent sized Canadian contingent headed to Aviles in the beautiful Asturias to take on the world! Adding some flair to the event was the debut of age group draft legal racing at Worlds, which seemed to go over well despite some overwhelming displays of team tactics and a moderately technical course. One important takeaway: draft legal for AG sprint racing is here to stay, and if you plan on continuing to target the sprint race at Worlds then you need to do what you can to get yourself the skills to be successful! While I would love to run through all of the performances, click the link here for that while I limit myself to just the AG medallists in this space:
- Jasmin Aggarwal (3rd, F20-24 Standard)
- Lynda Gingras (3rd, F35-39 Standard)
- Steve Beasley (1st, M60-64 Standard)
- Dave Field (2nd, M60-64 Standard)
- Sharryn Oleskiw (1st, F70-74 Standard)
- Diane Eller (1st, F70-74 Sprint)
And seriously, a huge shoutout to all those names I see in the Worlds results year in and year out, the ageless ones. Mitch Davidson, Janis Milliken, Jane Armstrong, Ian Ross, Bruce Butcher, Lynda Lemon, Steve Beasley, Dave Field (1-2 in M60-64, like what?!), I could go on. You guys are awesome…if I end up like you guys, loving this sport like you do, I’m going to be one happy camper.
GREAT WHITE NORTH AND CHALLENGE PENTICTON STEP UP
I went to a town hall meeting with Michael Brown, the RD of the Great White North and Challenge Penticton long course triathlons. Apparently, they had been approached with this radical idea to bid for the first ITU World Multisport Festival in Penticton for 2017. They got the go-ahead from Triathlon Canada as long as they hosted a test event this year that would serve as Nationals for all four sports. The highlight of the festival will most definitely be Challenge Penticton, which doubles as the long course Canadian championship, but with the duathlon on Wednesday there will be an opportunity for the LC triathletes to try their hands at the duathlon. As an added bonus, their other event (Great White North) was awarded 5 qualifying spots per AG to put on a standard distance duathlon at the July event, allowing duathletes another opportunity to compete alongside the best in the world at a premier event for a chance to represent their country at the 2017 World Multisport Festival. I am currently registered for this race, where I will toe the line with last year’s National bronze medallist Moritz Haager, as well as pro triathlete Jon Bird.
WTS EDMONTON ADDS A DUATHLON, AND IT’S NATIONALS
One of the unfortunate things about the Challenge Penticton Canadian Championship Festival is the lack of a sprint duathlon. This is not for a lack of trying! The reality is that with the ITU’s new mandate for draft legal sprint distance races, Triathlon Canada has followed suit and required all qualifiers for sprint distance races to be draft legal as well. While this isn’t really a huge deal for triathlons (which will probably draw a large field), it really is for duathlon. Draft legal races are hugely expensive to put on due to the requirement for closed roads. Without the near-guarantee of a huge field, draft legal duathlons are hard to justify. Luckily, there is a huge event in Edmonton on Labour Day weekend that already has closed roads and a fantastic course for draft legal racing. After the logistics fell through for a draft legal sprint duathlon in Penticton, WTS Edmonton stepped up to host the National Championships. With both championships in the East last year, it will be very interesting to see how many from the East will come test out some truly spectacular racing in the West (ie. y’all should come race me). The standard distance duathlon will also have 3 qualifying spots per AG for Penticton.
THE ESPRIT TRIATHLON ORGANIZERS ARE AWESOME…AGAIN
Despite not getting a repeat shot at hosting the Canadian championships in 2016 after a fantastic event in 2015, the organizers of the Esprit Triathlon proved once again that they are willing to do what it takes for duathletes. The 2016 event will most likely serve as the de facto Eastern Canadian Championships this year. As much as I hope that the West “will rise again”, the bulk of the duathlon community is in the East. More specifically, in Quebec. The standard distance Esprit duathlon will once again serve as part of the Canadian Multisport Qualifying Series, with 5 qualifying spots per AG once again. The real exciting part is the move of the sprint duathlon to a draft legal format, creating a second qualifier for the sprint du in Penticton. If you haven’t raced the Esprit event…you should. The bike course is on the F1 circuit, and the ~4.5km lap is perfectly suited for a draft legal race. It’s not overly technical, with only one real hairpin, and the pavement quality is fantastic (obviously). This year’s event is on September 10/11, and I will be in attendance for the draft legal sprint duathlon to close out my season.
TRIATHLON ONTARIO AND MULTISPORT CANADA TEAM UP AGAIN
I feel safe in saying that last year’s Ontario Provincial Du the Double Challenge at Multisport Canada’s Bracebridge weekend was a great success. I mean, I could hear the amount of buzz around the event all the way in Edmonton! Registrations for both events were up by huge percentages, and by all reports it was an exceptional organizational job (as usual) by Multisport Canada. As a result of that success Triathlon Ontario will do it again in 2016, this time at Multisport Canada’s Gravenhurst weekend. The events are flipped, with the more difficult event scheduled for Saturday, but it won’t make the weekend any less difficult. The sprint distance race will not be a qualfier for Worlds (as it is not draft legal), but the standard distance race will be the 4th qualifying event on the calendar with 2 spots per AG. There will be three spots per AG at the race and with it being on the Saturday this year, there will be plenty of opportunity for AGers to punch their ticket to Penticton on fresh legs before tackling the sprint race the next day *hint hint*. Seriously, this is a great event to support and though racing twice in two days is certainly no joke, we’re all duathletes and that means we’re tough as hell by definition!
AN INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT AT IRONMAN 70.3 MUSKOKA
As a final note to wrap up this piece, I’d like to highlight an interesting development that cropped up on the Ironman 70.3 Muskoka website: the 2016 event will feature a 5k/94k/21.1k duathlon. Though this is not the first long course duathlon in this country, it is the first in a little while that has a run to start (ie. not a bike/run). Sorry, Belle River is the first, with Muskoka to follow. The point is, they are a rare breed. Do I believe that an announcement for this event coming so late is going to lead to a flood of registrations? Nope. Do I foresee this race going off with 12-22 people on the start line? Yup. Do I hope they realize this fact and run the race so that we can get some good reviews down and increase registration five-fold or ten-fold in 2017? I definitely do. Muskoka is a tough and rewarding course, and I think it will make an amazing long course duathlon. In 2017. When people have the time to plan for it and train for it.
I would include another highlight reel of some results from certain races in the past month, but I’m already at 1800 words and the Welland World Championships are this weekend. So I will save it and some previews of big July races for another day, presumably sometime next week.
So until next time…keep Du’ing it!