Des Moines, Iowa – USA Triathlon has announced that the city of Des Moines will host an ITU World Cup in June of 2007, the first in the United States in over two years. In April of 2005 the city of Honolulu, Hawaii hosted a World Cup, and New York City and St. Petersburg have also hosted World Cups in the past, but thus far Des Moines is the only one on the stateside calendar for 2007.
The United States will hold five “Pan American Cup” (the nomenclature for Continental Cup races in the United States) races in 2006: Honolulu, Hawaii on May 14, Long Beach, Calif. on June 25, Bridgeport, Conn. on August 5, Boston, Mass. on September 3, and Westchester, N.Y. on September 16. In addition, The Grand Columbian in Grand Coulee, Wash. will host the ITU Pan American Long Distance Championships on September 16.
Ric Jurgens, president and chief executive officer of Hy-Vee, Inc., the title sponsor of the race, commented on the unexpected role of Des Moines as host for such a rich event. “Our role as hosts is somewhat rare and somewhat remarkable, given the relative size of our city.”
Triathlon’s richest purse
The Des Moines event will be the richest ever on the ITU circuit with over $700,000 in cash and prizes. The purse will include a top-heavy $200,000 each for the men’s and women’s winners, the ITU announced today.
The total purse tops the $550,000 currently offered at the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii – which offered $110,000 each for the men’s and women’s winners in 2005 – and also exceeds the groundbreaking $500,000 purses offered since 2003 at the revolutionary Life Time Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis.
The combined Life Time Fitness prize award of $80,000 each for the top finishers in the men’s and women’s divisions, plus a $100,000 bonus for the overall winner based upon a gender handicapping calculation, plus an automobile worth $40,000, still makes Life Time Fitness the biggest individual payout in the sport. Last summer, overall winner Craig Alexander of Australia took home a total value of $220,000.
A mistaken date in the overnight story written by the local Des Moines paper initially cast unwarranted suspicion that the ITU series was trying to undermine the Life Time Fitness event. The March 31 story in the Des Moines Register stated the date as July 17, 2007, which at first glance would have put it in direct competition with the Life Time Fitness Triathlon, which occurs every year in mid July at the time of the Minneapolis area’s Aquatennial festival. However, July 17, 2007 is due to fall on a Tuesday. A quick call by nervous Life Time Fitness officials to Des Moines race organizer Bill Burke confirmed that the true date of the Iowa race would be June 17, 2007. The reason for suspicion stems from the long-term irritation of the ITU with the Life Time Fitness organizers scheduling their race on the same date as the Corner Brook World Cup in Canada.
As things now stand, Life Time Fitness public relations officials are congratulatory and happy for the ITU, the professional athletes and Des Moines officials.
“This is great for the sport and the athletes,” said a Lifetime spokesman. “(Lifetime CEO) Bahram Akradi always felt that triathlete are amazing athletes and deserve rewards commensurate with their great athletic achievements.”
Indeed, Akradi has stated repeatedly that he hoped the Life Time Fitness prize purse and the same day NBC coverage would lead other sponsors to step up to the plate to reward triathlon professionals. And now, after Ironman Hawaii and Hy-Vee have each raised the bar, he has become a prophet.
Jurgens said Hy-Vee will also host a citizens’s race concurrently – the Hy-Vee Triathlon – for enthusiasts who will compete in age group and team events. They will be vying for more than $40,000 in gifts and prizes.
The elite and amateur triathlons will be run on Sunday, June 17, 2007. Jurgens said the entire weekend of June 15-17 will have events designed to encourage health and fitness. “We will have a lot of activities for families and people of all ages during Friday and Saturday, too,” he said.
In addition to the record prize purse, the Hy-Vee ITU World Cup Triathlon is a qualifying event for both the 2007 World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg, Germany in September 2007, and the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
Although elites and amateurs will race the same day, they’ll compete on slightly different courses. Burke predicted the event would draw 30,000 spectators.
Both elites and amateurs will swim 1.5 kilometers at Gray’s Lake, but their treks will diverge from their. Amateurs, on an “out-and back” route, will cycle as far as West Des Moines’ Jordan Creek Mall, then return to Gray’s Lake Park by the same path. Then they’ll take off on a 10-kilometer run to downtown and finish at the State Capitol.
After the swim segment, the elites will cycle directly to downtown Des Moines and complete a six-lap, criterium-style race. They’ll transition from bicycle to running shoes at Finkbine Drive in front of the Capitol, complete four laps around a course in downtown Des Moines and cross the finish line back at the Capitol.
The elite competition is limited to 75 men and 75 women from among the top 125 in each division’s world rankings. But the amateur event is expected to draw more than 2,000. The audience will have a distinct international flavor, both on the ground in Iowa and through telecasts in more than 100 countries around the world.
Jurgens said that his company began thinking about hosting a major triathlon partly because he had enjoyed participating on a triathlon team.
“I was amazed at how much excitement and enthusiasm a triathlon generates,” Jurgens said. “We believe that bringing an event like this to Des Moines is beneficial in many ways. One of the most important is that the triathlons, and all the associated activities, promote the concept of fitness and health. That’s important to Hy-Vee, because the more fit we are, the more healthy we will be. And that’s good for all of us.”
Hy-Vee, Inc., headquartered in West Des Moines, is an employee-owned corporation operating 222 retail stores in seven Midwestern states. For 2005, the company recorded total sales of $4.9 billion, ranking it among the top 20 supermarket chains and the top 35 private companies in the U.S..