Written by Cleve Dheensaw and published in the the Times Colonist, Thursday, March 27, 2008.
If you want to attract a crowd around these parts, just host running or cycling events and put out the call. As annual events such as the TC 10K, Royal Victoria Marathon and Bastion Square Criterium amply attest, it’s guaranteed you won’t be lonely. Organizers announced yesterday a combined 2,500 participants, 500 volunteers and 20,000 spectators are expected to be part of the 2008 Subaru West Coast Triathlon Series — a four-race series featuring half-Ironman distances. The races include the Shawnigan Lake International Triathlon on May 25, New Balance Victoria International Half Iron on June 22 at Elk Lake, the Vancouver International Triathlon July 13 at Spanish Banks and the Sooke International Triathlon on Sept. 14.
Organizers expect an impact of $3 million from the events.
As with all such races, one of the great appeals is that first-timers lining up at the start line with Olympians and pros such as Canadian stars Cheryl Murphy and Victorians Jasper Blake and Lucy Smith, Americans Bree Wee and Kim Loeffler and Andriy Yastrebov of the Ukraine.
“It’s amateurs alongside the world-class pros and it’s the same start line and the same course for both and everybody rubs shoulders . . . you don’t find that in any other sports,” said former Team Canada coach Lance Watson, who guided Victoria’s Simon Whitfield to Olympic gold at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Watson, whose Victoria-based LifeSport Coaching is the official coaching system of Ironman, is a co-sponsor of the 2008 West Coast Triathlon Series along with title sponsor Subaru. Watson noted the burgeoning popularity of local races.
“Everywhere you go around Victoria, you see people riding bikes and running . . . our climate pulls in people seeking an active lifestyle.”
“And you add to that all the high-profile Victoria triathletes such as Simon Whitfield and [Ironman Hawaii world champion legends] Peter Reid and Lori Bowden who have put even more spotlight on endurance sports here. You do one race and you get the bug and start eyeing the longer distances. And suddenly, lo and behold, you get your spouse to come out as well.”
Smith and Blake, both of whom are parents of young children, aren’t complaining about racing close to home.
Series information: www.lifesport.ca