As the world’s elite duathletes transition from training to achievement, the 2007 McDonald’s ITU Duathlon Long Course World Championships – the first ever on American soil – set for October 21 in Richmond, Virginia, is now the focus of their final sprint.
“I think they’ve chosen a great venue for the course,” said Jason Spong, a South African duathlete, who has been living and training in Richmond since last November. “There’s a little bit of city and a little bit of urban park setting, so there’s diversity. And the bike course is pretty technical.”
The race will follow a run-bike-run format over two loop courses. The run loop, portions of which follow downtown Richmond’s scenic Canal Walk, is 7.5 kilometers in length. The bike loop, which winds along parks and neighborhoods bordering the James River, is 20 kilometers in length. Athletes will run 15 kilometers (two run-course loops), bike 80 kilometers (four bike-course loops) and then run a finale of 7.5 kilometers, (one last run-course loop).
“This race will be decided on the bike,” adds Spong, who is a seven-time South African national champion, was ranked 8th in the world in 2005, and has traveled the globe competing in world class duathlons. “You can take five or six minutes out of someone on the bike.”
Five hundred athletes from 25 countries will compete in Richmond. The strongest contingents will come from duathlon powerhouses like Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain, while the largest contingents will come from multisport stalwarts Australia, Canada and the United States. While the age groupers will be vying for international recognition and bragging rights, the elites will be dividing up a prize purse of $50,000 – $25,000 for the men and $25,000 for the women.
The strong sponsorship program put together by event organizers, the Sports Backers, includes title sponsor McDonald’s, Saturn, and Snagajob.com, ensures that the race will be well organized and well promoted and widely supported.
“The Sports Backers, McDonald’s, Saturn and Snagajob.com have a common goal of hosting a world-class event that lives up to the standards of the elite athletes that will be participating,” said Sports Backers Executive Director Jon Lugbill. “This event will solidify Richmond as a host city for world-class sporting events.”
Locally, the Sports Backers are working with the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau to roll out the red carpet and share the city’s many amenities and attractions with athletes, national delegations and families and friends.
“People will be surprised with what they find,” said Doretha Winckler, of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a small, cosmopolitan city with a small-town feel.”
“Urban settings are great if you get the cooperation of the people who live there,” agreed Gerard Deegan, a resident of California who will be making his seventh duathlon world champion appearance in Richmond while racing for the Irish team in the 35-39 years age group. “We find a lot of support for us in cities with people who want to identify with their Irish ancestry. Last year at the duathlon world champs in Corner Brook (Newfoundland,) people played Irish music and hung banners. They made us feel great.”
And while the McDonald’s ITU Duathlon Long Course World Championships promises to create a huge multisport splash this fall, the ripples won’t stop in October because USA Triathlon and the Sports Backers have already inked a deal to have the 2008 USAT Duathlon Nationals in Richmond on April 26 and 27 as part of the National Duathlon Festival that will also include the USAT Junior Duathlon National Championships, as well as the National Off-road Duathlon Championships held on Richmond’s infamously rugged urban mountain bike trails.
“We think Richmond can be a hotbed for duathlon,” said Lugbill. “And together with USA Triathlon, we see an opportunity to build on the success of having the 2007 Duathlon World Championships here.”
“The multisport community is very active here in Richmond and they enjoy duathlon,” added Spong, who works at 3Sports, a retailer with wide multisport following. “There’s a rich American culture here. And it’s very green with nice quiet roads. It’s a great place to train, and the duathlon worlds are going to be a great race.”