Challenge Wanaka, the world’s most scenic long-distance triathlon, will take place on Sunday 22 February 2015, a month after its traditional race weekend for the past eight years.
Challenge Wanaka race director, Victoria Murray-Orr made the announcement at a relaxed Awards Brunch this morning, a day after a historic race that saw wins for Candice Hammond (Cambridge) in the women’s race and Dylan McNeice (Christchurch), the first man to successfully defend his title.
Ms Murray-Orr said organisers made the decision after consultation with stakeholders and athletes for three main reasons: to give athletes more time with their families over the Christmas and New Year holidays, to gain additional economic benefit in a quieter tourism season and to take advantage of generally more settled weather.
“Ironically yesterday saw almost perfect conditions for long-distance triathlon, at least before late afternoon when the wind picked up, but we’ve had some rough water swims and windy bike and run legs in the past which has sometimes made life even harder for our athletes,” she said.
“By moving the race to February we can take advantage of probably the best weather month in the Southern Alps and give athletes a more relaxed Christmas. We’re always trying to grow the event to benefit the local economy and hope to attract even more triathletes from all over the world next year for what is increasingly recognised as a must-do race amongst the sport’s global community.”
Ms Murray-Orr also explained the move to a Sunday would allow satellite events like the Puzzling World Junior Challenge Wanaka to take place the day prior as race weekend will no longer lie within school holidays. The junior event was a highlight of this year’s Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival with more than 500 children aged 6-15 taking part.
“Part of our mission is to help develop triathlon in New Zealand and promote health and well-being so Junior Challenge Wanaka is a very important part of the whole festival week. Shifting the event closer to race day this year saw a record number of kids having the time of their lives which was truly inspiring and something we’ll be looking to build on in the future,” she said.
More than 1,000 athletes and supporters attended today’s prize giving ceremony and brunch, cooked by Wanaka Rotary Club to raise money for various local causes, including Candice Hammond, Dylan McNeice, their fellow pro athletes and age group place-getters in both Challenge Wanaka and the Lake Wanaka Half.
Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival attracts in excess of 2,000 athletes over a multi-day celebration of sport involving all ages and abilities. The flagship event, Challenge Wanaka long distance triathlon (3.8km/180km/42.2km) is part of the renowned Challenge Family global series of triathlons which features 24 races in 14 countries, including the world’s largest long distance triathlon, Challenge Roth in Germany.