It's been a decade since Xterra held an off-road triathlon championship in Canada, but organizers of the 2010 event are determined to make it an annual competition in Whistler.
In addition to offering both sport and championship distance categories in the Sept. 5 event, they have also added relay and duathlon categories for athletes who don't want to do all three stages or feel comfortable on the swim.
"It's a national championship but you don't need to pre-qualify for it or anything, we want to get participation up as much as we can," said race director Calvin Zaryski.
For the top athletes there is close to $10,000 in prize money available, as well as championship jerseys for the fastest in each age category. Also up for grabs are 40 spots for the Xterra World Championships in Maui on Oct. 24, which will be split between the age categories in the championship event based on participation.
"The last Xterra championship in Canada was in 2000, although we brought back Xterra in 2003 and 2004," said Zaryski. "Last year we held a test event in Canmore, and we held another Xterra on Aug. 15 that brought out 350 athletes. But none of those events was a national championships, which we've brought back to Canada with prize money, Maui spots - the whole shebang."
Registration was picking up at press time and Zaryski is expecting between 150 and 200 athletes to take part. Very few locals have signed up at this point, but athletes have already been confirmed from as far east as Quebec and Ontario. As well, U.S. competitors from Colorado, Oregon and Washington have signed up and are eligible to win spots in the world championships.
Zaryski says the course, designed by Whistler's Grant Lamont and Duncan Munro, is going to be tough but suitable for a championship level competition.
The swim leg will take place in Rainbow Park, with athletes doing 750 metres (sport) or 1,500 metres (championship) in Alta Lake, with a short run in between laps that is typical of Xterra races. The bike leg features one or two laps of an almost 11 km course on Whistler's West Side singletrack, followed by a roughly six or 12 km run on West Side trails. The races finish at Nita Lake Lodge, one of the event's major sponsors.
"The courses are a little longer than average, but in Xterra you generally fit the course to the venue and you can do what you want a little more," explained Zaryski.
As to why he selected Whistler to host the championships, Zaryski says the time was right.
"One reason we're here is the Olympic legacy, and getting up to Whistler to use the facilities," he said. "We will be using some accommodation at the athletes' lodge as well as Nita Lake Lodge. The lake is great for swimming, and Whistler has some of the premier mountain bike trails in the country. The Labour Day weekend is also a good time to be in Whistler, the weather is usually good and it's a hopping community."
Zaryski is encouraging Sea to Sky residents to take part. Solo racers can enter the sport or championship distances and there is a duathlon for individuals who would rather skip the swim. As well, you can enter a relay team in either the triathlon or duathlon with two or three athletes in each.
"We really wanted to open the door to people, and get them into this event," said Zarynski.
The last day for online registration is Sunday, Aug. 29, although you can also register at Nita Lake Lodge until noon on Saturday, Sept. 4, the day before the race. For more information visit www.xterracanada.ca.