Dear Ironman, please be patient: Victoria, B.C.

Tight deadline limits proposal for those trying to bring Ironman Canada to Victoria

Saanich-based triathlete Magali Tisseyre on the trails of Elk Lake. Tisseyre says Ironman is the next step for Victoria’s triathlon scene.

No one in Greater Victoria needs convincing – the region would love to be the new home of Ironman Canada.

That’s been the consensus since Ironman Canada owners, the World Triathlon Corporation, included Victoria on a list of desired destinations for 2013. Granted, it means putting aside the obvious commitments needed to host a race of Ironman’s magnitude.

“We let WTC know we’re very interested, whether or not we can meet the conditions for the Sept. 24 deadline,” said Hugh MacDonald of SportHost Victoria.

“With such a short timeline there is little we can do but

submit a proposal of the route, and local interest to make it work.”

The world famous long distance triathlon was bumped by Penticton in August, after 30 years, and MacDonald, with help from the Victoria triathlon community, is hoping to beat out Whistler, Vernon, Kelowna, Calgary and other cities that plan to meet the WTC’s proposal deadline of Sept. 24.

MacDonald is spearheading the cause, and has brought plenty of world-class events to Victoria.

With Monday as the proposal deadline, however, there is little more MacDonald can do but gather a lot of handshake agreements from the necessary stakeholders who agree in principle that they will support the race.

“The route is multi-municipal, and it’s critical to have the municipalities on side,” he said.

A lot of factors come into play, from the nitty gritty of who will pay for police and approve road closures, to whether the picturesque stretch of Dallas Road and the Inner Harbour can be factored into the race. There’s also an Ironman expo on the Saturday needing 15,000 square-feet, and a banquet for 2,000 that night. Those would have to be downtown, which is where most of the accommodation would be for the expected 2,500 athletes, plus family, coaches and friends who come with them.

An ideal route for Ironman Canada would likely start with the 3.8 kilometre open water swim in Elk Lake, a 90km bike loop (done twice) through Saanich, the Highlands, Central Saanich, North Saanich, and Sidney, and a 42km run ending at Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Paul Regensburg of LifeSport, which organizes the Subaru Western Triathlon Series half Ironman race at Elk Lake every June, is exploring different route scenarios, particularly for the bike.

“One route would be a 180-km loop that touched on all of the municipalities and features of the Capital Region District,” he said. “By having one loop, it would allow for a rolling opening behind the last cyclist,  which may be easier on traffic disruptions.”

Regensburg also mentioned the Inner Harbour as a world-class finish for the run, the third and final leg of the race.

“We would utilize Victoria’s incredible commuter trail systems to get there.”

By Ironman rules, the bike can be two loops of 90-km each, which would.

“I haven’t talked to anybody (in Victoria) yet who would be against it,” said Lance Watson, co-owner of LifeSport with Regensburg.

Quebec-raised triathlete Magali Tisseyre, a top-ranked pro, just moved back to Saanich, where she previously lived for a year and half. Last month Tisseyre won the half Ironman at the first Ironman Mont-Tremblant and, as a native of Montreal, she’s seen the impact Ironman is having on Mont-Tremblant.

“They don’t know much about triathlon out there, but as soon as Ironman came to Mont-Tremblant, all of a sudden there was a whole new potential for tourism in the summer,” said the 30-year-old. Mont-Tremblant is committed to being a permanent training location and has repaved 70 per cent of the road course, she added.

Tisseyre was seventh at the world half Ironman championships last month and is nearly ready to do her first full Ironman race, with many more to come.

“Having Ironman would put Victoria on the international map and open it up to the world.”

One question that still looms is why Penticton chose to walk away from Ironman after 30 years and welcome Challenge Penticton instead, for 2013.

Managing director Steve Meckfessel of WTC said meetings with Penticton happened as late as the week of the Aug. 26 race, and that WTC believes it’s not asking for too much from the host municipalities.

“The model that was in Penticton and the model in which we operate is similar and has proven to serve the athletes and host cities well, it’s proven successful,” Meckfessel said. WTC plans to announce the new host by Oct. 13.

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