Five Ironman 70.3 races have lost (and one has gained) qualifying slots to the Ironman World Championship in 2015. Other than Ironman 70.3 Kraichgau in Germany, no other 70.3 races will have qualifying slots for Kona in 2015—and Kraichgau will only have 30.
The races that have lost their Ironman qualifying slots are:
–Ironman 70.3 Mandurah in Western Australia (30 slots)
–Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in Auckland, New Zealand (30 slots)
–Ironman 70.3 St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands (30 slots)
–Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast (72 total slots)
–Ironman 70.3 Eagleman in Cambridge, Md. (30 slots)
The change comes as Ironman works to allow for the increase in Kona slots that will come from newly added full-distance Ironman events. Given the number of athletes who exit the water at approximately the same time in Kona, the event is at maximum capacity. Ironman CEO Andrew Messick says that he hopes not to have to decrease the number of slots being handed out at the marquee Ironman events, but a change has to come from somewhere.
“We are de-emphasizing 70.3s that have Kona slots,” Messick said in an interview with Triathlete.com earlier this year. “You’re seeing a trend of more and more 70.3s that aren’t offering Kona slots. We expect that’s going to continue. We’re looking for other areas to find opportunities to preserve the slots that we have at as many races as we possibly can.”
Ironman 70.3 St. Croix race director Tom Guthrie had somewhat anticipated losing the slots in May, when the race is held, before World Triathlon Corporation (WTC, owners of Ironman) notified him about a month ago. News of the lost slots was already circulating before he got official word. “Athletes came down before the race this year and said, ‘Hey, I hear you’re not going to get Kona slots anymore,’” he said.
Ironman 70.3 St. Croix is one of the longest-standing races on the 70.3 circuit (the 26th running of the race was this year), and as a scenic yet challenging destination race, Kona slots weren’t the only thing drawing people all the way to the U.S. Virgin Islands. “[The Kona slots were] certainly a significant draw,” Guthrie says. “This field is always very elite and very international—I think that will change. I don’t think we’re going to get the pointy end of the spear.”
The St. Croix race drew about 500 athletes this year, many of whom were competitive age-groupers from Europe and South America. “Obviously we had 30 slots—maybe 60 or 75 people thought they had a realistic chance at Kona slots,” Guthrie says. “Everybody else came down for the course and the history and the weather and all. … I don’t think it’s going to lose any of its appeal.”
Other Ironman 70.3 races have lost their Kona slots over the years, as both the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 series have grown. “What we’ve been told by the guys at WTC … when they took Kona slots away from those 70.3’s, their numbers did not go down,” Guthrie says. “This is a destination race—this isn’t a put the bike in the back of the minivan and drive for a couple of hours. Realistically, I think our numbers will be down—we don’t know what they’re going to be. … We’re going to have to roll with the punches and see what happens.”
For all those athletes who have Ironman 70.3 St. Croix on their bucket list, Guthrie assures “the race isn’t going anywhere. Any real triathlete in the world needs to do St. Croix to give them a full experience in the sport, I think.”