Olympic-distance, non-drafting pros can compete for their share of $180,000 in professional prize money divided among six races.
IMG, the owners of the bucket list-worthy Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, announced today a qualifying race series for its premier triathlon in 2018. The first five races in the inaugural Escape Series will take place in 2017 at four established races (Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Triathlon; Des Moines Triathlon; and Lake Geneva Triathlon in Wisconsin) and one brand new race—the New Orleans Escape Triathlon.
The announcement is a big deal for the professional triathlon community because it means that, after two full seasons of very little professional prize money for short-course triathlons, Olympic-distance non-drafting specialists could no longer make a career of racing their preferred distance. Pros such as Sarah Haskins, Cameron Dye and Alicia Kaye have been essentially forced to race long (Ironman 70.3 and Ironman races) in order to stay professional triathletes. The 2017 Escape Series and the 2018 Escape from Triathlon will offer a combined professional prize purse of $180,000 ($100,000 for the five-part series, and $80,000 for Alcatraz).
“Our objective is to stage unique, challenging and memorable short-course triathlons,” said IMG’s senior VP James Leitz in a press release. As part of that commitment, IMG says, it will also add races to the Escape Series later this year. The website notes that if any races are added to the calendar for early 2018 (prior to the June date of Alcatraz), that IMG will also add prize money to the total, rather than further splitting up the $100,000.
When short-course non-drafting prize purses were (for the most part) eliminated in 2015, it also raised the question of the value of professional triathletes racing alongside age-group athletes. But Lietz told Triathlete.com that IMG understands the value of pros. “The state of the industry may be moving away from prize purses, but we are changing the state of the industry,” he said. “Part of our strategy involved pros and pros are a big part of the growth of the sport of triathlon. … Pro athletes are critical to our business, pros are the ambassadors for the sport and a key element to creating a world-class event. Pros hold us to the highest of standards and we share a mutual respect—they are the talent, they are aspirational to age groupers and are very important to us. We believe in the power of pro athletes; they are an important part of our strategy as we grow this new Escape Series to further the growth of the triathlon industry.”
The 2018 Alcatraz race will host a total of 24 men and 24 women pros, and 18 of those spots per gender will come from athletes who qualify through the accumulation of points from the five Escape Series races. The remaining six pro spots per gender will be reserved the race organizers as “wild-card” spots, so that they can invite high-profile professionals to compete in the race as well for a share of the $80,000 prize purse.
Age-groupers can also gain automatic entry into the race by finishing as one of the top three finishers per age group at one of the five races. First-place finishers will even win a complimentary race entry (a nice bonus, as Escape from Alcatraz received some backlash in 2015 for raising its entry fee). A total of 108 race entries will be available per qualifying race, while age-group athletes can still gain direct entry to the race via the random annual drawing, which will be more limited than previous years.
IMG also owns, operates and/or licenses the Westchester Triathlon, Karingsund Triathlon and Beijing International Triathlon, which all have been and will continue to be qualifying races for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, separate of the newly formed Escape Series.
2017 Escape Series Races and Dates:
- Philadelphia Escape Triathlon, June 24–25, 2017
- Des Moines Escape Triathlon, Sept. 2–3, 2017
- Nation’s Triathlon, Sept. 10, 2017
- Lake Geneva Escape Triathlon, Sept. 23, 2017
- New Orleans Escape Triathlon, Oct. 1, 2017
Find out more at Escapeseriestri.com.