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What was supposed to be the fourth stop on 2012 Challenge Series race schedule will now be an Ironman event. The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) has announced that Ironman Cairns, formerly Challenge Cairns, will take place on June 3, 2012 and will offer up 40 age group spots to the Ironman World Championship and Kona Pro Ranking points. The event is only in its second year.
“We are excited to add Ironman Cairns to our global list of events,” said Ironman CEO Andrew Messick, in a press release. “This is the perfect opportunity to bring the Ironman experience to a part of Queensland that is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
The sudden change in branding comes as the result of WTC’s purchase of Australia-based USM Events. The Challenge Series was working in a partnership with USM Events to produce Challenge Cairns, but Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshöfer says that partnership is no longer viable.
“Although we are a global organization, Challenge Family is still a family-run operation and this filters down to the athlete at all our races, creating the unique atmosphere and experience for the athletes,” he said in a press release. “USM Events sold to WTC with no prior notice to us, in full knowledge there were clauses in our contract forbidding this. Not only are we unable to work like this, for WTC to be a licensee for one of our races is untenable.”
Adding to the drama is the fact that two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack, who won Challenge Cairns in 2011, had previously agreed to race the event for three years (from 2011-2013) in the midst of his attempt to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Now that he will be racing an Ironman event, simply finishing the race will validate his spot to the 2012 Ironman World Championship (because he won the Ironman World Championship within the last five years).
McCormack acknowledges this fact in a recent Twitter post: “@CEOIronman Cairns here we come. Nice to defend this title again as an Ironman. Game on! Opens many opportunities for the year. Awesome news.”
With the purchase of USM Events, the WTC now also owns the ITU World Triathlon Series race in Sydney and the Noosa Triathlon Multi Sport Festival, among others.
The next Challenge Series race, Challenge Fuerteventura, will take place on the Canary Islands on April 14. The series’ marquee race, Challenge Roth, will be held on July 8.
Athletes who were signed up for the Challenge Cairns event will automatically have their entry transferred to the Ironman event, according to a post on Twitter from @Challengecairns: “Challenge Cairns entrants your entry is now valid 4 Cairns Airport #IronmanCairns, you will receive an email in the next 24hrs with info.”
The press release from the Challenge Series says that a refund is also an option: “We hope the athletes can understand our decision as we have been left without an alternative and all athletes have the right to full reimbursement from USM Events, should they so wish. “