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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that will feature pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com.
With triathlon’s enormous growth over the past decade, the event calendar available to athletes is endless. But a new series called Breakthrough Endurance (Beraceseries.com) looks to create a new competition format wherein multiple different events combine into weekend-long festivals of endurance fun. The passion project of business partners Craig Evans (professional off-road triathlete) and Clifton Duhon (president of Breakthrough Nutrition Bt-nutrition.com), along with consultant Conrad Stoltz (six-time world champion triathlete), Breakthrough Endurance kicks off with the BEast of the Southeast in Gallatin, Tenn. May 24-26. Evans and Duhon plan to host three major weekend festivals in 2013, with additional venues in Colorado and on the west coast. While the initial festivals are mostly targeted to off-road athletes (or those wishing to test their off-road skills), the new series will ultimately appeal to road and off-road triathletes equally as the event offerings expand. Other race opportunities exist under the Breakthrough Endurance brand as well, including the Xterra Lock 4 Blast Triathlon, the Spring Thaw Indoor Triathlon Series and the Frozen & Filthy Winter Trail Run Series. I spoke with Evans to learn more about the newly launched company and the factors that will set their events apart.
Triathlete.com: What was the original inspiration behind the series?
Evans: After the ITU Cross World Championships last year [where Evans finished second], Conrad and I spent a lot of time talking to a bunch of other pros. We talked about the benefits of that style of race, where you have multiple laps, and also the importance of getting people’s families more involved and having a real festival atmosphere. Later I had the same conversation with my friend (and now business partner) Clifton Duhon and basically we agreed we should start our own race series. Since then it’s been two and a half months of chaos on top of what I already do for a living and being a dad and husband! But it’s always been that way with me – my hands are always in multiple avenues. My passion is for this sport and I really want to be involved not only in racing but also in doing everything I can to create great race experiences.
Triathlete.com: Give us a run down of what the BEast of the Southeast weekend will look like.
Evans: Friday night will be a super sprint race, sort of like the prologue in the Tour. It’s a pro race but we’re hoping to have a resume option for amateurs, where if we approve them based on past results they’ll be able to race up with the pros. It will be a 200-yard swim, a 5-mile criterium style mountain bike and a 1-mile run. Afterward we’ll have a big pro panel dinner to get age-groupers involved with all the pros, not just a few of them. In Tennessee we’re working closely with lifechurch.tv and they’ve offered up their huge space. They built a church inside of a movie theater, so we’ll have the dinner there with all the pros up on stage.
First thing Saturday morning will be the pro women’s race – an off-road tri, roughly the Olympic distance. We’re still determining the exact course but we’re looking at around a two- to two-and-a-half-hour race. I sent out a survey to all the pros I’ve had contact with over the past several years and asked whether they liked the separate men’s and women’s races at the ITU Cross World Championships and it was an overwhelming response. Everyone loved being able to watch each other, so all our races are designed that way. After the women’s race finishes the men will go off. Then after the men we’ll immediately have awards and start the kids’ triathlon. It will be a bike, a run and then a sprinkler or Slip-n-Slide finish!
After the kids’ race we’ll have the amateur short track, which is 20 minutes plus one lap on a short track mountain bike course. We’ll do the women’s, then the men’s, then bring back the pro men and the pro women. We’re hoping by the end of the weekend the pros won’t have raced just one race, but instead they’ll be saying, “I raced every race I possibly could and I’m broken now!”
On Sunday morning we’re hoping to have an ITU-style sprint road triathlon. It will be open to anyone, but we’ll cap the field at 100. The bike leg is really technical, so it will definitely be a road bike course, not a TT course. As soon as that’s over we’ll start the amateur off-road triathlon – the women first and then the men, so we’ll separate them again. That will wrap up the triathlon events but later that evening we’ll do the After Dark 5k Trail Run, ending in a section of town with a bunch of really cool bars. The next day is Memorial Day, so with the holiday people will be able to stay out and celebrate!
Triathlete.com: What are some other highlights that we can expect from Breakthrough Endurance events?
Evans: One cool thing is that we’ll have a kids’ zone with first aid certified babysitters. It will be a place where kids can play, make signs for their parents and that sort of thing, but also stay safely if mom and dad both want to race. We’ll create a valuable opportunity for our event partners and vendors with the racecourses going right through “Expo Alley”. We’re also planning to partner with a non-profit organization – we’re in the final stages right now of deciding which one. The Tennessee venue is a great example of how we’ll work with local communities. Actually our Beast of the Southeast event and the Xterra Lock 4 Blast Triathlon [which Evans has won the past 10 years and has now taken over as race director under the Breakthrough Endurance umbrella] will be in the exact same location, so the city of Gallatin has really gotten behind the series and we’re committed to working together to make this a huge success. In terms of the races themselves, the separate men’s and women’s races and the fact that all the courses will be circuit-style will help keep our events spectator-friendly and a great family environment.
Triathlete.com: You’re putting up a $16,000 prize purse, a significant sum in off-road triathlon. What’s the motivation behind the money?
Evans: I still think it’s low. I mean no one that races off-road triathlon in the U.S. as a pro makes a full-time living at the sport. So our goal is to offer more money. This is just year one – next year I hope we can offer even more. If this thing goes off right I want it to be huge! Our three-year plan would be to have a five or six race series with a national championship, and then every year our championship venue will change. Personally, I’m tired of racing a national championship every year at altitude. It’s really unfair to athletes like me that that live at sea level!
Triathlete.com: I imagine a lot of folks might view your series as an attempt to go head-to-head in competition with Xterra. Do you see it that way?
Evans: We’re trying to help grow the sport. We may do that by having the pros and elites race one course and then also a have a novice course where beginners get exposed to triathlon, as well as creating a family friendly atmosphere that makes it easier for people to be involved in the entire weekend. So the short answer is we’re definitely not competing. The goal is to get more people exposed to playing in the dirt!