Hundreds of cyclists will be on West Saanich Road on Sunday morning from about 7:15 to 10 a.m. for the annual Elk Lake Triathlon, Duathlon and Aquabike.
Based on Hamsterly Beach, the triathlon continues the B.C. Day long weekend tradition that used to be the Self Transcendence Triathlon dating back to 1980.
The race has seen a 20 per cent increase in registration with over 400 participants coming from as far away as Newfoundland, New Jersey, Virginia and Australia. Race director Joe Dixon noted many of the athletes are locals who’ve been part of the event for as much as 20 years. However, the triathlon has seen a spike in athletes registering who competed at recent Ironman Canada event in Whistler.
“With Ironman in Whistler last weekend we have seen an increase in athletes from farther away making this event and Victoria part of their travel plans and deciding to make this race part of their itinerary,” Dixon said.
Liquor Plus is aboard as a sponsor, helping secure a $2,500 prize purse for the top three male and female finishers. Elites competing this weekend include Jeff Symonds, James Cook and Stephen Kilshaw. Cook recently competed as a guide for visually impaired athlete Jon Dunkerley, helping him win bronze at the World Paratriathlon Series event in Edmonton last weekend. Kilshaw is coming off an Ironman Canada outing last week that ended prematurely with a bike mechanical.
Victoria’s Sonja Futehally is a pre-race favorite on the woman’s side, Dixon said.
“It is very special to be involved with this race and keeping the race tradition alive over the August long weekend, as this venue is loved by triathletes and their families alike,” Dixon said, thanking the neighbours and community for their support.
Beyond the triathlon are the additional duathlon (5km run, 40km bike, 9.6km run) and aquabike (1.5km swim, 40km bike), events that increase accessibility for participants. Despite being overshadowed by the popularity of triathlon, the two events are extremely popular for what they provide, as the Elk Lake duathlon sold out with a 50 per cent increase in registration.
The standard (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) and sprint (750km swim, 20km bike, 5km run) triathlons start with staggered swim heats at 7 a.m. from Hamsterly Beach. Athletes then ride out to Old West Saanich Road to the sprint turnaround at Verdier Avenue intersection or the standard turnaround at Widgeon Drive (by the airport).
The sprint run course is an out-and-back-course past the Rowing Centre and the standard run course a counter clockwise 10km loop of Elk Lake.
The transition staging area and finish line for all events are on Hamsterly Beach.
Last year Adam O’Meara was the top finishing male in the standard in a time of two hours and seven seconds. Karen Thibodeau was the top women (fourth overall) in two hours, 11 minutes and 28 seconds.
Community groups helping out with the event this year include Help Fill a Dream, Victoria Hospitals Foundation, the TriStars triathlon Club and the Albert Head Cadets. Along with the more than 400 athletes that will be in town this weekend will be partners and families, bringing an estimated total of 1,000 to 1,200 people to the area, bring tourism spending to the local economy before and after the event each year, Dixon said.