After four consecutive years of drought conditions at the iconic Wildflower Triathlons in California, one of the largest and most cherished events in the triathlon world is once again poised to welcome the large crowds and vibrant atmosphere that led it to be dubbed ‘The Woodstock of Triathlon’.
Long known as an unofficial opener to the American triathlon season, the organising team at Tri-California note that Wildflower is more than just a race, it is a festival and communal event – a status reinforced this week when it was named the second-best large triathlon in the world by Triathlon Business International (TBI).
Set in the scenic, vine-studded coastal range of central California, the various races across the race weekend – taking place this year from 29 April to 1 May – are a ‘rare mashup of top professionals vying for prize purses and thousands of age groupers and spectators cheering them on in a raucous spectacle.’
“Wildflower is one of our club’s favourite races,” said Chris Douglas, President of the Golden Gate Triathlon Club. “It is a great race for our members, new and old, to train for together and be part of the great community that this iconic race brings together. We’re excited to continue to support this race and have a big showing in May.”
Wildflower this year unveils a new Sunday Sprint Distance race, offering an on-road short course featuring a 0.25 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike and a 3 mile run.
“Our overarching purpose at Wildflower is to serve the memberships of triathlon clubs,” said Tri-California President Colleen Bousman. “The On-Road Sprint is a great gateway for new members and beginner triathletes to get into the sport.”
“The drought absolutely had an effect on the event,” added Bousman. “But thank God for this El Nino. The water is pouring into Lake San Antonio, with the water level rising every week. We anticipate opening up the field to a much larger field this year and enjoying the Wildflower spirit that means so much to the triathlon community.”
Terry Davis, the founder of Tri-California, reflected on the award from Triathlon Business International at its annual conference in Marina Del Rey, California. He said, “We are honoured and excited to be selected as the second-best big triathlon, right behind IRONMAN World Championship, which started the sport more than 30 years ago. It is even more satisfying to us in 2015 as we had to overcome the challenges of the worst drought in the history of the sport and still provide a world-class event.”
In addition to the new Sunday Sprint event, Wildflower will feature on Sunday the Olympic distance race (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run).
Saturday’s festivities will include the Sprint Off-Road race of 0.25 mile swim, 8.5 mile mountain bike and 2 mile trail run, as well as the main pro attraction, the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 55 mile bike, 13.1 mile run).
As always, the event will host the Collegiate Championships, with tri clubs (and newly-formed Varsity programs) from throughout the country. Triathlon clubs and age-groupers – the backbone of the sport, as well as Wildflower – will be ‘represented by the thousands’.
“We are planning to go with the same format as last year for the swim and transition area one,” added Bousman. “We can’t guarantee that the lake will fill enough to go back to our traditional swim start, so right now, we’re anticipating that we’ll be at Harris Creek – but we can guarantee a great race, as always.”
Pro triathlete Liz Lyles, who will be defending her Long Course championship from 2015, said, “Ever since I first became interested with triathlon, I’ve been even more fascinated with both the ‘persona’ and the challenge of Wildflower.
“There’s just something special about Wildflower that sets it apart from all other triathlon events. I still remember the first time I ever walked up Wildflower’s ‘staircase of champions’ and immediately fantasized about how cool it would be to have my name included there with so many of triathlon’s greatest icons. It’s humbling to think that somehow, I managed to become part of that.”
Lyles added, “The TriCal staff, and especially Terry Davis, have managed to create one of those very special experiences that no one will be able to come close to replicating anywhere in the world. Because of them, the competitors they attract are the type of people who create an ambiance and atmosphere that is almost magical.
“Of all the events in which I participate each year, this is the one I look forward to the most. Although long course triathlons around the world tend to attract a special breed of competitor that I find appealing, the people who come to Wildflower are yet a step above that. It’s all just very, very special and makes for a great weekend. It’s all very humbling to know that I’ll now be a permanent part of the amazing history of this one-of-a-kind event.”
Tri-California Events is an event management company producing triathlon, swimming and running races throughout California including the Wildflower Triathlons, San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz, Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim, The Triathlon at Pacific Grove, and Scott Tinley’s Triathlon.
In addition, Tri-California serves as the race production company for the former Nike Women’s Half-Marathon and The San Francisco Giant Race. At Tri-California, the company’s goal is to motivate individuals of all ages and fitness levels to lead a healthier lifestyle by ‘exercising with purpose’ and participating in an endurance race.