RACINE COUNTY — The Ironman 70.3 Racine Triathlon will not be returning for 2018, Real Racine, the county’s tourism promotion agency, announced Monday.
The event, coordinated by the World Triathlon Corp., consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bicycle segment and 13.1-mile run. It had run under its current name since 2010 but had run under different monikers for several years prior. It started and concluded at North Beach.
Cari Greving, events director at Real Racine, said three factors explain why Racine County will not host the event next July: dwindling entries due to poor weather; unsatisfactory roads on the bike course and the decision to add a Madison 70.3 Triathlon to the WTC schedule.
The swim portion of the race had been cancelled two straight years: in 2016 due to lightning and this year due to water temperatures and rough water. Many participants were disappointed in not completing all three phases of the Ironman, Real Racine officials said.
Poor road conditions played heavily into the athletes’ survey responses regarding the Racine event. While the 56-mile road course covers much of the county, the riders cited the first and last five miles of the course as the most damaged sections, according to Real Racine. WTC took the athletes’ concerns seriously and could not ignore the toll roads took on both riders and their equipment, Real Racine officials stated.
Flooding from heavy rain that fell in the county the week before the event, and subsequent damage to some roads in western Racine County, had forced changes to the bicycle course this year.
M.T. Boyle, chief of staff for Racine County, said county administration was not familiar with the circumstances surrounding the decision and deferred comment to Real Racine. Attempts to reach Mark Yehlen, the City of Racine public works commissioner, were not successful Monday.
The third factor in the decision was that WTC on June 11 added a 70.3 Triathlon event in Madison. Due to its proximity to Madison, Racine’s registration numbers certainly suffered, Greving said.
Numbers tell the story
According to Ryan Richards, who was race director of the Ironman 70.3 Racine, there were 1,689 entered for this year’s event — 545 fewer than 2016 and 981 fewer than the 2,670 who participated in 2014. The current attendance is simply not financially viable for WTC, Richards and Real Racine officials stated.
“Unfortunately, every time we have to cancel a portion of an event, and we’ve seen this in other cities, it takes time to get those athletes back,” Richards said. “When they’re putting in the time and effort and money to do something, they don’t want to risk a portion of it being cancelled. Although the two cancellations were completely weather related and out of the control of anybody or anything, people are just looking at that and seeing that the swim was cancelled for two years in a row and not really looking into why or how.”
Real Racine officials said while they are “incredibly disappointed” that the relationship with WTC is over, the lakefront and Racine County will continue to host new and established events.
“While it was exciting to see the athletes and Ironman staff each July, it was the volunteer organizations that truly made this event special,” Greving said. “I am forever grateful for their service and devotion to their community. There are only more good things to come for all of these volunteers and Racine County.”
Richards said he felt bad for the people who have been involved and have given a lot to that event.
On whether he could see the event ever returning to Racine, Richards said he was not closing the book to the possibility.
“You never know what the future holds. I would certainly support another race in Racine. I think it’s a great community and a great location,” Richards said Monday. “North Beach is a perfect place for a race venue and with its proximity to Milwaukee and Chicago, I wouldn’t say it’s written off completely. But it just doesn’t make sense right now.”