May 2, 2006 – Athletes from all over the world have their sights set on St. Croix, where they will compete in the 18th annual Ironman 70.3 Triathlon on May 7. The triathlon event — a test of physical and mental endurance comprised of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike and a 13-mile run — is an official qualifier for the 2006 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
According to race organizer Tom Guthrie, the St. Croix race is a favorite of the top competitors. The scenic landscape combining rolling hills, level surfaces and the challenge of "The Beast" — the 0.7-mile-long stretch of highway that features a 600-foot climb with an average grade of 14 percent and a maximum grade of 18 percent — makes this race "a training must" for the world's top athletes. Guthrie said the reputation of "The Beast" grows every year as bikers struggle to prove their endurance.
The race is organized by Project St. Croix, a not-for-profit organization, which has produced the triathlon since 1992. Guthrie is the go-to guy for the local triathlon and has been involved in the race since the beginning.
The St. Croix race is also one of 16 official qualifiers for the World Triathlon Corporation 70.3 Ironman Series. The Ironman season culminates at the World Championships in Clearwater, Fla., scheduled for Nov. 11.
The local triathlon has one of the largest purses in the sport, awarding $50,000 each to the top man and woman finisher. Prizes are also awarded to the top 10 overall men and women, the top three in the different age groups, the top three in the military division, the top overall male and female V.I. residents, the top overall male and female Caribbean residents and the top five male and female finishers in the "short course." The short course, also called the sprint, features a 750-meter swim, an 8-mile bike that bypasses the infamous "Beast" and a 4-mile run.
Leading up to the big race day, St. Croix is welcoming between 800 to 850 athletes and their families to the island. Activities planned for the visitors include Friday's "Jump-Up," a chance for the athletes to enjoy evening shopping, local music and food in Christiansted. Additionally on Friday, there will be a group photo in front of the Christiansted live webcam and the annual Carbo Feast.
Here is the list of activities including mandatory events and meetings for participants.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 11 a.m. — organized training swim at the Christiansted wharf
Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — pre-registration and check-in at the Scale House in Christiansted
Friday, 5 p.m. — triathlete group photo in front of the Christiansted webcam
Friday, 7 p.m. — the traditional Triathlon Jump-Up in Christiansted; stores and restaurants will stay open in the evening and several local bands will provide music
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — mandatory pre-race registration and check-in at the Scale House in Christiansted
Saturday, 1 p.m. — mandatory course talk at the Christiansted Bandstand
Saturday, 4 p.m. — professional triathlete meeting at the Fort in Christiansted
Sunday, 6 a.m. — Ironman 70.3 Triathlon begins at the Christiansted wharf
Sunday, 7:30 a.m. — short-course triathlon begins at the Christiansted wharf
This year's sponsors include the V.I. Department of Tourism, the Buccaneer Hotel, Gatorade, James River Capital Corporation, Endurance Sports, Center Line Car Rentals, Carambola Beach Resort, PowerBar and Tyr sports apparel.
For more information or to volunteer call 340-773-4477.
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