Penticton’s own Jeffrey Symonds made history today, winning the first Challenge Family event in North America with an 8:29:57.
Symonds was hot on the heels of Chris McCormack (AUS) out of the swim, only a second behind with 55:37. He hit the bike course hard to grind into a comfortable lead; but at the bottom of the steep Yellow Lake hill, his race took a dramatic turn. Symonds had a bad crash on the bike, but recovered quickly to maintain his lead and complete the bike in 4:43. Despite obvious injuries, he paced 15 km/h for a 2:47:31 marathon.
Wounded and bleeding, Symonds bounced through the chute on the crowd’s energy, high-fiving Penticton fans in the stands before crossing the finish line, giving a yell and throwing his arms in the air.
“Today marked a whole new journey for the sport of triathlon,” said Challenge Family CEO, Felix WalchshÃ¶fer. “The Challenge Family launched its first race in North America, and we’re confident the success in Penticton will lead to even more athletes taking the Challenge across the globe.”
Second-place finisher Scott DeFillippis (USA) had a standout day, who came out of the swim at 59:01 behind the first 10 men out of the water. He gained serious ground on two wheels, climbing to sixth place with a 4:56:03 bike, and smoked the run for an 8:44:48 finish 12 minutes ahead of third-place finisher Jamie Whyte (NZL). Adam O’Meara wrapped up fourth place at 9:08:34, and Anthony Toth rounded out the top-five field with a 9:10:14 finish “only 40 seconds ahead of Nathan Champness.
It was a fairy tale ending for Carrie Lester, who finished in eighth position overall and topped the women’s field with a time of 9:27:26. Within 12 seconds, Karen Thibodeau (CDN), Jennifer Luebke (USA) and Lester emerged from the swim, but the pack broke apart during the bike. Cycling being her second nature, Lester powered out in front to finish the 180 km in 5:07:53 and stayed strong on the run to remain well ahead of the pack. Thibodeau kept her momentum going through the bike, completing 5:29:12 and 12th overall.
Hometown favourite Jen Annett (CAN) was also behind the first 10 female swimmers, coming out of the water at 1:09:22. A fast transition and solid pace on the bike of 5:21:06 helped her climb up into third position heading into the marathon. She kept the pace for a 9:58:23 third-place title for the women and 14th place overall. Luebke scored fifth place with 10:13:34, only 23 seconds ahead of Erin Furness (NZL).
“This day has just been incredible. We could not have asked for a better race to welcome the Challenge Family to North America,” said Paulette Rennie, President of Challenge Penticton Canada. “Thank you so much to all our volunteers. As always, you have been outstanding and amazing ambassadors for Penticton and the South Okanagan.”
Thousands lined the shores of Okanagan Lake and Penticton streets today to witness history unfold, and online traffic volumes looking for race updates soared over the 1 million visitor mark “bogging down the site with excessive demands for information.
The course itself is technically challenging due to its geography and climate, and is known the world over for its single loop through mountainous B.C. geography. The swim took place in the pristine Okanagan Lake, which recorded temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius at the swim start. The bike course features two steep climbs at Richter Pass and Yellow Lake with elevation ascents over 210 metres high. The run includes an out-and-back along the gorgeous Skaha Lake to the south, and the pro field crossed the finish line under 27 degree Celsius heat.
Relays have hit the course with blistering speed in Challenge Penticton Canada, bringing team competition to a whole new level for the debut of iron-distance relays in North America.
Relay Team MitoCanada “consisting of Sean Penhale, Scott Curry and Blaine Penny “came just shy of the Guinness World Record cut-off of sub-eight hours, crossing the finish line at 8:22:57. Penhale’s swim topped the entire field with 48:06, followed by Curry’s impressive 4:48:48 on the bike to keep them on pace. Penny rounded out the day with a 2:43:55 marathon.
The Challenge Family celebrates the sport of triathlon through its global series of long distance events and festivals that are changing the face of long distance racing around the world with its focus on athlete experience. Featuring spectacular courses in iconic destinations, Challenge Family events focus on delivering the race of a lifetime to every athlete, and creating a memorable spectator experience that captures all the excitement and emotion of this inspirational sport. The Challenge Family series currently features 21 events around the world including the world’s largest long distance triathlon, the iconic Challenge Roth in Germany. Other Challenge Family races take place in Germany, Holland, Austria, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan.