MANY OF THE WORLD'S top triathletes will be in Provo Monday for the Fourth of July to compete in the Heritage Mountain Triathlon. Mike Pigg, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina, Colleen Cannon, Erin Baker, the Puntous twins, Patricia and Sylviane - they're all expected to be there; which should qualify for the greatest collection of near-negative body fat in Utah since the Donner Party left for Nevada.
Besides offering some $81,800 in prizes, the event will serve as a qualifier for the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. Not only do the distances - 1.2 miles for the swim, 29.5 miles for the bicycle race and 7.2 miles for the run - meet the Ironman qualifying standards, but the thinking is that anyone who can slug it out for 1.2 miles in Utah Lake's rather unique mixture of water and "other" is something of an ironman already.The Heritage Mountain competitors will finish the event along the Freedom Festival parade route in downtown Provo, which is a nice touch, as is the money. But, still, there has been an unhealthy side effect to the creation of Utah's newest triathlon.
As a direct result, the popular East Canyon Triathlon has a new first name. Spell it D-e-f-u-n-c-t.
East Canyon was scheduled to be held July 9, just five days after Heritage Mountain. Triathletes may like to think of themselves as indestructible racing machines - but not five days later. When Doug Beck, the new organizer of East Canyon, in conjunction with East Canyon Resort, got word of the new Heritage Mountain race, and its $200,000 budget, he canceled his T-shirt order.
The words "Heritage Mountain" may ring a bell. The ill-fated ski-resort-to-be in the mountains overlooking Provo has had one foreclosure after another. It's gone out of business more often than those car stereo stores on State Street.
Ironically, the newest saviors of Heritage Mountain - a South African couple named Victor and Suzanne Borcherds - came up with this triathlon idea as a way of improving the resort's public image. Victor Borcherds specializes in reconstructing down-and-out ventures. He bought Heritage Mountain from the bankruptcy courts and hopes to turn it around.
Borcherds is also a triathlete. He competed in the Ironman last year in Hawaii and reportedly wants to do it again. Hence, he has a personal stake in staging an Ironman Qualifier in his back yard. People with the wherewithal to do so usually buy their sports toys according to their own interests - as Gerald Bagley did with the PGA golf tournament and Larry Miller with the basketball Jazz, to name a couple of recent local examples.
There's nothing wrong with Borcherds' machinations - except for the overlapping of the Heritage Mountain event with East Canyon.
For the past five years, East Canyon has been Utah's most popular triathlon. Last year it attracted almost 300 entrants, and more than that in 1986. It has attractive distances - a half-mile for the swim, 25 miles for the bike and 6.2 miles for the run - in a pleasant mountain setting. At East Canyon you swim in water you can't eat with a fork.
Beck was in the process of establishing a first-ever Utah Triathlon Series last winter - grouping East Canyon with the Heber Valley and Lake Powell events later in the summer - when he found out about Heritage Mountain.
"I wasn't in the mood for a financial bath," said Beck, who has been directing races for more than a decade. "Nobody is going to do two triathlons in a week."
Suzanne Borcherds, who is the race director for the Heritage Mountain Triathlon, says there was no premeditation to run East Canyon out of business. Her group checked the race schedules in the national triathlon publications and didn't see any conflicts. "We wanted to do it with the Freedom Festival," she says. "That was what made the date (uly 4) attractive for us."
Heritage Mountain failed, however, to check the Utah triathlon calendar - where the East Canyon event was displayed in solid black and white.
Adding further to Heritage Mountain's P.R. problem is that Vic Borcherds competed at East Canyon last summer. Certainly he had to be aware of the timing of the event.
As soon as Suzanne Borcherds discovered that there was a conflict she tried to call Beck and work something out. "I called him five times and he never called back," she says. "I have it written down in my Franklin (lanner)."
"This is America. They have every right to do what they did," says Beck. "The only bone I have to pick . . . well, it's like somebody coming in on July 18th, say, and putting up $100,000 and putting on the `Salt Lake Marathon.' It would run the Deseret News Marathon (raditionally run on July 24th) right out of business. That qualifies as a slap in the face."
Which may be why he didn't feel like returning Suzanne's calls.
The people catching the brunt of the conflict are Utah's amateur triathletes - those who innocently began training for East Canyon last spring unaware that the wheels of big business would cancel their event.
Some people, even triathletes, don't want to swim in Utah Lake - where giardia is the pre-race favorite.
In his "Last Lap" column in this month's "Utah Runner and Cyclist," Richard Barnum-Reece, never one to walk around a fight, calls for a boycott of Heritage Mountain. "The response has been very positive," he says. "People don't like what's gone on here."
Nonetheless, Heritage Mountain expects as many as 600 triathletes, many of them out-of-staters lured by the money, diving into the lake Monday morning.
"Really, we didn't come here to make enemies, or ruin the sport of triathlon in Utah," says Borcherds. "I hope we can sit down with Doug Beck and get this sorted out for the future." In which case East Canyon could conceivably be revived to swim, bike and run another year.