Lured by $81,600 in prize money, many of the top triathletes in the world will compete Monday in the first Heritage International Triathlon in Provo.
A field of some 800 triathletes is expected to enter the July 4 race, which will begin at 7 a.m. from the east boat ramp at Utah Lake State Park.The field will include Scott Tinley and Scott Molina, two of the sport's legendary pioneers; Mike Pigg, the 1987 national champion; Kirsten Hanssen, the '87 Female Triathlete of the Year; Erin Baker, who destroyed the course record in winning the famed Ironman Triathlon last fall; Colleen Cannon, who finished in the top three in all 15 of her triathlons last year; Sylviane and Patricia Puntous, identical twins who have twice finished first and second, respectively, at Ironman; as well as Richard Wells, Andrew McNaughton and nearly anyone who's anyone in the triathlon world - Brad Kearns, Liz Downing, Julie Wilson, Kenny Glah, Todd Jacobs, Reuben Chappins and masters stars Ruth Heidrich and Bill Leach.
The most notable absences will be Mark Allen and Dave Scott, the six-time Ironman champ who is helping his wife prepare for the Olympic swimming competition; and Jan Ripple, another top female star who was expected to compete Monday until she was sidelined by a stress fracture.
That notwithstanding, Heritage co-director Suzanne Borcherds says, "It's not a matter of who's coming, but who's not coming."
Aside from the exceptional prize money - which is about twice what most triathlons pay - what has caught the attention of many triathlon afficionados is the rare meeting between Hanssen of the United States and Baker of New Zealand. They are widely considered the two top female triathletes in the world, and yet they haven't competed against each other for several years. In fact, this will mark the first time Baker, who competes almost solely in Europe, Hawaii, Australia and her native New Zealand, has ever competed in the continental United States.
The Heritage race will consist of a 1.2-mile swim in Utah Lake, a 32-mile bike race that eventually will finish in the south parking lot of BYU's Cougar Stadium, and a 7.4-mile run through the foothills of Orem and Provo, culminating with a stretch run through the Freedom Festival parade route in downtown Provo to the finish in the BYU track and field stadium. (For spectators who would like to see the finish, the top finishers should enter the track stadium between about 9:30 and 9:45 a.m., according to race officials.) First place will be worth $7,000 in both the men's and women's races. Second will be worth $5,000, third $4,000, fourth $3,000, fifth $2,000 and sixth $1,000. Another $500 will be awarded to the fastest swimmer, biker and runner. Also, the top five finishers in each of the 20 age divisions will be awarded cash ($700 for first, then $500, $300, $200 and $100).