On June 5, Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company, in partnership with the City of Chicago, announced major changes for the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon presented by Toyota. This 32-year-old event will bring 9,000 athletes to the Chicago lakefront on Aug. 22 and 23 and will feature a revamped bike course, a different start sequence and a brand new Divvy wave, among other improvements.
The biggest change made to this year’s triathlon comes to the International distance bike course. The first major course change in 18 years, the new bike route takes athletes up Lake Shore Drive, down Lower Wacker Drive and through the McCormick Place Busway. In past years, the bike course consisted of two loops on Lake Shore Drive.
“Congestion is why we changed the bike course,” Scott Hutmacher, regional marketing manager of the Chicago Triathlon, says.
Now, with the changes made to ease congestion, the elongated route limits ridership on Lake Shore Drive.
“Athletes benefit from use of new, fully-closed, über-fast roadways,” Hutmacher says. “The ITU race proved the worthiness of Lower Wacker Drive as a cyclist’s personal Autobahn.”
The Chicago Triathlon also made changes to the start sequence of Sunday’s races. The professional race will take off first at 6 a.m. followed by the International distance race. Sprint racers will have the last start of the day at 9 a.m. The change to have the pros start first creates less congestion and an open gap for the International race participants, allowing the sprint distance participants to follow earlier and avoid overheating.
In addition to having the pros start the race first, the 2014 Chicago Triathlon also features redesigned transition area entrances and exits to allow for quicker transition times. Athletes in Sunday’s Sprint and International distance races now have the option to check in their bikes on Saturday to the DuSable Harbor transition area, which will include overnight security to keep equipment safe. Placards will help athletes find their rack assignments, increasing transition area organization.
All these changes allow flexible transition access hours on race day. Athletes with later race times can check in while others race, and those who started earlier can pick up their belongings from the transition area while the race is still happening.
Along with individual competitions, the 2014 Chicago Triathlon will host two team events. The Chicago Triathlon Team Challenge program, which had 35 teams participate last year, allows non-elite participants in Sunday’s races to compete against each other in a team format.
In addition, the Chicago Triathlon will host the USA Triathlon Club National Championships for age-group clubs in Super Sprint, Sprint and International distance races across five divisions based on club size. Elite and Paratriathlon athletes registered with a USAT club can also score points for their respective clubs in their waves. USAT will award almost $9,000 to the top teams across the races.
Saturday’s SuperSprint triathlon, long championed as an ideal way to test the waters of triathlon, becomes even more first-timer friendly this year with the inclusion of a new Divvy Wave. This 100-participant wave will introduce athletes who may be interested but intimidated by triathlons to the sport. This new race category features the same a 375-meter swim, 10K bike and a 2.5K run as the regular SuperSprint. Divvy Wave participants get to use a Divvy bike, compete for special Divvy trophies and receive an 8-week training program, coaching from Life Time Tri-certified coaches and other gift items such as a 24-hour Divvy pass.
“The Chicago Triathlon worked with the marketplace, educating them, letting them break down those barriers,” Hutmacher says of adding of the Divvy Wave and incorporating the use of Divvy bikes into the race.
The addition of Divvy bikes into the 2014 Chicago Triathlon allows those who want to participate but don’t have a bike or don’t want to buy one to be a triathlete for the day. According to Divvy General Manager Elliot Greenberger, the partnership has already generated a significant amount of positive feedback.
“It’s important for the public to see who Divvy is,” Greenberger says. “Hopefully, people will be talking about it, and people talking about it will turn into people being curious and trying it out.”
Although the Divvy bikes do weigh 43 pounds, making them a bit slower, individuals competing in the Divvy Wave only compete against each other, eliminating any disadvantage due to the bike’s speed or design. The Divvy bike has three gears, an adjustable seat, a low step-through frame that makes it easy to get on and off, rear fender guards to protect from mud and puddles and front and rear lights. The bike’s design allows a variety of people to use it in a new and interesting way, which is one of the goals of the Divvy Wave.
“You get 100 blue bikes competing against each other,” Greenberger says. “It’s a fun sight.”
“It’s evolutionary to try to change our race, and we are very community based,” Hutmacher says. “If you know how to cycle in an urban environment like this, consider the sport of triathlon.”
Though triathlon may seem intimidating to outsiders, in reality it is a welcoming and inclusive sport and race.
“One of the biggest challenges we face as an organization,” Hutmacher says, “is getting people to commit to the race, suit up and enter the water.”
In particular, he notes many have anxiety surrounding the swimming event. To that end, the Chicago Triathlon hosts swim clinics. Over the course of the summer, the event offers six swim clinics at the Ohio Street Beach, allowing participants to experience swimming in Lake Michigan before the race. Approximately 33 percent of participants are first time athletes.
With all these changes to the Chicago Triathlon weekend, athletes must attend a mandatory 30-minute presentation at the Hilton Chicago, the host hotel, during the Multisport & Fitness Expo. Athletes will need to show a wristband to prove they attended the presentation.
“Ultimately, this is a different experience,” Hutmacher says. “This is now the world’s premier triathlon.”