Challenge Wanaka drops full-distance

After the success of this year's half-distance race, Challenge Wanaka won't host a full-distance race in future in order to focus on the half- and aqua-bike races.

| April 11, 2018 | NEWS

Competitors look on prior to the start of the 2018 Challenge Wanaka.

Competitors look on prior to the start of the 2018 Challenge Wanaka.

Photo >Challenge Wanaka/Getty Images

Considered one of the world's most scenic triathlon events, Challenge Wanaka has long been renowned for its spectacular and tough long-distance course. This year the full-distance race didn't feature a pro race, attracting a spectacular elite field that included multiple world champion Javier Gomez, who took the men's title. (Annabel Luxford won the women's half-distance race.)

The success of the half-distance race seems to have spurred a new era for Challenge Wanaka - race organizers have decided to "focus on building the half-distance triathlon and new Aquabike races into world-class international events." That means there will no longer be a full-distance race in Wanaka.

“The Challenge Wanaka Half has grown over the eight years it has been running to become our main event that this year saw the best field of professional athletes ever assembled for a middle distance race in New Zealand,” says race director Bill Roxburgh. “So we want to put our time and energy into the Challenge Wanaka Half and Aqua Bike to make them internationally recognised events with a real focus on the age group athletes, giving them the best quality time possible while they are in Wanaka.

The Challenge Wanaka Half served as the New Zealand Middle Distance National Triathlon Championships (the second time the race has hosted the nationals) and the Aquabike event also served as the National Championships. That meant New Zealand athletes could qualify for ITU World Championships in Fyn, Denmark later this year. There's also a junior race that attracted 1,000 five- to 12-year-olds and a high-school race.

According to Roxburgh, "numbers at Wanaka in the full long distance event have been following a worldwide trend of decline over the past two years, which has meant organizers felt they could not give competitors, especially those finishing later, the experience they deserve."

“We rely heavily on volunteers and the time involved to run the full distance event is a huge ask for a small community like Wanaka which has a permanent population of approximately 6,000," says Roxburgh. "Shorter time frames will mean we can put all our effort and energy into making the whole festival an amazing experience not just for the competitors, but for those working on the event and for the local community as well; it will be amazing, it’s definitely an exciting new era for the event.”

The 2019 Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival will take place on Saturday 16 February.