The CEO of British Triathlon believes the World Series race in Leeds could become one of the country's major sporting events.
Jack Buckner, a former Commonwealth distance runner, predicts that the city's triathlon will eventually become as popular with spectators and competitors as the London Marathon and Newcastle's Great North Run.
He was speaking alongside Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee as the brothers unveiled a new and improved route for the ITU elite and amateur races on Monday night.
The delegation rode a bus from Roundhay Park to the city centre, following the new cycle course while answering questions from stakeholders and guests ahead of the 2017 race in June.
After logistical problems arose from multiple transition areas at the 2016 event, British Triathlon have taken over full planning of the weekend and have introduced a single transition hub in the park for all age-group entrants.
“We’ve moved to a single transition area, and the course is cleaner and simpler, and still a great experience. We wanted to keep what was great about the city centre atmosphere, and we are ahead of the curve with the planning. It won’t be last minute - we are confident about the logistics, communication and transport," said Mr Buckner.
After 80,000 people turned out to watch the 2016 races, the CEO is confident the figure can be exceeded.
“100,000 is realistic. The support from the people of Leeds is really good - and of course we have the Olympic gold and silver medalists, who are fantastic ambassadors for the sport. It’s all about increasing participation and continuing to build.
“The race could be what the Great North Run is to Newcastle, or the London Marathon is. The city really got involved, people came together and it’s a world-class event. The Brownlees really care about the participation side.
“Leeds has started to get a reputation. When we first proposed moving the World Series from London to Leeds, there were some shocked faced at the ITU - they weren’t convinced. But people celebrated it and we were blown away by the crowds - they created something that is iconic.
“Leeds has an opportunity to host an event that’s as valuable as the London Marathon if the city gets behind it.”
Jonny Brownlee saw elder brother Alistair cross the finish line first in their home city last June, but is hoping for victory this year.
“The elite race was so successful - to have nearly 100,000 people in the city centre is incredible. Age group triathletes can compete on the same course with the iconic blue carpet finish."
And fans of the local Olympians will be able to spot them training for the event in the next few months - or stopping for a break at their favourite cafe in the Dales village of Burnsall.
“We will be training on the route - I was actually running in Roundhay Park this morning, I often run around there. We will ride the course a couple of times, although we mainly ride in the Wharfe Valley - it’s all about home advantage! Our training partner Gordon Benson will race with us, and there are six spots for British men.
“If I could add a local place to the route, it would be a bike leg up the Chevin at Otley, which would be hard and tough, and then a run around the country park.
“It will be so good for spectators. If you’re a young kid you can come with your parents, go to the city centre and see several laps - they will pass you 11 times in two races, which is far more than the Tour de France."
After a well-earned post-Olympic break, Jonny enjoyed a skiing holiday with his training partners and a quiet Christmas with his parents at their home in Ilkley.
“It’s been crazy since the Olympics - I’ve met the prime minister and presented a shirt to the England rugby league team. I’m getting back to normal now after a massive break - I did nothing for three weeks as we were so busy, but we’re back into structured training now. I went skiing over Christmas - I’m not really supposed to in case I get injured, but it was my own responsibility!"
While Olympic champion Alistair had some advice for amateurs entering their first triathlon.
“Sign up! You have plenty of time, six months to plan consistent training and build it up slowly. Maybe join a club for advice or train with friends. I love the training and I am lucky in Leeds that there’s a great ethos here.
“The city is a hotbed of tri - people are really engaged and love triathlon here. I love that I am in a position to inspire people - it’s something I’m passionate about and it’s a privilege. It’s amazing to have seen it grow from a small niche sport to what it is now.”
The weekend will include the three amateur races: standard distance (which also acts as the British Championships), sprint distance and beginner Go Tri. Spectators can also watch the elite race, the English Aquathon Championships and a para-tri.
Organisers British Triathlon have promised:-
- A 'hub' in Roundhay Park with stands, athlete services, entertainment and more live screens showing the race
- Two bag drop points, in the city centre and Roundhay Park
- Shuttle buses on both Saturday and Sunday, with free travel for competitors and an advance ticket purchase option
- Entrants will be offered a travel planner with advice on how to plan their movements when they sign up
- Security staff stationed overnight at the transition area, which will be open until late on Sunday for bike collections
- No kit/equipment will need to be transported between points by the organisers
Enter by visiting http://leeds.triathlon.org and view the route here http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/new-and-improved-route-revealed-for-leeds-triathlon-1-8360875