A welcome event

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Iowa has many professional sporting events but there have been few if any that could be called world class, until recently.

The Iowa based food chain, Hy-Vee, should be commended for its sponsorship of a triathlon that will be the only U.S. stop on a 16-city tour.

Thanks to funding from Hy-Vee, the event in the Des Moines area will offer the largest purse in the sport's history - $700,000, with $200,000 each to the men's and women's winner.

Hy-Vee Triathlon spokeswoman Chris Friesleben said organizers expect about 1,500 amateur athletes to compete, along with crowds between 30,000 and 40,000 on Sunday.

The course will stretch from West Des Moines to Des Moines for the amateur competitors, and be confined to Des Moines for the elite division. Elite athletes will start with a 1.5-kilometer swim at Gray's Lake before hopping on their bicycles and heading to downtown Des Moines for a 40-kilometer, six-lap race through the city's streets.

The event will end with a 10-kilometer run, finishing at the state Capitol after four laps through the city.

Sunday will be Des Moines' first chance to prove it can stage a major triathlon. Next year, the city will host the U.S. Olympic Trials for the triathlon, and ITU officials hope to continue staging World Cup events in Des Moines starting in 2009.

This is the kind of aggressive seeking of a niche for specialty events that needs to happen all over Iowa.