Race organizer Lance Watson leans over a table of athletes from the Subaru Western Triathlon Series Wednesday’s launch of the 2013 season

Race organizer Lance Watson leans over a table of athletes from the Subaru Western Triathlon Series Wednesday’s launch of the 2013 season

Triathlon series swaps Sooke for Saskatoon

Subaru Western Triathlon Series takes new shape without nationally televised Sooke Triathlon

Olympian Brent McMahon and elite Ironman triathlon athlete Sara Gross were among a handful of top triathletes to kick off the 2013 Subaru Western Triathlon Series on Wednesday.

The series of half-Ironman, Olympic and sprint distance triathlons is coming back bigger and better than ever despite losing its marquee event, the nationally televised Sooke Triathlon.

“Brent will be back, so will elite athletes the likes of Sara Gross and Magali Tisseyre, and we’re expanding into Saskatchewan this year, a very big move for us,” said series race director Paul Regensburg.

“Saskatoon (on June 30) is very excited to have us and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

That race is based out of Pike Lake Provincial Park and parlays country roads and a downtown finish in the River Valley.

The series also breaks new ground in 2013 by adding the “first-ever” Western Canadian High School Championships as part of the Shawnigan Lake Triathlon on May 26.

Triathlon is a growing sport with middle- and high school- aged students, as many track and field athletes double as youth club triathletes.

“This will give those athletes 12 to 19 years old a chance to represent their school, and open Shawnigan up to the youth” Regensburg said.

Shawnigan is Canada’s only long-distance triathlon in May, and falls handily within the school calendar.

From Shawnigan Lake, the series returns to Elk Lake for the Saunders Victoria Triathlon on June 16, before the inaugural Subaru Saskatoon Triathlon.

Without the Sooke race, which was terminated mostly due to the challenging logistics of using a long stretch of Highway 14, the series now has a noticeable gap from July 14 in Vancouver to Sept. 7 in Banff.

On the plus side, the Sooke race will no longer fall within the same two-week window as Ironman Canada, which moves to Whistler for the first time on Aug. 25.

Ironman athletes have long relied on Subaru Western Triathlon Series events as part of their training and the timing and location of Victoria and Vancouver are ideal once again, Regensburg said.

Also new, the Subaru Vancouver Triathlon will act as the Long Distance National Championships for 2013 through to 2015.

LifeSport Coaching, which organizes the Tri Series under the Subaru banner, has also announced a new marathon to take place in Banff on June 23. Though it’s organized by the same people, the event will exist separately from the Tri Series, www.banffmarathon.com. The 42.2km run will go through Banff National Park.

See triseries.ca for more information.