Ironman done with Tahoe due to ‘adverse environmental and weather conditions’ | SierraSun.com

Ironman done with Tahoe due to ‘adverse environmental and weather conditions’

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Poor environmental and weather conditions led Ironman officials on Tuesday to abruptly cancel future Lake Tahoe events, three days after the 2015 triathlon drew thousands of people to the region.

In what appeared to be an impromptu move, an online statement on the Ironman Lake Tahoe website Tuesday morning read, in part: "After careful consideration, Ironman Lake Tahoe will not be continued. We appreciate the efforts and support of the city, volunteers, sponsors, and everyone else involved in putting on this triathlon. … We would also like to thank all of the athletes who have raced with us in Lake Tahoe.

"We appreciate your dedication and understand your disappointment with not being able to race in Lake Tahoe."

Shortly afterward, the page appeared to be deleted, then updated to state: "Please stay tuned for more information."

By 1 p.m. or so on Tuesday, it was again changed to indicate the North Lake Tahoe event "will not be extended."

Amid the flip-flopping, JT Thompson, chief marketing officer for North Lake Tahoe Resort Association/Chamber of Commerce/CVB — which worked in previous years to ink Ironman to a five-year contract to hold an annual race at North Tahoe-Truckee — said the association was unclear what was happening.

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"We're just waiting for confirmation from corporate," Thompson said, referring to World Triathlon Corporation, which organizes, promotes and licenses Ironman, at about 1 p.m. Tuesday. "Or maybe it could have been a mistake because (the notice) changed back. We don't know."

He said should World Triathlon Corporation notify NLTRA the race will no longer be held, the North Tahoe association will issue a press release.

After attempts to gain comment, the World Triathlon Corporation submitted a statement to the Sierra Sun, revealing that "adverse environmental and weather conditions have made the races challenging to operate."

"We appreciate the efforts and support of North Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, Truckee, Kings Beach, and Squaw Valley as well as our volunteers, sponsors, and everyone else involved in putting on this triathlon over the past three years," according to the statement. "We would also like to thank all of the athletes who have raced with us in Lake Tahoe."

The statement did not provide further details in terms of when decisions were made and what impacts they may have on Ironman's contract with the North Shore.

This past Sunday marked the triathlon's third year at Lake Tahoe — although only its second running, as the race was canceled at the last minute in 2014 due to wildfire smoke.

'Comes back in dollars'

Tuesday's news came after representatives at several North Tahoe businesses praised Sunday's event, expressing their desire for Ironman to continue in the region.

"It's very important," said Neil Patel, manager of Stevenson's Holliday Inn in Kings Beach. "It helps a lot because a lot of the athletes and their families come more than two days, three days. … Then they go to restaurant and spend money, so it helps everybody."

The 21-room inn had about a 95 percent occupancy rate Friday through Sunday, with some athletes and supporters arriving a day earlier on Thursday, while others left on Monday.

The Village at Squaw Valley experienced a similar extended lodging trend, said Juli Hunter, front desk manager, with some visitors checking in Wednesday and Thursday, and others checking out Monday and Tuesday.

"Ordinarily we wouldn't have been sold out on the mid-week nights, probably just the Friday and Saturday, if anything, so it did drive business for us mid-week, for sure," Hunter said. "I think it's fantastic."

Meanwhile, other local establishments such as eateries and apparel and convenience stores saw more of an impact on weekend business.

Both Tahoe Central Market in Kings Beach and Parallel Mountain Sports in Squaw experienced more business on Saturday rather than Sunday.

"Saturday we were actually pretty busy," said Brittany DeGroff, manager of Parallel. "(Sunday) we're not as busy just because I feel like everybody's outside cheering people on. … It's hard because we are a sports shop. Everybody who is competing or their families, they already have what they need, so they're not really buying jerseys or water bottles; they already have all that."

Yet, any uptick in business, especially before the shoulder season gets fully under way, is helpful, said Ellen Tobben, juice bar manager for Tahoe Central Market.

"We live in a tourist destination and it's a highly seasonal economy, so the longer we can stretch out our season, the better that is for everyone," she said.

Near the market is Brockway Bakery, which experienced a very busy Sunday morning, with business overall picking up 10 days prior to then, said John Wainscoat, who co-owns the bakery with his wife, Julie.

"(Ironman is) responsible for a 30 percent bump in September (business) ever since (it) started," he said. "(Athletes') families come, their supporters come, everybody comes. … The little bit of disruption that happens, comes back in dollars."

'The more, the merrier'

Similar to pervious years, there were temporary closures in effect on highways 28, 267 and 89 and select town of Truckee roadways on race day to ensure the safety of the roughly 2,500 athletes.

Jason Borkert, of Sacramento, who was attending Ironman in support of his brother, said he didn't encounter any traffic issues when traveling around the North Shore/Truckee region.

"I think there's less people this year versus last year, and so it made it easier (to get around) inadvertently so," he said. "You don't run into as many people, so your wait time to get to places are a lot quicker."

Also helping traffic flow were California Highway Patrol and Truckee Police officers at major intersections.

Jonathan Hennion, who lives in Tahoe City and had to travel to Squaw Valley for work on race day, said while he didn't sit in traffic, it did take him awhile to get to work given the Highway 89 northbound closure from Fairway Drive in Tahoe City to the entrance of Squaw.

"(Sunday) I had to go from Tahoe City to Kings Beach, up to 267, and around through Truckee," he explained. "It took me a little over an hour, so for someone who isn't involved in an Ironman, (it was) a little bit of a nuisance.

"… (Yet) it's a good event. It brings a lot of people in, a lot of business in, so it's a good thing. I can deal with the nuisance for one day."

Meanwhile, others are not as understanding, Hunter relayed.

"I was actually just reading on Facebook some folks that were fussing about Ironman coming," she said. "I was just thinking, 'Come on now. We're in the end of September, and you're complaining that we still have active business … (and) selling out property.'

"I think it's great. They need to do more of (these large athletic events) in the fall, so we can all stay working year round. I say bring them on. The more, the merrier."

Ironman is part of NLTRA's strategy to secure human-powered sporting events for the region during the shoulder seasons of fall and spring.

Sierra Sun Managing Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.

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Click here to read a recap and see photos from Sunday’s big race.

— Also, we went out Sunday and asked a few residents and visitors if they think they could ever complete an Ironman race. Click here to read their responses.