Nearly three times as many athletes are signed up for the second running of the Atlantic City International Triathlon, despite one of the event’s three legs being canceled while the race was under way last year.
The sport — which combines swimming, cycling and running — has increased in popularity nationwide. In Atlantic City, competitors are drawn to the scenic route along the Atlantic City Expressway and Boardwalk, with the ocean and casinos as the backdrop, organizers said.
About 300 people competed in last year’s Atlantic City triathlon. As of Sunday, more than 800 people had registered for the triathlon’s sprint and international races Sept. 15.
The international race entails a mile swim, 20-mile bike and 6.4-mile (10K) run; the sprint starts with a quarter-mile swim and cuts the bike and run distances in half.
“We still have a solid five weeks of registration (left), and fully expect to exceed 1,000 by race day,” said race founder and director Stephen DelMonte.
Triathlon participation has more than doubled since 2004, statistics from USA Triathlon show.
But the growth of the Atlantic City event is dramatic, particularly given that rough ocean conditions last year’s prompted public safety officials and race organizers to stop the swim after the race already started.
“It was a mess,” DelMonte said. “Any events that in their first year had to cancel the event, or portion of the race — when that happens, you’ll hit a period of stagnation for a year or two until you can prove you can do the event successfully in its entirety. But we tripled our registration, which shows you people want to compete in Atlantic City.”
DelMonte said he wanted to keep the course the same this year: ocean swim, expressway bike and Boardwalk run, with the transition area — where athletes drop off and pickup goggles, racing bikes, running sneakers and other gear needed for different parts of the race — in Boardwalk Hall.
City Director of Emergency Management Tom Foley, however, successfully pushed a route centered on Bader Field that retained the run along the Boardwalk, tweaked the bike course to reduce congestion within the city and moved the swim to the bay.
“He was spot on,” DelMonte said. “People prefer the bay … (because) it’s calm.”
Also helpful to buoying turnout: Active.com, the go-to multisport training and event registration site, touts the Atlantic City Triathlon as one of the top destination races in the country.
And six finishers — top three men and top three women — will represent New Jersey at the Best of the U.S. Amateur Championships next spring at Wolf Lake Park in Hammond, Ind.
“We are proving the naysayers wrong,” DelMonte said. “They said it couldn’t be done, but no only did we put on the event, but we’ve also show Atlantic City is an absolutely hot market for this event, and we are ecstatic about the growth.”
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