This year’s Major League Triathlon season will feature a stop in Atlantic City.
MLT and officials with the Atlantic City Sports Commission announced Friday that 32 of the world’s top professional triathletes will swim, bike and run in the resort Saturday, June 3.
“We’re going to be holding four races this year, and we thought Atlantic City would be a cool place to hold one for several reasons,” said Dylan Sorensen, MLT’s marketing manager and its professional athlete liaison.
“The entire race will be held on the beach and the Boardwalk. That’s going to be a perfect setting for the spectators and the coolest possible course we could offer for the competitors.”
The format for the race should lend itself to drawing a good crowd.
Unlike Olympic- and Ironman-distance triathlons, MLT events are over in a matter of minutes and usually conducted within a 1-square-mile area.
In the Atlantic City event, four teams consisting of two female and two male triathletes will compete in a relay-style race. One member of each team will complete a 300-meter swim in the ocean in front of Boardwalk Hall, a 4-mile bike segment that will loop between Mississippi and Kentucky avenues and a 1-mile run between Mississippi and Georgia avenues. They then will tag a teammate who will complete the same distances.
The first team to have all four members cross will share the undetermined prize purse. Money also will be awareded to the fastest man and woman, plus the fastest swimming, bicycling and runnning legs.
Because of the speed of the event and the course, the race figures to generate more interest among spectators. Officials hope to draw the same kind of crowds that line the beaches to watch lifeguard races throughout South Jersey in the summer.
“That’s definitely the type of support we’re looking for,” said Dan Gallagher, national sales manager for the Atlantic City Sports Commission and Meet AC. “It’s going to be like a NASCAR-style of triathlon racing. Because the bike and run are on loops, spectators will get to see the competitors in action.”
That’s what prompted Daniel and Sarah Cassidy to form the Major Triathlon League last year. Sarah would accompany her husband to watch him compete in longer-distance races and quickly became frustrated with the format.
Most triathlons are spread out over miles, which affords fans only brief glimpses of the race.
”It was terrible,” Sarah Cassidy told the Charlotte Agenda on Friday. “You wake up at the crack of dawn, and you get to see your husband for like a minute during the race. After a while, I was like, ‘I’m not doing this.’”
Athletes from Australia, Canada and the United States are scheduled to compete in the league this year. One of the four teams will be based in Atlantic City, though the roster of the Atlantic City Waves is not set.
Spenser Popeson, a Linwood native and Mainland Regional High School graduate, competed last year for a team in Charlotte, North Carolina, but will not be in the league this year, he said Friday.
“I think it will do very well in Atlantic City,” said Popeson, who competed in the Cape May SuperAthlon several times for the Upper Township Beach Patrol. “Their races are very exciting and entertaining. I can definitely see it drawing the same type of crowds you get at the lifeguard races.”
Wildwood Crest native and Wildwood Catholic High School graduate Joe Maloy, who was the top U.S. finisher in the men’s triathlon at the Rio Olympics in 2016, considered competing but withdrew because of other race commitments, according to Sorensen.
Maloy could not be reached for comment Friday.
Ocean City native Renee Tomlin, one of the top American women’s triathletes, also was considered. Tomlin, however, lives in Australia and is expected to train there this year, according to Sorensen.
“Renee and I are very good friends,” Sorensen said. “We ran track together at Georgetown (University) and also lived together while we were training and competing as triathletes. We’ve competed together everywhere from the Penn Relays in Philadelphia to triathlons in China. If one of our female competitors gets hurt this season, she’ll be the first person I call.”
The MLT event will be among three triathlons held in Atlantic City this year, along with the Atlantic City Triathlon on Aug. 5 and Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City on Sept. 17.
Those two races are held by Wildwood-based DelMo Sports, as are the Red Bull Surf and Rescue lifeguard competition July 18 and several other local triathlons.
The fifth annual Escape the Cape Triathlon in Lower Township will be held June 4, one day after the MLT event, but DelMo CEO Stephen DelMonte said he wasn’t concerned about any possible conflict.
”I’m thrilled that they’re having that race,” DelMonte said Friday in a phone interview from Dallas. “The Atlantic City Sports Commission, Meet AC and the entire city are always looking for ways to draw people to town, and they’ve always been extremely supportive of everything I do there. I’m excited to see how it plays out, and I wish them nothing but the best.
”It’s a completely different event from the one we’re having on June 4. The 32 triathletes competing there won’t conflict with the 1,700 that will be at the Escape the Cape. But because the Atlantic City race is so short, maybe they’ll want to make a weekend out of it and come down our way? I’d love to see them come down and jump off the (Cape May-Lewes Ferry) the next day.”