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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 20, 2024


March 20, 2002 — This year's installment of the St. Croix Half Ironman triathlon, the island's single largest event, will be even bigger as participants swim, ride and run on May 5.
With more than a month left before the grueling race, there are already 850 people registered, according to Tom Guthrie, director of the St. Croix Half Ironman. The number should approach 1,000 when the gun goes off, a 25 percent increase over last year's event. And that doesn't count families traveling with the racers.
Those numbers are significant, Guthrie said, as the island has about 1,000 hotel rooms. After the severe decline in tourism following the events of Sept. 11, Guthrie said, race participants staying at the island's hotels at the end of the tourist season will be a shot in the arm.
"That's one of the reasons we have it in May, so we can extend the season," he said. "And people think travel is safe; it will just take longer at the airport."
One of about three dozen professional racers making the trip will be defending Ironman world champion Natascha Badmann of Switzerland, Guthrie said. Badmann, 34, has claimed three of the last four Ironman World Championship titles and has four Ironman titles to her credit. She also posted a victory at the 2001 Ironman California.
"She is by far the best name in the sport," Guthrie said. "She is great."
The big draw of the St. Croix event for age groupers — non-professional racers — is the 30 qualifying slots for the biggest race of them all: the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, the sport's revered world championship.
This year's St. Croix race is the second as a half Ironman. For most of the 14-year life of the race, the event has consisted of a 1.25-mile (2 kilometer) swim, 34-mile (55 kilometer) bicycle ride and a 7.4-mile (12 kilometer) run. To be an Ironman qualifier, the ride had to total 56 miles and the run had to cover 13 miles. The swim distance is the same. An actual Ironman race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 122-mile bike race and a marathon-distance, 26.4-mile run.
The St. Croix bike leg includes the notorious "Beast," a 600-foot elevation climb in 0.7 mile with an average grade of 14 percent and a maximum grade of 18 percent.
Guthrie said the winning time for the male pro in the half Ironman will be in the neighborhood of four hours, while age groupers will be on the course for about six hours.
There are currently six events in the Ironman North America Triathlon series of races -– either full-length races or half distances -– leading up to the Ironman Triathlon World Championship on the island of Hawaii in October.
Besides being a qualifier for the Hawaii and California Triathlons, the St. Croix event has been and will continue to be a qualifier for the Lake Placid Ironman and the Canadian Ironman.
For the pros, the draw of St. Croix is the $50,000 purse, one of the largest in the sport. It is equally distributed between men and women through 10 places, with the first-place finishers walking away with about $7,500.

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