With its format now in the Olympics, Avon’s Aug. 4 Major League Triathlon event will be a big showcase of talent | VailDaily.com

With its format now in the Olympics, Avon’s Aug. 4 Major League Triathlon event will be a big showcase of talent

AVON — Vail native triathlete John O'Neill said it felt like it happened overnight.

Major League Triathlon, an upstart league that formed as an experimental effort to bring a more spectator-friendly version of triathlon racing to the U.S., is now the main showcase of a new Olympic sport.

The International Olympic Committee announced last year that the super sprint mixed team relay format — a 300-meter swim, 9-kilometer bike and 2-kilometer run — will be an event at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The announcement came as the new Major League Triathlon four-event series was about to kick off its second season, using that very same format. The teams were already set for that season, with O'Neill a member of the Colorado Peaks, so the news didn't shake things up much.

Heading into this season, though, O'Neill said he could feel a new energy surrounding the sport.

"All of a sudden, Major League Triathlon because the biggest identifier of talent in the country for this new format," O'Neill said. "So much so that there will be international teams in the league this year."

'YOU CAN'T BLINK'

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Major League Triathlon started as a small race league for Americans to experience a slightly different version of triathlon.

"I've always enjoyed the Ironman format, as well, but you can take a nap during the event and sill catch the exciting moments," O'Neill said. "With Major League Triathlon, you can't blink or you might miss something."

League founder Daniel Cassidy said his wife made him aware of the shortcomings of traditional triathlon with a simple observation: "This is so difficult for me as a spectator."

Cassidy said he didn't know what she meant until he finally attended a triathlon as a spectator rather than a competitor. His wife was competing in her first event, and he was excited to see how she was going to do.

He describes the process on majorleaguetri.com: "Waking up at 5 a.m., driving 30 minutes to the site, waiting for the race to start, seeing her for (maybe) 10 seconds at each transition, and waiting patiently at the finish line for her to finish."

His analysis as a spectator was similar to his wife's: "It felt like the longest day I ever had at a race. A simple thought was born: 'Triathlon needs a change.'"

Cassidy set out to create something more "Americanized" — a league with teams that represent cities, similar to other professional sports.

"This structure is not only spectator friendly, but also incredibly television friendly; with the entire race taking roughly 70 minutes in total of nonstop action," he said.

With men and women competing together, it will be something unique for the Olympics in 2020, as well.

ROOTING FOR FLORIDA

With Major League Triathlon's new notoriety, O'Neill had to shift around a bit not to get left behind.

He joined the Sarasota Sun, the team from Florida, which was a bittersweet shift, being born and raised in Eagle County and living right near the Avon venue for quite some time.

Nevertheless, he says he couldn't be more excited about the fact that he'll be able to come back home for the event on Aug. 4.

"The world is now watching this league," O'Neill said. "It's going to be incredible to bring that level of exposure to Nottingham Park, where I did my first ever Dunk 'N' Dash."

Avon's Dunk 'N' Dash run/swim duathlon is still underway, now in its 14th year. The next one takes place on Monday, July 16, at 6 p.m. at Nottingham Park.

"Avon's lake is something we don't have anywhere else in the valley, and these events — the Dunk 'N' Dash, the Xterra off-road triathlon, and now Major League Triathlon — are some of the best ways to showcase it," O'Neill said. "I really can't think of a more perfect event for that park."

Major League Triathlon's Avon event will be the second of four in the series.

The Aug. 4 triathlon will bring a festival atmosphere to the park with a beer garden, food vendors, game zone and expos. Starting in the morning with the annual BEC Tri amateur sprint triathlon at 8 a.m. There will be a Dunk 'N' Dash at 10:30 a.m., followed by a few more amateur competitions from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The main event is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., and a concert from Austin Plaine will follow starting at 6 p.m.

For more information, visit http://www.majorleaguetri.com.