Pro triathlon event to return as 3-day endurance festival in Avon |

Pro triathlon event to return as 3-day endurance festival in Avon

Competitors begin the swimming portion of the Major League Triathlon race on Aug. 4, 2018, in Avon. Major League Triathlon will return to Avon in September of 2019 with an expanded format.
Chris Dillmann |

AVON — Locals will get one more chance to see a super-sprint mixed-relay triathlon before the event makes it Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020.

Major League Triathlon will return to Harry A. Nottingham Park Sept. 6-8, bringing with it a three-day festival featuring running, cycling and swimming competitions for all ages and abilities, as well as two days of free concerts, kids zones, food vendors, an interactive expo, a beer and wine garden and more.

Eagle County native John O’Neill, a retired professional triathlon competitor who helped bring Major League Triathlon to Avon, said he’s hoping the festival becomes a gathering ground for endurance sports enthusiasts across the region and beyond.

“It will be cool to see an event based on endurance sports, rather than extreme sports,” says O’Neill, who has also dabbled in the extreme sports realm as an accomplished kayaker and telemark skier. “With so many local endurance athletes choosing the Westin to work out, all the new biking trails, open water swimming in the lake, and the town helping host the Xterra competitions, Avon has really turned into the beating heart of the local endurance community.”

The festival will be called 970 AvonFest; organizer Daniel Cassidy said in expanding the Major League Triathlon event from a one-day gathering to a three-day festival, he’s hoping to create something everyone in town feels like they’re part of.

“The whole concept of this is to create an event that’s Avon’s event, something we’re building for the long haul in Avon,” Cassidy said. “The hope is that everyone in the Vail Valley has an opportunity to do a race that they’re interested in or try something new that they haven’t done before, but it’s also something that we’re hoping is going to get people to come in from outside of town so they’re not just showing up to do one race, they can spend more time in Avon.”

New Olympic Format

Major League Triathlon formed in 2016, and by 2017 the league’s super sprint mixed relay format was welcomed into the Olympics.

A super-sprint mixed relay is a shorter version of a classic triathlon, and uses teams comprising both men and women.

Two men and two women complete a 300 meter swim, a 4-mile looped bike course and 1 mile run before tagging off to their teammate. The first team to see all four members cross the finish line wins.

In employing the super-sprint mixed-relay format, Cassidy told the Vail Daily they were attempting to bring a much-needed fan following to triathlon.

“Triathlon needs to be more accessible for both participants and spectators,” Cassidy wrote in an open letter in 2017. “MLT has addressed this by adopting the most spectator-friendly format in the sport and ‘Americanized’ it by creating a team based league whose teams represent cities, similar to other professional sports.”

When it became known around the triathlon racing community that Major League Triathlon was using the same format accepted into the 2020 Olympics, teams from around the globe started joining in the action, and the league went international.

In 2018, teams from Australia, Canada and Mexico competed in Avon in August.

After seeing how welcoming the conditions were for August racing, Cassidy said that time of year looks ideal for a larger, rebranded festival for Avon.

The first weekend that looks to work for both the Major League Triathlon calendar and the local event calendar is the weekend after Labor Day, while the weather may still be promising.

“It’s an awesome time of year: The ITU series is over, so it made perfect sense from a timing standpoint,” he said.

There will be other endurance events for amateur athletes throughout the weekend, including a Non-Draft Sprint Triathlon, a Super Sprint Draft Legal Triathlon, a Mixed Team Relay Amateur Triathlon, a 5k for an IPA run/walk; the 970 AvonFest Beer Mile; the Bark in the Park 5k Dog Run Walk; a Youth Splash and Dash and the 970 AvonFest Tour de Lettuce Gravel Grinder.

“We’re going to have things for families to enjoy, an inflatable kids zone, and it should be something fun for people who want to watch the best professional triathletes in the world race, as well,” Cassidy said.

A full schedule of musical acts and more will be released in the coming months.

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