OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — For the second-consecutive August, Old Orchard Beach will host an event that’s not exactly synonymous with southern Maine — a big-time, much-buzzed-about, nationally competitive and world-renowned triathlon.
Based on the phenomenal success of last year’s inaugural event, Revolution3 Triathlon, one of the largest companies in the sport that organizes professional events all over the country, will be back hosting the triathlon this Sunday that’s expected to draw 1,300 professionals and amateur athletes from across the state, country and globe.
Will Thomas, the founder of Tri-Maine and part of the original brain trust that came up with the idea of bringing a Rev3 event to Old Orchard Beach, said after last year’s event, which was named No. 3 internationally among top new races, he was “thrilled” to have the race back for a second year.
“We saw people coming from all over the country and other countries [last year], and the feedback we got from all the athletes was outstanding, and the feedback from the town was positive,” said Thomas, who for the second year will also serve as the event’s local race director.
“Everybody is just really excited about what we’ve built and that it’s coming back and growing,” he said.
Growing the event most certainly is.
When representatives from Rev3 first sat down with local organizers such as Thomas before last year’s events to discuss logistics and numbers, they set 600 competitors as the number they’d be happy with, while 800 would have been considered a resounding success for a first-year race.
Nearly 1,100 participants ended up taking part, with near-universal raves for the scenic course and user-friendly accommodations provided by Old Orchard Beach, which provides a much different atmosphere and course than the rural areas where triathlons are usually held.
“I’ve heard so much positive feedback from the athletes that they love the community and they love the course,” said Eric Opdyke, Rev3’s national race director, after last year’s event. “Quite honestly, it’s just the perfect venue for us. We just couldn’t have asked for a better first year, and there’s really no reason why we wouldn’t come back.”
This year, the spots for the maximum number of 1,300 participants filled up weeks in advance, which Thomas largely attributes to the athletes themselves.
“Word of mouth has really driven a lot of it,” Thomas said. “When an event does so well the first year, people talk about it and want to be involved.
“Maine in the summertime is the place you want to be, and this caliber of event and the kind of marketing that Rev3 is able to put behind it has really done a lot to get the word out to the athlete population across the U.S,” he said.
The added participants means more exposure and tourist dollars for Old Orchard Beach in a week that’s typically quiet on the tourist front. Assistant Town Manager V. Louise Reid, who had high praise for last year’s event, said she had no problem convincing town officials to have the triathlon back.
“We’re quite excited about the additional participants,” Reid said. “It brings in an enormous amount of families. It not only enhances the race itself for participants, but it also enhances the downtown businesses and restaurants. The town staff department heads and the Chamber of Commerce totally supported it coming back.”
Like last year, the participants will have the choice of competing in two different races happening concurrently: The 31.9-mile Olympic Rev, which encompasses a 0.9-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run; and the 70.3-mile Half Rev, which comprises a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.
The course is nearly identical from a year ago, with the swim portion kicking off at 6:20 a.m. on the shore of Old Orchard Beach near Atlantic Avenue and ending at the beach’s pier, where the athletes will transition on to bikes.
The bike course will take the athletes out into the countryside, winding through Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Dayton, Lyman, Waterboro, Hollis and Scarborough for the Half Rev and Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Scarborough for the Olympic Rev.
The last-leg running portion will then take them through Scarborough Marsh and over a portion of the Eastern Trail before winding back into Old Orchard Beach, where the athletes will cross the finish line in downtown on 1st Street.
“The course really has everything,” Thomas said. “We spent a lot of time thinking through how to make this the best possible experience for the athletes, and we were able to come up with what I think is a really spectacular course.”
He continued, “The beach is unparalleled, and the bike course and running trail has this sort of picturesque Maine forests and hills and farms. They have topography, vistas — a lot of things that people get excited about. It’s the kind of thing that people don’t forget.”
Due to the success of last year’s event, Rev3 has also doubled the prize purse to $50,000, including $7,000 for the winners.
That in turn has attracted 57 professional men and women — including last year’s women’s champion Lauren Goss of Mount Pleasant, S.C. — to this year’s race, 24 more pros than competed a year ago.
“From what I’ve been told by Rev3, it’s a really competitive pro field,” Thomas said. “We have some of the current top athletes in the world coming to participate in this; having them in Maine is really exciting for the sport and allows people to come here who may not otherwise come here.
“Among the triathlon community, there’s certainly a lot of buzz among the people who will be competing here in Maine,” he said.