The event that helped put St. Croix on the international athletics map – the triathlon – returns Saturday, a year after it was declared finished, with a new theme – “Race to Rebuild” – and new organizers, VI TRI, a newly formed organization that came together to stage the signature event.
The St. Croix Triathlon was launched in 1992, then morphed into the St. Croix Ironman. For 29 years top-level athletes from around the world converged on St. Croix to challenge the competition and world famous “Beast,” the stretch of the bicycle run where the road climbs 600 feet in 7.1 miles as the racers climb over the spine of the island.
But when the event began, it was one of a handful of such races in the world. By 2017 there were 30 such events, including one in Puerto Rico, and the sponsorship money need to put it on was growing thin. The 2017 was announced as the last St. Croix Triathlon.
But this year, the V.I. Department of Tourism gave the newly formed VI TRI the “go ahead” to move forward and plan another triathlon.
“This is a relaunch of the past triathlon on St. Croix, which is headed by a new committee VI TRI, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, said VI TRI media coordinator Rebecca Hensley. “VI TRI is composed of local leaders who hold important roles in their respective businesses, serve on local boards in the community and have founded and administered successful events.”
The St. Croix Coral Reef Swim (five miles open water), Rock and roll Marathon Series, and Junior Tri Virgin Islands Kids Triathlon Series are some of those events, Hensley said.
“Many of the committee members are also endurance athletes with countless events under their belts,” she added.
The committee’s focus is on giving back. Three nonprofits will benefit: My Brother’s Table, The St. Croix Animal Welfare Center and Caribbean Centers for Boys & Girls of the Virgin Islands. Those organizations lost everything after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017.
“Tri Fete” is scheduled Friday night in downtown Christiansted to kick off the triathlon weekend. Local restaurants and retail shops will be open late. Several venues will feature live music and special cultural tours will be offered.
Athletes will have a chance to experience cultural activities all evening. The World Ocean School’s historic Roseway Schooner will feature surprise performances and a sunset sail.
Visitors can also be a part of the community support during the evening for My Brother’s Table and The St. Croix Animal Welfare Center at their puppy parade along the Christiansted boardwalk.
Three races will be offered this year: Long-distance course, sprint and a sprint aquathlon, which is a first this year.
Relays will be offered in the long-distance course and the sprint triathlon races. The long-distance course race is designated as the Caribbean Long Distance Triathlon Championship.
According to their website, VI TRI is offering discounted race entry for all events taking place during the race weekend.
Erica J. Johnson, community relations director of Diageo USVI, “Diageo USVI is excited to offer up to $5,000 towards entry fees in the ‘Race to Rebuild’ for athletes who are residents of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, ages 18 and over.”
“As organizations around the USVI continue rebuilding efforts even a year after the 2017 hurricane season, we thought sponsoring Virgin Islands athletes in the triathlon on St. Croix was a great way to encourage our neighbors and friends to take part in a healthy, fun and inspiring event that will raise much needed funds for local charities,” Johnson said.
Virgin Islands athletes who wish to take advantage of the discounted registration fees supported by Diageo can do so on a first come, first served basis and will apply to all events including the long-course, sprint, relays and aquathon.
The race committee is also offering athletes a $20 savings on registration. Current rates are valid until Thursday. Saturday is the last day to register.
Professional triathlete Catriona Morrison announced this week that she would be racing in the 2018 Beauty and The Beast Triathlon. Morrison has competed in the race before, placing first in her event four of the six years she participated.
Morrison will be joined on the course by professional triathletes and Ironman champions Angela Naeth, Karen Smyers and Michelle Jones, according to the VI TRI website.
Katherine Pugliese of Un Amore is leading the organizing efforts of the VI TRI.
“We hope visiting athletes will also take the opportunity to give back to the island through various initiatives, raffles and events throughout the race weekend,” Pugliese said.
Professional athletes say St. Croix has been a favorite in the triathlon world.
“There is a reason I have returned to St. Croix’s triathlon for over 20 years,” said Wendy Ingraham, eight-time Ironman champion. “The people, the challenge of the course, the food. It is truly a race you cannot miss on your bucket-list.”
More information is available online at www.virginislandstriathlon.com.