We caught up with Major League Triathlon founders Daniel Cassidy and Daniel Imperato to talk about the four-race series set to launch in 2016. While there are still plenty of questions about the series—mainly when and where the four races will take place—we do know that each event will be headlined by teams of four pro triathletes taking part in a sprint mixed relay (the same format the ITU is pushing for Olympic inclusion). Each event will also include age-group races and “festivalâ€ aspects, like family fun runs, and more importantly, beer gardens.
LAVA: What made you guys want to launch your own tri series…is there some kind of void you see in the current market?
Daniel Cassidy: The biggest thing for us was that we saw a lot of race series cutting their professional prize purses. We heard a lot of race directors saying that they couldn’t really market the pros because they didn’t know who would be coming to a race until a week before. So we thought that if we could do something where we could get all of the professional athletes to commit to an entire season (which will be four races) then it’s better for us—for our marketing purposes—and it’s also better for the professional athletes as well. And beyond racing, we’ll be integrating the professionals into the weekend more. We want to make their presence part of the experience of coming out to our event.
So that’s it on the professional side of it. And on the personal side of it, I know there’s been a lot of progress in the sport to make it more spectator friendly, but there really isn’t a lot being done to bring people in from outside of the sport. So we wanted to make something that was spectator friendly and had something for a broader audience. That’s where the festival aspect comes in. We’ve had things that you’ve seen before—we’re talking about doing family fun runs and things along those lines, but we also wanted to do other things. We’re going to have our professional athletes teach swim clinics at each event. We’re going to partner with local craft breweries to have a beer garden. We’re going to do a concert series—right now we’re speaking with a guy who’s a nationally known artist. We want to make it fun, and much more interactive – even for those who won’t be racing.
LAVA: You mentioned four races for next year. Do you know which four cities?
DC: We do know the cities and dates, but we have a marketing plan that we’re going to be rolling out over the next few months, so we’re not ready to announce them just yet.
LAVA: How are you engaging the professional athletes and what has the response been so far?
DC: For the first year we’re going to have 32 athletes—16 men and 16 women. It’ll be broken down into eight teams of four doing a super-sprint mixed relay. We’re opening it up to all pro triathletes. We’re looking for professional athletes who are talented and also invested in what we’re doing and see the potential in the league model. The response from the pros so far has been incredible—more than we could have ever expected.
LAVA: So will the team model be similar to that of the French Grand Prix Series or the Bundesliga in Germany? You said in the in your press release that teams would represent a city—do you know which cities?
Daniel Imperato: We do know the cities for year one. Four of them will be the cities that we host an event in and four of them will begin hosting events in later years. In terms of athletes being from the city they represent—we’d like to geographically align them as much as possible so they’re racing for a hometown team, but similar to other pro sports, they won’t need to be from the area they represent. Our biggest priority when creating the teams will be making them as fair as possible.
LAVA: Will the four races take place over the course of the entire season or are you looking to have a short, consolidated season?
DC: The races will be spread out. We’re really looking to compliment other race series. We’re not looking to go head to head with anyone or keep our athletes from doing other races. We’re doing the best to avoid overlapping with any ITU or USAT events that our athletes may be competing in. Our main goal is to promote the sport, so if we’re competing on the same weekend as another event then it’s a little counter productive when it comes to growing the sport.
LAVA: What kind of prize money are we talking about and where is that funding going to come from?
DI: We do have an idea. Because we’re still finalizing it we’re not going to release that information just yet. I can tell you about the structure…one thing that’s unique to us is that all of our athletes will be guaranteed a stipend for showing up to each race. There are also going to be primes at each race for the fastest circuit for men and women. And we’ll have individual purses at each event and a league-ending purse for the team that wins the league.
LAVA: Any plans for live coverage?
DC: It’s something that we’ve talked about and I think the sprint relay format is really conducive to that. We’re looking into it but not for our first year.