LAKE SAN ANTONIO, CA (BRAIN)—Nearly 7,000 athletes converged on Lake San Antonio in Central California over the weekend to compete in the world famous Wildflower triathlon.
On Saturday, professional, collegiate and amateur racers competed in the long course under sunny skies, beginning with a 1.2-mile swim in Lake San Antonio, followed by a 56.6-mile bike ride that wound past vineyards and up “nasty grade,” a five-mile, 1,000-foot climb that rewarded cyclists with sweeping views of the picturesque valley below. The course ended with a 13.1-mile run on trails and paved roads.
The mountain bike course and Olympic distance triathlon also attracted thousands of athletes. The weekend event, staged in Monterey County about 20 minutes outside Paso Robles, included camping and a festival with live music, food and vendors.
The 27th annual gathering of triathletes was a prime place for vendors to show their products to a captive audience.
“People are here for the weekend. It’s not like a marathon or other running race when they only go to the expo for their race packet. People mill about, they have time to visit booths multiple times. They don’t rush through,” said Meredith Rich, with Tri California, the organization that puts on Wildflower.
Shimano exhibited at the festival for the first time in order to show its new Pro line of aero bars and the prototype of its time trial Di2 Dura Ace electronic shifting, which allows riders to shift from either the brake or the aero position.
The product, which hits retailers in July, was a big draw at the event, often causing passersby to do a 180 and come back for a closer look, said Nick Murdick, multi-service tech rep for Shimano.
“It’s a big revolution. People say you can buy speed on a bike, which you can’t do on the run or the swim. Being able to shift on the fly definitely will make you faster,” Murdick said, as the race announcer blared names of runners crossing the finish line in the Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday afternoon.
And he believes athletes are willing to pay the extra money to go that extra bit faster.
“If you’re already spending $10,000 on a bike, $12,000 isn’t a stretch,” he said.
The Felt booth also enjoyed a steady stream of traffic as spectators and athletes stopped to look at the brand’s six tri bikes on display.
With about 30,000 people passing through the expo area, exhibiting at Wildflower is a great benefit to the brand’s image, said Jake Duehring, marketing event coordinator for Felt.
“It’s huge with the number of people here. The bigger set up you have, the more exposure you get, the bigger people think you are. People put you on the same level as Trek, Specialized and Cervélo,” Duehring said.
Other industry exhibitors included Jamis, Yakima and Blue Competition Cycles. In all, nearly 100 vendors had booth space at Wildflower.
Photo: The massive transition area at the Wildflower Triathlon in Monterey County, California