Triathlon with the biggest purse of $1.1 million comes to town

Top athletes from across the world will take part at the Daytona International Speedway

Daytona International Speedway is used to seeing some high-stakes racing, but this weekend may take it to a whole new level. 

Top athletes from across the world will take on all the Speedway has to offer starting Saturday, including a swim across Lake Lloyd, as Challenge Daytona returns to the World Center of Racing for the third consecutive year. 

The premier event will be Sunday’s triathlon, which features professional athletes from around the world competing for a record purse of more than $1.1 million. 

“Riding on that track, for me, it’s going to be amazing,” said Heather Jackson, a multi-time Ironman World Championship podium finisher. “It’s going to be a fun way to end the year.”

For decades, the Ironman and other races filled with weekend warriors have dominated triathlon. Now, the elites are trying to take control with a new series.

Ironman triathlon champions are often regarded as the superheroes of modern sports, freakishly fit specimens who swim, cycle and run a combined 140.6 miles in roughly eight hours.

Yet professional triathletes have long been poorly compensated afterthoughts in a sport that has prioritized the everyday amateur participants who squeeze in training before and after work and pay nearly $1,000 to enter a race.

That may be on the verge of changing, beginning this weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla., where many of the sport’s top professionals will start a championship circuit they hope will become as lucrative as the golf and tennis championships are for their pros. In the process, they are trying to unseat Ironman, the company that has dominated triathlon for decades, as the premier competition for elite triathletes.

“It’s actually harder to make a living as a professional triathlete now than it was when I started in 2008,” said Tim O’Donnell, 40, who has won more than 20 major triathlon events. “Most athletes are just trying to pay their bills.”

Related Articles