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Sun 22nd May 2022
Alan Rose on Challenge Weymouth
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Wednesday 23rd October 2013

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With formal confirmation today that the new venue for the Challenge UK event from 2014, after three years as Challenge Henley, will be Challenge Weymouth I spoke to Challenge UK Race Director, Alan Rose to find out more about the move to the South Coast and what Weymouth holds in store for athletes and supporters on 14th September next year.

On the widely expected move away from Henley - which has proved to be (no pun intended), a challenging venue, with on going frictions from local residents and authorities - Alan admitted that it had been a difficult time

"Yes, the news that we were moving really won't have come as much of a surprise, it is no secret that the organisation of the race has been difficult. It certainly hasn't been a smooth three years and we've all worked so hard to try and make it work and we're proud of what we did achieve in growing the event, despite the challenges we faced. As an organiser and as a business there are really two things - there is real emotional attachment to it; and having developed the event from scratch we had a real desire for Challenge Henley to succeed and prosper. The other side, the more pragmatic business side, is trying to look at it with a little more detachment, to ask is it working? Can it work? And if not, you have to make difficult decisions.

"It has been difficult, not being able to access and get the support and the things that are really needed to make an event of this scale succeed - and that really is what lead to the opening of discussions with others about potential new venues."

Challenge WeymouthWith the Weymouth venue now confirmed, what was the process by which you find and secure a new venue?

"The first thing, and really what Challenge Family is about, is finding a destination that represents the UK. We had that element of course with Henley, and with any new location we also needed to have great courses and that iconic element to go towards making it a great event.

"What is also important is working with an area and with authorities that 'get it'. An international event of this scale brings so much to a venue, and so finding authorities that understand that, and see the big picture is key to making a great partnership.

"For Weymouth, we were actually approached by two (separate) third parties who both suggested Weymouth as a potential venue. I knew the area having spent time living there when I was in the Navy, and that got me thinking 'actually, I think that could well have everything we are looking for...'

"Weymouth having been the venue for the Olympic Sailing regatta is really a big asset for us - it means there has been huge investment in infrastructure in terms of new access road, road improvements a resurfacing, as well as awareness. We are certainly going to see some swift bike times."

Challenge Weymouth

Will there be, like Henley, a 'full' and half on the same day?

"Yes - there will also be Relay options in both which is something of a feature of Challenge races. We're also looking at developing the build up to the main event with smaller events in the days before; a partners run, kids events etc - we're excited about being able to develop this area as it hasn't been possible previously."

Can you give us some details on the course?

"Sure - the swim will take place at Preston Beach which is an area used by the Open Water Swimming Association, with the transition across the road in Lodmoor Country Park. Unlike Henley, that will house both T1 and T2 which will make things much simpler for athletes rather than split transitions.

Challenge Weymouth

"We have a provisional course for the bike, which has been well received by the authorities, it is a two lap looped course which means that we can accommodate more people. The run course is totally flat and we'll use the Esplanade and the bay area. It will be a very quick run course but what I think will make it will be the support. The finish will be near to the town, close to the Pavilion area, which should also be a great location for much of the pre-race activity like registration etc."

There are, and have been over the years several triathlon events in Weymouth - will your courses cover some of the same areas as those?

"We working very closely with Mark Steen (who is the head of BustinSkin events). He has a lot of experience and knowledge of Weymouth and the surrounds and is our "man on the ground" so to speak, so we believe that will be very valuable and make a great addition to our organising team."

Challenge Weymouth

The event is part of the wider Challenge Family umbrella - what is their view of the venue change, are they supportive?

"The Challenge team have been fantastic from the start and have supported us all the way through. Even Felix (Walchshofer, the CEO of Challenge Family), spent a couple of summers in Weymouth as a youngster to develop his English (!), so he is well aware of Weymouth can offer"

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