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2015 Pro Champions

    Valley First Challenge Penticton today crowned two new champions in the first Professional race held over the Half Distance. Victoria BC’s Brent McMahon and Peoria, Illinois’s Jennifer Spieldenner won hotly contested races in both mens and women’s events. The Half Distance event is held over 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike and 21 km run. The 33rd edition of the Full Distance triathlon was held today, as an Age-Group only event. David Matheson of Penticton and Yvonne Timewell of Kamloops, BC, who are all both previous Ultraman Canada overall champions, took line honours in the Challenge Full, today. Italian-born, U.S. resident Davide Giardini lead the men’s field out of the water in 22:04, closely followed by Chris Braden and Brent McMahon. McMahon took the lead on the bike leg, clocking 2:14:08 for the 90 km course. He was followed into transition by local athlete Trevor Wurtele with Giardini slipping to into third. Each athlete held onto his place on the run, McMahon finishing the 21 km leg in 1:14:28 for a total time of 3:50:38. “I wanted to go out and I wanted to win this event,” said McMahon. “It takes a lot of hard work to do that. There were great Canadians and great international athletes here. They didn’t make it easy on me.” Speildenner lead the women’s field out of the water in 23:28 with a commanding lead over Ellie Salthouse and Malindi Elmore who exited the lake together. Heather Lendway then registered the fastest bike split of the day at 2:32:18. The top five women then changed the order time and again during an... read more

All Change in 2016

    Valley First Challenge Penticton today announced changes to the 2016 event as Penticton prepares to host the ITU World Triathlon and Multisport Festival the following year. The 2016 Valley First Challenge Penticton will be run across one single distance; the world long-course championship distance of 3 km swim, 120 km bike and 30 km run. There remains both individual and relay events over the new format. The 2016 edition of Valley First Challenge Penticton will be expanded to incorporate the Canadian cross-triathlon, duathlon and aquathon championships across a five-day festival. Each of the four national championships will act as a qualifying event for the respective world championship, which will be held the following year in Penticton. The 2017 ITU Triathlon and Multisport Festival is a 10-day event incorporating the world championships for four of the sports disciplines. The event is expected to attract as many as 4,000 athletes from across the globe. “Our 2016 race will be the ultimate preparation event for athletes looking to race the world championships in Penticton just 12 months later,” said Michael Brown, co-race director, Valley First Challenge Penticton. “It will be an exciting week as thousands of athletes descend upon the city to test themselves on the world championship course and race other athletes for spots on the national team.” “Triathletes coming to experience the legendary Valley First Challenge Penticton course bring economic activity to our community, which is a big part of our sports tourism strategy and a chance to showcase our region as a premier destination to invest, relax, train and play,” said Andrew Jakubeit, Penticton Mayor. “Challenge Family’s... read more

Team 211 Relay Challenge

    A triathlon relay team, which consists of one swimmer, one cyclist and one runner, with a combined age of 211, is challenging other teams in the Valley First Challenge Full distance triathlon, on August 30th. A quick calculation reveals an average age of over 70 years. One might ask, “how fast can these guys really go?” Before jumping to any conclusions, consider that this team consists of three Ironman veterans with podium finishes in their respective age groups – as triathletes. “Our main objective is to enter an upper end seniors relay team to serve as an incentive for others to participate” says Pete Stanton from Calgary, the youngster of the trio at 69 years of age. He’s a previous Ironman Canada 60-64 age group champion, who started focusing on his cycling after hip resurfacing surgery limited his running. Pete is capable of riding the180km bike leg in well under 6 hours, having recently completed the 160km Axel Merckx GranFondo event in 5 hours and 6 minutes. Greg Sandkuhl from Whistler BC is another accomplished triathlete and Ironman Canada age group Champion in multiple categories and will start Team 211 off as the swimmer. Greg will be 71 years of age on race day and expects to cover the 3.8km swim distance in just over an hour. Sankuhl, who was an avid mountain-biker before taking up triathlon in his late 50’s has a swimming background. He has recently won his age group in the Squamish Standard distance Triathlon, a 1.5km swim, 40km Bike and 10km run, in an overall time of 2 hours and 35 minutes, including... read more

2015 Professional Competition

  The 2015 Valley First Challenge Penticton Triathlon will see the professional race move from the traditional Full distance to the Half distance event, to attract more top-level competitors. The Full Distance triathlon consists of a 3.8km Swim, 180km Bike and 42km Run. Half distance 1.9k/90k/21k. “There are more long distance races on the professional circuit now, making it increasingly harder to attract top professionals to race here” says Challenge Penticton Co-Race Director, Kevin Cutjar. “We used to see some of the best athletes in the sport go head to head in Penticton. “This has changed over the past five to 10 years and in the last two years, both men and women champions have posted world class performances, winning by 15 to 20 minutes, yet these efforts go largely unnoticed due to lack of competition”. Challenge Penticton office has received inquiries from several top Canadian, US and other international professionals, looking to compete at the Half Distance race, which falls six weeks before the Hawaii Ironman. “We have the potential to attract a very good professional field at the Half, due to our location and timing,” says Cutjar. Market research indicates that most age group competitors don’t really consider the professional field, when it comes to their own race choices. Challenge Penticton organizers insist that having a high quality professional field raises the event’s profile and that seeing top pros in Penticton again, will benefit the race, the age-group athletes who are also in town and spectators alike. Challenge Family events across North America have recently notified professional athletes of prize-money restructuring, following similar moves by Ironman branded... read more

Jeff Symonds Interview

In the inaugural Valley First Challenge Penticton, in 2013, hometown boy Jeffrey Symonds survived a high speed bike crash in the bike to post a Sub 8 1/2 hour finish in just his second Full Distance race.

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PIB Partnership

  Story from Nearly 200 attended the Valley First Challenge Penticton open house at the Ramada Inn April 9. Most liked what they heard from co-race directors Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown and their plans  going forward. There was applause and cheers with a renewal of a relationship developed with the Penticton Indian Band (PIB). Councillor Joseph Pierre expressed his appreciation, especially when that relatioship with Ironman never came to fruition. “It’s actually awesome that we are now becoming a part of this family of Challenge,” said Pierre, adding that they approach VFCP with open arms and hearts. “Even though there was a change in the triathlon system, and we now had the Challenge here, the triathlon is always going to be here. It’s just part of what Penticton is now. The band is happy to be able to host. Even though it’s on a small part of our land, there is potential in the future to have more of the track go on our areas of our reserves.” Cutjar let the crowd in on their thinking behind revamping the run course to have part of it on the river channel. “That’s a beautiful part of Penticton,” said Cutjar. “A lot of people that come here want to run the channel. They want to see all those people floating down the river. That’s part of Penticton. Why not make that part of the course? It happens to be flatter, potential to be faster.” Former Ultraman Canada champ Dave Matheson loves that. “I’m really excited about it,” said Matheson, who is entering the full distance course. “Likely created a faster,... read more

Students take on weekly marathons

  by  Emanuel Sequeira – Penticton Western News posted Apr 30, 2015 at 1:00 PM Penticton’s middle school students are on the run. As part of Challenge Penticton, students are taking part in the Middle School Marathon Challenge for nine weeks. Challenge Penticton co-race director Kevin Cutjar has approached McNicoll Park, KVR and Skaha Lake by volunteering his time to the students. McNicoll Park started on April 20, while Skaha Lake started on Monday. Students run/walk two kilometres 20 times over that period. Then in mid June, they will complete 2.2 km and arrive at the Valley First Challenge Penticton finish line. Those who finish receive a T-Shirt and medal. “They seem very receptive to the idea,” said Cutjar. “I talked about Jeff Symonds being a local kid. He started out as a runner. He had small goals along the way. It’s a way of achieving something big. It helps to get them to do something big in small steps.” The students are enjoying it and getting different experiences as it adds to their daily physical activity. “It’s just been cool. It’s not very hard to do two kilometres a day,” said A.J. Reiter, a Grade 8 McNicoll Park student. “It’s nothing compared to a real marathon. It’s just cool that if you keep doing this, you can add up and maybe eventually do a marathon yourself.” He has also liked participating with friends, who try to best each other. Cole Boczulak likes the idea of it because, as he puts it, you don’t have to be the best. “I try to run my fastest. It’s just good for... read more

Challenge Americas Appointment

    Challenge Family is continuing to strengthen its position as ‘the quality leader in global long distance triathlon’ with the appointment of a new management team to develop further growth in North, South and Central America. The Challenge Americas team will oversee the region’s 14 full and half distance Challenge Family triathlons, led by newly appointed CEO, Steven Gintowt. Gintowt joins from his previous role of Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the Competitor Group where he oversaw the company’s expansion into Europe and helped grow the business’s event arm. Jim Garfield’s role as Commercial Director is another new appointment to the Challenge team. Garfield is responsible for sponsorship sales and activation and is an award-winning marketing strategist as well as a former adventure-racing athlete and most recently was Executive Brand Builder for Life Time Fitness. Rev3’s Eric Opdyke rounds out the team as Head of Operations, responsible for co-ordinating the operations across all of the region’s events and overseeing maintenance of brand standards. The executive team is supported by the Challenge Americas Board, headed by Challenge Family CEO Zibi Szlufcik and Rev3’s Charlie Patten and also includes Murphy Reinschreiber and Eric Opdyke. The board brings many years of industry experience and connections and will provide strategic guidance and ensure the continuation of high quality event delivery as the series expands. Gintowt said the new structure marked the start of an exciting new era for Challenge Family that would see it strengthen its position in the Americas, delivering a new standard of long course triathlon as it introduced new races and built on the success of... read more

New Run Course

Valley First Challenge Penticton announces new run course. Flatter run course for North America’s oldest full-distance triathlon. Valley First Challenge Penticton has announced a new run course for both the half- and full-distance races incorporating the Okanagan River Channel and a stadium-style finish in Okanagan Lake Park. The new run course will debut at the 2015 edition of the race on August 30. While the 42.2 km, full-distance marathon course has varied over 32 years, it has generally maintained a single out-and-back format, including Main and South Main Streets, and Eastside Road along Skaha Lake toward Okanagan Falls. The latest course modification will have athletes start running west along Lakeshore Drive, then south to a turnaround point at the end of the river channel, before returning back along the same path. The half-marathon runners will turn at an earlier point along the channel. All runners will pass back through Gyro Park at about one third of the way through their respective runs. The new marathon course maintains the classic out and back, along Main Street, South Main and Lakeside Road, with a turnaround north of Parsons Road. This will eliminate the steeper hills of Skaha Estates and Skaha Bluffs, making for an overall flatter course for runners. The Challenge Half will have the same course layout, with an earlier turn-around point at Skaha Lake Park, keeping that race’s run within Penticton’s city limits. The new layout also keeps the athletes closer to town, allowing spectators to see more action.  Valley First Challenge Penticton will create an “Energy Zone” in Gyro Park, providing entertainment for spectators and athletes who will... read more

Valley First Partnership

    Challenge Penticton is delighted to announce Valley First has renewed its commitment as the triathlon’s title sponsor. The 2015 event will be the second consecutive year that Valley First Challenge Penticton has been supported by the Penticton-based financial institution. Valley First has become well known for leading exciting new initiatives having previously sponsored a number of large community and sports tourism events. It was originally drawn to Valley First Challenge Penticton because of the fresh approach the Challenge triathlon brand brought to multi-sport in the South Okanagan. Challenge Family races are known for providing a superior athlete experience coupled with an exciting festival of family-oriented events culminating in the triathlon events on the Sunday. The renewed sponsorship demonstrates the success of the partnership’s first year, and Valley First’s commitment to helping Valley First Challenge Penticton becoming B.C.’s leading triathlon event. Valley First Challenge Penticton and Valley First credit the success of their partnership to the shared value of building and strengthening individuals and the community as a whole. “We’re thrilled to partner with a company which, like Valley First Challenge Penticton, wants to make a positive impact on the whole community,” said Michael Brown, Marketing Manager, Valley First Challenge Penticton. “Together we’ll help athletes achieve their goals, while at the same time generate revenue for local economy and contribute to the community around us.” Brown’s excitement is shared by Valley First President Paulette Rennie. “Valley First is incredibly proud of its reputation as a community supporter; it’s important for us to be more than just a good neighbour,” says Rennie. “Valley First Challenge Penticton contributes much to the region... read more

Long Course Legends

    Valley First Challenge Penticton will introduce the Penticton Long Course Legends program to recognize and honour those athletes who have finished ten or more Full Distance triathlons in Penticton, since the first race was held in 1983. Over the past 32 years the race has been run as; The Canadian Ultra Distance Triathlon, Ironman Canada and Challenge Penticton Canada. The Full Distance triathlon consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a 42.2km marathon run. The City of Penticton is the longest standing host city of a full distance triathlon in North America, as it enters its thirty-third year and third year as a Challenge event. Regardless of which versions of the event athletes have competed, Valley First Challenge Penticton 2015 entrants who have previously completed ten or more Full Distance races, will be recognised at the pre-race welcome banquet with a special award and will compete in their event wearing a special race number signifying their “Legend” status. Legend athletes will also receive benefits such as special transition positions next to professional athletes, a Legend garment and other VIP benefits. Those earning their tenth finish at the 2015 race will receive their Legend recognition alongside professional and age group champions, at the awards banquet on the Monday after the race. Once an athlete earns Legend status, they will always race in Penticton as a Legend, whether they compete in the Full or Half distance event. Only Full Distance finishes count toward becoming a Penticton Long-Course Legend. “To complete just one full distance triathlon is a huge achievement for many athletes” says co-race director Kevin Cutjar. “We’d... read more

Jeff Symonds in Bahrain

    Jeff Symonds yesterday placed seventh at the Challenge Bahrain triathlon among a star-studded field of the world’s most decorated triathletes. The Challenge Penticton triathlon co-owners this morning extended their congratulations to the locally raised athlete. Jeff is a two-time winner at Challenge Penticton, having grown up watching the long-distance triathlon event in his home town. “Kevin and I are deeply proud of Jeff’s achievement,” said Michael Brown, on behalf of himself and Kevin Cutjar, co-owners of the Penticton event. “Achieving seventh place in this world-class field – one of the strongest ever assembled for a race of this distance – is well deserved for this hard-working athlete. On this international stage, Jeff proved once again he is wonderful ambassador for Canada and the sport of triathlon.” After finishing the 1.9-km swim leg in 21st place in a time of 22:45, Jeff climbed to 13th place after completing the 90-km bike leg in 2:06:32. He overtook six more athletes on the final leg of the triathlon, finishing the 21.1-km half-marathon run in 1:12:27. Germany’s Michael Raelert won the men’s event in a time of 3:36:04, followed by another German, Andreas Dreitz, with Tim Reed from Australia taking out third place. The women’s event was won by Denmark’s Helle Frederiksen in 3:55:50, with Great Britain’s Rachel Joyce and Jodie Swallow filling the minor spots on the women’s podium. Challenge Penticton’s Michael Brown attended the Bahrain event to support Jeff and build awareness of Penticton’s own Challenge Family triathlon, which is the oldest full-distance triathlon in North America. More information about the August event can be found at About... read more

Challenge Penticton triathlon enters transition of its own

  Challenge Penticton, the oldest long-distance triathlon in North America, has changed owners. The City of Penticton sold the event to a partnership of experienced race directors Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown. The transaction is now complete and the new owners are already preparing for the 2015 race. Kevin is a Penticton resident and an experienced multisport race director and coach. Michael runs large-scale sporting events, from a background in business ownership and marketing. Both men are experienced long-distance triathletes and have each raced the Penticton event multiple times. “We are thrilled to be working on this historical event” said Kevin Cutjar. “Our thanks go to the City of Penticton for guiding the race through its first transition two years ago. Michael and I look forward to taking over at the event’s ‘T2’,” he said, referring to the sport’s transition 2, where athletes change from cycling to running. “This was the first long-distance triathlon in North America – the ongoing story of the event is fascinating,” said Michael Brown. “Many of triathlon’s greats such as Peter Reid, Paula Newby-Fraser and Chris McCormack have all come here to experience the iconic, challenging course and experience the enthusiasm and hospitality of the Penticton’s crowds and volunteers.” “The change in ownership will be simply amazing for this race,” said locally born Jeff Symonds, two-time winner of Challenge Penticton. “Michael and Kevin are known for producing awesome races and I know they’ll do a great job steering the event to a bright future.” The Penticton race was welcomed into the Challenge Family series of triathlon events two years ago. Challenge Family shares Penticton’s... read more

Challenge 2015 Promo Video

Ready for the Challenge? Bask in the stunning cinematography of Chris Stenberg as he leads you from the shores of Lake Okanagan through to the fields, valleys and roads that make up the legendary Penticton course.

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Jeff Symonds Doubles Up

Jeff Symonds didn’t cross the finish line bloodied and bruised this time, but the Penticton resident insisted his second straight Valley First Challenge Penticton Canada triathlon was anything but easy. The 28-year-old knocked three minutes off his winning time at the inaugural Challenge, clocking an 8:26:58 to breeze to a comfortable 20-minute victory and a $12,000 first-prize cheque on Sunday. “I didn’t feel great, but you can’t make excuses, you just have to go hard and get it done,” said Symonds, a four-time winner of the Peach Classic triathlon. “I had to get ugly on the run. It was tough out there.” Symonds had a personal-best time in winning Ironman Canada in Whistler a month ago, and only confirmed he’d take part in his hometown race 10 earlier. “I’m not sure how much the short time between the (two races) played into it,” Symonds observed. “All I know is that it hurt … there was nothing comfortable about the day. But right now I’m incredibly stoked.” Symonds suffered an assortment of bruises and abrasions after a frightening fall off the bike on a steep hill near Yellow Lake last year. He recovered quickly to maintain his lead and gutted it out for a 15-minute win. The margin of victory this time was 20:03, with Chris Bagg of Portland, Ore. finishing second in 8:47:01 and Simon Cochrane of New Zealand third in 8:50:05. Symonds took the lead right out of transition after the swim and never let up. He increased the advantage on the run, which is traditionally his strong suit. Symonds said he actually prefers being pushed to chase... read more

Challenge Adds Half Distance

Challenge Penticton Canada is pleased to announce the addition of a half distance race for 2014. “Penticton set the bar for long-course triathlon in Canada and the United States, and we’re thrilled to roll out a half distance triathlon in 2014 so a whole new group of athletes can take the Challenge,” said Paulette Rennie, Challenge Penticton Canada President. “Athletes have been knocking our door down asking for more events to enjoy with their family and friends, and Challenge Penticton Canada is delivering.” The Challenge Penticton Canada Half race will run on the same day as the full long-distance race and be sanctioned under Tri BC regulations as well. The race course for the half will remain within the legendary single loop course athletes have come to know and expect. Course race maps can be found on the Challenge Penticton Canada website. The Challenge Penticton Canada Half is one of many options for athletes, which also includes the popular full distance relay component. Relay teams sold out in 2013, in part due to the athlete matching program – where individual athletes and incomplete teams can be matched to round out a relay team. There are also a variety of activities planned for athletes of all ages – including a fun run for youth and families that can do 1K or 5K options. Athletes can also (almost) bare it all with the return of the Underpants Run. The entire week of fun begins with the Celebration of Sport parade down Lakeshore Drive on Wednesday, Aug. 20. As always, athletes will be the key focus of the week, celebrated during the... read more

He came, crashed, conquered.

Symonds (Canada) took a nasty spill on his bike in the inaugural Challenge Penticton race in 2013. He made a miraculous comeback in the iron-distance event crossing the finish line bloodied, bruised and battered to win the top male title. His race was defined by some as one of the top triathlon performances in 2013. “It was pretty unreal. I think the reason we all do triathlon is to see how tough we are, especially when we have those moments of adversity that we have to pull ourselves out of and see how we respond,” said Symonds who set a course record finish time of 8:29:57. “It was pretty cool to have that moment at Challenge, in my hometown, and get up and keep going. Having the fortitude to keep pushing to the finish line is what makes triathlon special. Everyone in that race does it. They all have their own moments when they have to dig deep to get to the finish. That is what is great about Challenge because the whole field has that in common, professional athlete or not.” The pull of racing in his hometown overcame Symonds and he decided on the last day of registration to enter, despite only having a few weeks rest since his last triathlon. He will join over 1,200 participants registered from 17 countries on Aug. 24 to race Valley First Challenge Penticton. “It’s something special for me to race in my hometown, in front of people I grew up with, who helped me along the way and will be cheering me on,” said Symonds. “I know I am not... read more

Roll Out The Red Carpet!

Valley First Challenge Penticton Canada and Benjamin Moore True Colours is calling on local businesses and community to welcome our 2014 athletes to the South Okanagan.  To welcome athletes, their family and friends and to experience the Community Spirit Valley First Challenge Penticton Canada and Benjamin Moore True Colours have put together “Roll Out The Red Carpet Packages” for local businesses and community.  Each package starts with a red “Welcome” mat with 2 more package options including Challenge Welcome Flagging and Challenge Welcome TShirts.  There is also additional a la carte items available to purchase, branded car flags, bumper stickers and more. This is an amazing way for businesses and community to show their support to our athletes and to build excitement as we showcase our region!” said Kelly Hopkins, Marketing and Events Manager for Valley First Challenge Penticton Canada.  “We wanted the community an opportunity to get involved at a new level.  To be able to let the triathlon community know that we appreciate their business and energy!” The program is aimed to reach all areas of the race course including, OK Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos, Cawston, Keremeos and Penticton. “We’re hoping to have a regional involvement as this course highlights the many spectacular areas the region offers.” said Hopkins.  “We know from our post race research last year that our athletes travel throughout the region and spend additional vacation time throughout.” As sponsor of the program, Benjamin Moore True Colours Window and Coverings said,  “Benjamin Moore believes in ‘For everything that matters’, and we believe in ‘community matters’.  We support Challenge because athletes... read more

Valley First On Board

Valley First today increased its support and commitment to the success of Challenge Penticton Canada by signing on as title sponsor for this year’s event. Announced this morning by Valley First President Paulette Rennie, the 2014 triathlon which takes place on Aug. 24, will be known as Valley First Challenge Penticton Canada. “I couldn’t be happier with this partnership,” says Rennie. “It’s the perfect fit for Valley First. We’ve become well-known for leading exciting new initiatives and Challenge has brought a fresh new approach in multi-sport to the South Okanagan.” Valley First’s title sponsorship of Challenge Penticton Canada is an extension of the Penticton-based financial institution’s support in 2013. Last year, Valley First presented the post-event athlete and volunteer awards banquet in addition to arranging on-course aid station volunteers. “So many people give so much to make events like Challenge Penticton Canada a success,” says Rennie. “Last year Valley First recognized the athletes and volunteers. This year, we’re going a step further to help take this world-class event to the next level. I’m truly excited about this year’s race.” Valley First Challenge Penticton Director Diana Stirling says having Valley First commit its support as title sponsor is a real boost for Challenge. “It’s great for us to have a truly community-focused partner in Valley First,” says Stirling. “The expertise, support and enthusiasm Valley First will bring to Challenge are simply tremendous. “We’re heading into year two and working hard each day to establish Valley First Challenge Penticton as one of the premier multi-sport events in North America. To have an institution like Valley First get behind us really underscores... read more