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Raf's Corner: Desert Classic Duathlon
Posted by: Annie Emmerson
Posted on: Monday 11th January 2010

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Following on from Raf Baugh's (ITU World #3 duathlete) first article on 'the biggest short distance duathlon races in the world' this month he takes us to the USA to what he considers as one of the finest quality duathlons stateside! It may have come a little early for duathletes who've been dealing with a colder than normal European winter, but once you've finished reading this article you'll seriously be considering adding it to your race calendar in the future - perhaps it could even be combined with a holiday and good some warm weather training!

February in the USA- Desert Classic Duathlon

I've often wondered how big duathlon could be right now if the International governing body for the sport had started out in the USA and it had really caught fire. When you observe the Ironman juggernaut, you observe first hand a lot of key features in the American business model- a heady mix of relatively low regulation, excellent marketing and branding, and a can do/will do attitude. Anything and everything is possible in the USA. This month we take a look at what is happening at the moment in the USA duathlon scene.

In terms of our great sport, the American Duathlon circuit has been on the slow decline since the dizzy heights of the late 80’s- when full-time multi-sporters raced duathlon and triathlon inter-changeably (Allen, Welch, Tinley, Molina etc), the Coors Light Biathlon Series was in full flight, and America’s own superstar- Kenny Souza was World Champion. In the 90s, the Dannon Duathlon Series continued to provide a showcase National Series for duathletes, but with the title sponsor choosing to redirect =sponsorship to 5k running events the bottom fell out of the domestic scene.

Frequent World Championships in the USA this century (Dallas, Muncie, Richmond, Alpharetta, Concord etc) have normally resulted in stronger years at National Championships. A big positive has been the push by the Richmond area and USAT to really build the national championships and last year Richmond had a record 1200 participants looking for spots in the World Championship Team for Concord. However, the overall domestic scene is now quite sparse with a few National class events and no regularly scheduled events attracting significant interest from outside North America.

Most of the top US Duathlon races are in the late Winter/Spring as a prelude to tri season and better weather ahead. Some of the most popular include the Duathlon Nationals in Richmond (April), Powerman Alabama (April) and the very popular Apple Duathlon (May) in Sartell, Minnesota. All these races have a great history and are exceptionally well run, but the pick of the bunch in terms of quality in recent years would have to be the late Winter Desert Classic (late Feb).

The race is held in Arizona and started in 2000 when pro duathlete Kristi Kidwell and Maricopa National Park educator Terry Gerber designed and created the event. It was initially set up to fill a void in the Phoenix Racing calendar and served as a season opener for triathletes, but in more recent times the race director, John Lierle has restated his goals and the event now aims to become 'the number #1 short distance duathlon in America'. A look at recent results shows that the event may already be close to it’s stated objective. Past winners include Olympic Triathlon Champion Simon Whitfield, Ironman stars Samanatha McGlone and Desiree Flicker, Canadian Olympian Paul Tichelaar, 70.3 World Champ Joanna Zeiger and Dutch Duathlon star, Armand van Der Smissen.

The race is held over the 3.5mile/21mile/2.7mile distance with the runs over the desert trails of McDowell Mountain Regional Park and the bike a rolling out and back course. Prize Money is considerable at $4000US which no doubt helps attract many triathletes who are doing early season altitude training in surrounding areas such as Flagstaff, AZ. Arizona typically has good winter temperatures and climate which helps attract plenty of athletes to the area in the early season.

With a strong history and continued growth the Desert Classic is well worth considering if your stateside this February. The event takes place on February 28 - for more details go to or else by emailing Jon Lierle (Race Director) at

Till next month, good luck with the winter training.


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Official Results Service - British Triathlon

Official Results Service - British Triathlon