Test of will – Triathletes left the water after completing the swim segment of the Vineman 70.3 race at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville in 2015.  Ironman Inc. announced that it will not hold any events in Sonoma County next year.  Photo provided  

Sonoma County triathletes were dealt a double blow when officials from Ironman, Inc. announced the cancellation of both the Ironman 70.3 and Full Ironman triathlons set for Oct. 17 in Santa Rosa.

Originally scheduled for May 9, the 70.3 event was moved to October to coincide with the Full Ironman, but with county health guidelines still in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both races have now been canceled.

In addition to the cancellation of this year’s races, the organization stated that the Ironman series of events would not be held in Sonoma County for the foreseeable future.

“Unfortunately, based on continued conversations with local authorities in relation to both the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing wildfires in the Santa Rosa region and with the health and safety of our community being an utmost priority, the Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa and Ironman Santa Rosa triathlons cannot take place in 2020,” they said in a press release. “These events will not return in 2021 after assessing the near-term viability of the events.”

Although the full distance triathlon has been rescheduled for Sacramento for Oct. 24, Ironman officials left the door open for a possible return to the region beyond next year.

“The region surrounding Santa Rosa has seen significant devastation due to wildfires since the beginning of our partnership and while Santa Rosa, the surrounding region and respective communities have been incredibly resilient, our partnering agencies need the ability to focus on more important matters including support of the region and its residents,” they said. “Ironman officials will continue to evaluate options with local officials at the appropriate time for possible Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events in Santa Rosa beyond 2021.”

End of an era

Sonoma County had been a Mecca for local triathletes for more than a quarter century before Ironman bought out Vineman, Inc. in 2015.

The Vineman series of races, which began in the early 1990’s, traversed large parts of Sonoma County, starting in Guerneville and ending in Windsor. Triathlon events included the Vineman 70.3, the Full Vineman, Monte Rio Triathlon and Barb’s Race, the only all-women’s half-triathlon distance race contested in the world.

Combined, the Vineman races attracted thousands of athletes to Sonoma County each summer, pumping millions of dollars into the local economy.  

Barb’s Race, now known as the Sonoma Women’s Triathlon, raised over $1 million toward the fight against cancer before being dropped by Ironman. The race was moved to Healdsburg several years ago and is now run by Scena Performance. This year’s event was also cancelled due to the pandemic. 

(1) comment

James D

Why in the world were COVID-19 and wildfire cited as reasons for canceling Ironman? This makes no sense at all and strikes me as just further evidence of alarmism on the part of Sonoma County officials. We need more normalcy, not less, and the notion that Ironman needed to be jettisoned seems ridiculous to me.

Perhaps Sonoma County citizens should be consulted before arbitrary, CYA decisions are made that undermine quality of life for everyone. This sort of authoritarian overreach must be resisted.

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