Hard Times For Challenge Family

So the announcement is being made that the 2015 Challenge Family Rancho Cordova event is being cancelled with full refunds being given. To some this is a complete shock. To others, it is a summation of the fractious relationship and the poor planning Challenge Family executed in coming to America.

It’s a shame. It started out so perfect. I covered the initial announcement that Challenge Atlantic City Co-Race Director Stephen DelMonte made at the monthly meeting of the Jersey Shore Tri Club regarding Challenge Family coming to America. There was excitement in the air and knowing Delmo was involved, you knew it was going to be epic. Right away, there was interest from the local athletes and everyone was talking Challenge Family. That faith was rewarded when the inaugural Challenge Atlantic City went off smooth as could be. Never once did it feel like an inaugural event and many were thinking how awesome this race could become if Delmo and Vigo have 10 years to tweak and perfect the race experience at Atlantic City.

Many believed that the way to grow the Challenge brand in America was to start small and grow organically. There was no way Challenge was going to overtake WTC in the short term so why rush things. The M-Dot still rules the roost and commands too much power through their brand loyalty. Many believed that the way to grow Challenge was to put a race on each coast and make people travel. Create two world class events and when the attention and interest is there, then grow the brand by shrinking the distance between the two races. In the end, Challenge Family refused to listen and entered into a merger with Rev3.

When Challenge and Rev3 merged, at first it looked like a solid marriage. Two event companies totally committed to providing an outstanding athlete race experience and both having experience at the 70.3 and 140.6 distances. One would have thought there was finally a legitimate “challenge” to WTC’s dominance. Sadly, it was short lived. Immediately, the whole merger felt like a “Kool Kidz Klub” with the “ambassador” program and the “discount codes” creating a turbulent situation between organic Challenge athletes who supported the brand and the newly named Ambassadors who seemed to over take the scene which caused an inevitable questioning of the Ambassador program.¬†Apparently instead of networking, going to tri clubs, cycle clubs, local gyms and talking up Challenge and Rev3, everyone and their mothers brother seemingly had a discount code to hand out on Facebook. ¬†You have to ask yourself, why devalue your brand before you have had a chance to truly see what your brand’s value actually is? Well, now we may never get a chance to find out. In this journalist’s mind, the most egregious discount coupon was for Rev3 Maine. If there was ever a race that could sell itself and have people pay full freight to race, it was Rev3 Maine. Aside from Ironman Lake Placid and Challenge Atlantic City, Rev3 Maine was the greatest race I was ever a part of. This was not a “super race”, one in which you get over 1,000 athlete’s. This was a great regional event that was growing through word of mouth and seemingly doing well. It was certainly in no need for a discount coupon to entice registrations.

What I don’t understand is how this could happen. Challenge Family operates the greatest long course triathlon on the planet in Challenge Roth. As to what finally brought Rancho Cordova and Challenge Family to this point one may surmise that what happened is Challenge Family thought they could take the Roth model over to America and just carry on. I am not sure that was ever going to work as Challenge Roth, that masterpiece was a work in progress over many years.

So there it is, Rancho Cordova joins the ranks of Challenge New Albany and Challenge Gold Coast. I wish the RD of Rancho the best of luck in the future as I am pretty sure Rancho Cordova will still be an event venue of some sort here in the near future. As for Challenge Family, we at Onefortypointsix Media have been hard on both WTC and Challenge Family for different issues. Challenge Family earns their criticism here for trying to bite off more than they could chew. Had Challenge Family taken a long term view in coming to America, Rancho Cordova might still be in The Family. You would have thought a long course triathlon company would have understood this is a marathon not a sprint.


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