published Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Craig Evans back for Waterfront try

  • photo
    Contributed Photo Elite triathlete Craig Evans will be in Chattanooga this weekend to compete in the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon, which he won in 2007.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Water-fraught triathlon

Sunday's Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon very likely will be only a duathlon due to the "excessive water flow" in the Tennessee River, race officials announced Wednesday. In addition to 300 percent above-normal water flow from the Chickamauga Dam, the swim start and finish areas were not accessible as of Wednesday and may not be safe by Sunday. "While the water may recede by race day, we are uncertain of the condition of these areas," the release from the Chattanooga Track Club and Team Magic said. "What this means is chances are high that we will not be able to hold the swim portion of the triathlon. In the event the swim is canceled, the event will become a duathlon (run/bike/run)." The first run would be a two-miler; the closing 10-kilometer run also may be adjusted if some areas of the Riverwalk remain underwater or unsafe, but it will remain that distance, the officials said.

Past winner Craig Evans is returning to the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon this Sunday as one of the highest ranked triathletes in the United States. He is No. 1, in fact, in the USA XTERRA pro point series after finishing third in that set of off-road competitions last year.

Evans, who lives in Hendersonville, Tenn., was second and the first American in the 2012 International Triathlon Union Cross World Championships in Pelham, Ala. He's 35 years old.

But when he won the 2007 Chattanooga competition based at Ross's Landing, he started almost an hour behind the expected top finishers. One's time is determined by when he or she hits the water for the opening swim, not when the first competitors start, but the proven elite go off early to keep from getting bogged down among slower bodies.

This year's triathlon likely will not have a swim portion, the Chattanooga Track Club and Team Magic announced Wednesday evening, because the Tennessee River is swollen from the recent rains, and the run portion will be adjusted due to flooded areas on the Tennessee Riverwalk, but Evans affirmed that he'll be participating anyway.

Wearing bib No. 978, he finished the 2007 swim, bike ride and 10-kilometer run in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 17 seconds. That was his second time in the Chattanooga competition. The guys wearing Nos. 2 and 1 finished second and third.

Evans came back the next year wearing No. 1 and finished second between those wearing 3 and 2.

He lived then in Spring Hill, Tenn. A native of Ocala, Fla., he was a varsity swimmer at Western Kentucky University. There he met the woman who became his wife, and four years after he graduated they moved to the Nashville area. Until last week Evans was a medical device sales representative driving 50,000 to 60,000 miles a year, he said, and that limited his triathlon training to usually 10 or 11 miles a week, sometimes 15.

"That jumped up to almost 20 hours in the past week," he said Tuesday night by phone. "But my last week has been kind of chaos as I've begun weighing options on which way I need to go to support my family."

His wife is director of a health care information company.

Being a pro triathlete doesn't bring huge paychecks, but winnings and sponsorships help supplement one's income. Evans turned pro essentially because he was good at triathlons, not to earn a living. He's won the XTERRA Lock 4 Challenge in Gallatin the last 11 years, for example, and was third in this year's XTERRA South East Championships.

"I was winning races and regularly finishing in the top eight or 10, but they wouldn't pay an amateur, so I decided I might as well get paid," the 5-foot-9, 169-pound Evans explained. "But I love the sport. That's really the reason I do it."

He "didn't actually own a bike till 2002," two years after college graduation, and then added running, he admitted with a laugh, mainly because it was a required part of a triathlon. But he's become strong on the bike portion, especially on trails, and he continues to improve his running times.

A big reason he's coming back to Chattanooga this weekend after three or four years not competing here, he said, "is to gain more sponsorship. I'm kind of coming back to the road a little bit. Road racing has a lot more spectators, a lot more athletes and a lot more sponsorship dollars."

Skinfit provides his racing apparel, and other primary sponsors are The Biker's Choice shop in Hendersonville and Pearl Izumi shoes.

"I get invited to a few motivational speaking engagements -- races sometimes, and a few times at high schools. I try to do as much community stuff as I possibly can," Evans said.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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