By Dan Guttenplan
---- — A road race or triathlon can gain a certain level of legitimacy when a world-class athlete sweeps in and blows away a field of local athletes.
Sometimes, one world-class athlete attracts other world-class athletes, and before long, a race gains a reputation as being one of the most competitive in the region.
The trajectory of the Dam Triathlon in Amesbury may very well follow that script on the heels of last year’s record-setting performance by Lowell native Ethan Brown. Last year, Brown, at the age of 27, crushed the course record by 4 minutes and 40 seconds, finishing the sprint course in 56:54 to earn the $250 cash prize.
Less than two months after competing in the 2012 United States Olympic Trials, Brown, a pro triathlete and member of the national triathlon team, had the fastest split in Amesbury for the swim (1/2 mile), bike (12.3 miles) and run (3.2 miles).
Newburyport resident Shaina Damm won the women’s race in 1:08.53, also earning a $250 cash prize. Damm placed third among elite women in 2011 before improving by nearly seven minutes last summer.
This year’s race, which begins Saturday at Lake Gardner at 8 a.m., will be the fourth version of the Dam Triathlon, and the ninth version of a sprint triathlon in the Greater Newburyport area. The race started in Newburyport in 2005, switched locations to Amesbury in 2007 when it became the Powow Triathlon, and switched names again in 2010, when Heat Events Management and B&S Fitness took over directorial responsibilities for the race.
The race has grown into one of the most popular triathlons on the North Shore. Participation numbers have increased each year since the event’s inception. Race director Julian Thompson will close online registration for this year’s race this afternoon, and there will be no race-day registration. Participation numbers could approach 600.
“Numbers are on track for a full successful event similar to past years,” Thompson said. “A big thanks goes out to Amesbury’s safety officials. The success and great reputation of this race over the years is in no small part to them, their foresight, thoughtful planning and ease to work with. It is their efforts which assure another successful family fun day at Lake Gardner.”
FitWerks bike shop out of Peabody will sponsor the bike portion of the race. Speedboard USA out of Newburyport will sponsor the swim. Ipswich Brewing Company will provide a tap track, and Amesbury’s own Cody Brewing Company will issue one complimentary beer to all athletes of age.
The after party will be sponsored by Amesbury’s Golosi Catering. Sandwiches and wraps will be available to athletes. Registration can be completed at active.com until this afternoon.