When he heard that the Granite Man triathlon, duathlon and mountain run competitions were cancelled for 2010, Chad Wikander could have gotten angry.

When he heard that the Granite Man triathlon, duathlon and mountain run competitions were cancelled for 2010, Chad Wikander could have gotten angry.

The winner of the 2009 triathlon at Applegate Lake signed up instead for a different role: Race director.

"It's tough not to compete this year, especially since I can't defend my course record," said Wikander, a 38-year-old Ashland resident.

Granite Man ended up in the red last year, so the previous race director decided not to return.

"There weren't as many people competing last year as the year before, even with the races that had been added. This year there are fewer races, so each one is a bigger deal," Wikander explained.

Wikander used his business contacts to leverage new marketing savvy. In addition to his job at Real Goods in Ashland, Wikander works with Passport2Ashland, an Internet marketing company. He enlisted the aid of a tech colleague, Josh Hamik, to the Granite Man cause.

"We built a new website and visited businesses, especially fitness centers. We're trying to reach active, fit people and help people get fit for the race."

"We've had a great response from sponsors," said Hamik.

Twenty-one companies are sponsoring the race this year. Many are giving gift certificates — including a free oil change from Lithia Nissan — and others are donating products for the goodie bags that are given to all participants. The mountain run winners will receive cash prizes from Rogue Valley Runners. Triathlon winners will receive a three-month gift membership to Oz Fitness in Medford.

Last year, the 10-mile mountain run was part of the Mountain Running series of USA Track & Field. Granite Man was dropped from that series this year because of scheduling conflicts at USATF.

Wikander has something bigger in mind for next year.

"We want to attract XTERRA, show them we can put on a big, well-run event," Wikander said.

XTERRA is a footwear company that sponsors 195 trail races and multisport events in 16 countries. If Granite Man becomes an XTERRA event, it will receive nationwide promotion that will likely bring in new competitors from hundreds of miles away. That would make Granite Man more sustainable and bring dollars to local tourism-related businesses.

There's a good match here. Granite Man is the only off-road triathlon for hundreds of miles, and XTERRA specializes in off-road races. The Granite Man triathlon consists of a .75-mile swim in Applegate Lake followed by a 13-mile mountain bike ride and five-mile run.

The duathlon covers the same course as the triathlon without the swim leg. The mountain run course follows the Collings Mountain trail and a portion of the Dakubetede trail. All races start and finish at Hart-Tish Park on the lake. Start time for all three races is 8 a.m., a change from last year.

With all the focus on finances, Wikander has still managed to give back.

"We're donating to 'Soles4Souls,' " said Wikander, referring to a nonprofit organization founded after the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia that collects footwear and donates it worldwide to those in need.

The top men and women triathlon finishers — not just Wikander — from the past two years are not returning to race on Saturday. This leaves the field wide open, with no clear favorites. On paper, many athletes have a shot at the podium.

This could be part of the formula to make the 2010 Granite Man a runaway success.

For more information, visit http://granite-man.com.

Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at dnewberry@jeffnet.org.