Pumped-up Ironman SA

Neale Emslie

SA race director Paul Wolff says a change to the route will produce a purer Ironman challenge and a fairer contest when the event celebrates its 10th anniversary in Port Elizabeth next year.

With just under five months to go to the April 6 event, the race organisers yesterday revealed changes to the swimming and cycling legs of Africa’s only Ironman event.

With a massive surge in interest in the ultra-distance race which has become an iconic date on Port Elizabeth’s sporting calendar, Wolff said they had been forced to reassess the route in the interests of safety and to make for a fairer contest. The event is already sold out, with 3000 competitors preparing to line up at the start.

The basic changes are that the 3.8km swimming section will comprise only one loop, instead of two, and the 180km cycle will comprise two 90km legs, instead of three. Naturally this has necessitated a change to the route.

“Both from a race director’s point of view and from an athlete’s perspective, this is much better,” Wolff said yesterday. “Because of the 90km cycle leg, cyclists will not be able to draft so easily and there will be less congestion.”

Top PE age-group triathlete Alec Riddle said he was excited by the changes.

“Initially, I was going to just go through the motions on this one,” Riddle said. “But, you know, I can never resist a challenge and I’m now pumped to give this a go.”

Riddle said he would be testing the course several times before race day in April.

In another significant change, there will be three separate starting waves at Hobie Beach, with the professionals at 6.30am, men 24-49 at 6.40am, and men 18-24, men over-50 and women at 7am.

The swim will head out parallel to Shark Rock Pier, turning left after 300m. The course will go past Humewood Beach to Kings Beach before turning at Kings Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, back to Hobie.

The cycle course begins as usual up the Walmer Boulevard-Buffelsfontein Road leg, but will then turn right into Old Seaview Road and take a loop which incorporates Lakeside Road, Kragga Kamma Road and Maitlands Road before heading back to rejoin the original route.

Wolff estimates the swimming leg will be about five minutes quicker “while the average athlete could take 15-20 minutes longer on the cycle leg”. He said plans had been put in place to assist residents who would be affected by the new cycling section.

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