When the intermedix Ironman 70.3 Augusta finishes up late Sunday afternoon, the event will have one final year remaining on its current contract.
Though the fifth annual triathlon is in the second year of a three-year contract, race director A.J. Sills, of the World Triathlon Corporation, said no one should be concerned about the event’s long-term future.
“It’s not going anywhere,” Sills said Wednesday afternoon. “There’s no way we can walk away from a community that’s this supportive. The athlete base is excited about coming to this event. It’s in the proof with us selling out two months prior to last year. The demand for this event is definitely increasing. We’re smart enough to know not to walk away from something that is this fantastic.”
When the event, which sold out June 12, begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Sills said about 3,500 participants are expected to compete. He called it the largest Ironman 70.3 event in the U.S., if not the world.
“This is a big deal,” he said. “With this being as big as it is, it’s something people mark their calendar for.
“I’ll get e-mails saying, ‘I had this marked on my calendar and then I checked and it was sold out.’ Unfortunately, that’s what happens when there’s a little bit of a delay. You’ve got to know you’re going to do Augusta and sign up as soon as you possibly can.”
Sills said many factors (local title sponsorship and the help of the Augusta Sports Council as two examples) add to the event’s popularity, but the course is the main draw. The 1.2-mile swim in the Savannah River is all downstream. Defending champion Maxim Kriat finished the swim in 20 minutes and five seconds in last year’s event. Then, the 56-mile makes a loop into South Carolina before returning to Georgia for the 13.1-mile run.
“The down river swim is definitely something that sets this event apart,” Sills said. “Then having a one-loop bike course is also something that’s definitely unique to any race at this distance. A lot of times you’ll have a two- or three-loop bike course.”