“We thought it was busy in previous years, but this is a new level of insanity,” said triAthlone CEO Liam Heavin yesterday as the Waterways Ireland triAthlone 2010 event began to make its presence felt on the streets of Athlone.
This year’s event officially got under way yesterday [Thursday] evening at 7pm with the team relay, junior and elite events.
And with three more days of action ahead, during which some of the world’s top athletes will battle it out for European titles, Athlone looks set for a weekend of top class sporting entertainment.
Hotels and B&Bs across the region have been filling up with athletes and their supporters, with an abundance of athletes spotted out and about, on foot and bicycle, in recent days as they familiarised themselves with the race routes through the town’s streets.
Since the first Athlone event held in 2007, triAthlone has grown to be one of the biggest triathlons in the world, with a four-fold increase in participation over four years. It is now the third largest triathlon in Europe and in the top 10 events in the world.
Some 4,500 athletes and up to 50,000 supporters and spectators are expected to converge on Athlone over the course of the weekend, during the second largest championships ever to be held in Ireland - second only to the Special Olympics.
An Athlone native, Mr Heavin says it has been a tough, busy week of planning, but he is excited to see what the weekend will bring.
“This is the biggest year yet for Waterways Ireland triAthlone and we are thrilled to be hosting the 2010 Athlone ETU European Triathlon Championships, an event that has seen a large increase of interest from participants and supporters alike,” he said.
A total of 12 triathlon events will take place over the four-day event. The main elite race will begin with two laps of a 750m swim loop in the river Shannon before the competitors take to their bikes for the eight loops of the 40km bike, ending with a spectacular town-centred four-lap 10km run.
The women’s Elite European Championships takes place on Saturday, with the men’s Elite European Championships on Sunday.
The event will be complemented by a programme of entertainment to take place nightly outdoors in the Civic Square and across town, with many bars, eateries, and other businesses offering triAthlone specials.