AFTER a two-year hiatus, Ironman has returned to Cork. Almost 5,000 athletes are to descend upon the East Cork coast, taking on the arduous challenge of completing a full or half Ironman race.
The sporting event kicks off on Friday with Ironkids, which is sold out and will see 1,500 young athletes racing on the streets of Youghal town.
Then on Saturday, 2,100 athletes will take on Ironman 70.3, which will see them swim 1.9km from Front Strand beach to Transition one in Green Park, before hopping on their bicycles and completing a 90km loop that will take them along the scenic shoreline of Garryvoe, through Midleton and back to Youghal, finishing with a steep climb on Windmill Hill. The third leg of the race is a half marathon run around the town with spectators lining the streets, cheering them on.
On Sunday, the main event takes place, the full Ironman which has 2.450 registered athletes. This consists of a 3.8km swim, two loops of the bike course, 180km, and a full marathon run to finish.
This year's event will have the added challenge of very warm, humid weather with temperatures rising to 21 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, a far cry from the 2019 event which saw chronic rainfall, wind and cold, so much so, the swim itself was cancelled on the day.
The full and half Ironman events are set to begin at 6am this weekend.
In terms of spectator hotspots, for the swim, Front Strand is a key spot for spectators. There may not be much beach available to spectate on, so supporters are advised to get down early to secure a spot.
The swim exit is another key area to see some action. It’s a 10-minute walk from Front Strand to Green Park and there is a viewing platform around the transition area, which looks down onto swim exit, so it’s a great vantage point to see athletes transition from the swim to the bike.
On the bike, the cyclists will drop down into Garryvoe passing the hotel and beachfront, a perfect stretch of road where the cyclists will slow due to the nature of the road. Spectators can line the streets of bustling East Cork towns, Cloyne and Midleton, which draw hundreds of eager supporters from across Cork.
The most infamous of the Ironman Ireland spectator hotspots is at Windmill Hill, the gruelling 21% gradient climb which gathers similar scenes to the Tour de France. With the goal to turn Windmill Hill green this year, spectators are being encouraged to wear their greens this weekend.
Finally, the run route is designed to take in as much of Youghal town centre as possible. The town really comes to life on race day with thousands of spectators around the course. There are plenty of pubs on the course which will provide a warm welcome and great spot to watch.
'Everyone's going to benefit': Youghal ready to host Ironman competition https://t.co/YdFYoUfS81— EchoLive.ie (@echolivecork) August 1, 2022
One good tip to maximise the number of times you see specific athletes is to move along one of the side streets (such as Dolphin Square or O’Neill Crowley Street) between the sections of the course on North Main Street and Catherine Street – this would allow you to see them multiple times per lap.
Ironman Ireland Race Director, John Wallnutt, said: “We’re looking forward to returning to Youghal and East Cork with a festival weekend of racing, as we introduce Ironkids for our young athletes on Friday and the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Ireland, Cork on Saturday.
"While there’s no shortage of spots to cheer on our Ironman and Ironman 70.3 athletes, one area they may need it the most is on Windmill Hill. A challenging climb peaking at 21% gradient, we’re encouraging spectators to show up in their greens and help athletes up the hill in Tour de France style.”
Another top tip if you are supporting an athlete this weekend is to download the Athlete tracker app and you can search for your athlete and see how they are getting on out on the course in real time and also stay close to the finish line at Market Square to see athletes crossing the line.
The event will have implications on traffic as the cycle and run routes will be operated on a rolling road closure basis with a full road closure in operation (by order). Supporter parking and shuttle bus service is available near Ballyvergan/R634.