By Aila Boyd
A press conferences was held last Wednesday at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center at Explore Park in Roanoke to announce course details about the inaugural Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon that will take place on June 7.
“We are very excited that the Town of Vinton will be a part of the Ironman Triathlon competition. The event will provide a tremendous amount of exposure for the entire Roanoke Valley. We will have the opportunity to showcase our beautiful valley to the whole nation,” Vinton Mayor Brad Grose said. “Individual citizens, churches, civic groups and clubs will have an opportunity to be part of this great event by supporting all the associated activities. I think the event will provide positive exposure for Vinton as it will bring a large number of people to town for an exciting time of family entertainment.”
David Radford, who serves as the chairman of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, noted in his remarks that the event will have more than 3,000 participants.
“Adding to the long history of endurance events throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge region, this year’s Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon will feature epic locations for the swim, bike and run portions of the first-year event,” said Keats McGonigal, senior regional director for The IRONMAN Group. “Specifically, for the bike portion of the event, the scenic byway will offer athletes a picturesque view like no other along America’s Favorite Drive. This event presents a unique opportunity for recreational access to the park and invites participants to share in the stewardship of this special place — the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of our nation’s treasured landscapes. We are excited about the course that athletes will have the chance to experience as they achieve their dreams of crossing the finish line at the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge. We are also grateful to everyone who responded in support of the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon, realizing the overall economic benefit of the competition and recognizing the limited access of motor vehicles ensuring a safer experience for bikers.”
“Carilion Clinic is excited about collaborating to sponsor the IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge,” said Dr. Thomas K. “TK” Miller, vice chair of orthopaedics and chief of sports medicine at Carilion Clinic and chairman of the IRONMAN Global Medical Advisory Board. “Inclusion of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the bike route completes a trio of scenic natural settings for the triathlon course with unparalleled beauty at every turn. Carilion is looking forward to this unique opportunity to team with IRONMAN to promote the benefits of exercise and fitness and advance our mission of improving the health of the communities we serve.”
“Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR) is poised to welcome IRONMAN athletes and fans as the host destination,” said Lee Wilhelm, chair of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “The outpouring of support from athletes, longtime residents and community stakeholders who took the time to contact the NPS was truly remarkable. We are grateful to live in a region where the people are passionate about tourism. Visit VBR is committed to working collaboratively with our regional partners and IRONMAN to ensure the race is a success.”
Participants will complete a one-lap swim in the waters of Carvins Cove Reservoir. Normally, swimming isn’t allowed, but paddleboarding is. A special use exemption has been provided for the race.
The bike course will depart from Carvins Cove and continue east through Botetourt County. Buchanan, on the eastern edge of the course, will provide riders with what is being billed as an “epic five-mile climb.” From there, riders will enter the Blue Ridge Parkway. Riders will descend 21 miles of completely closed roads until they reach Vinton. They will continue on until they end the ride at Rivers Edge Park, next to Carilion Clinic.
The course will follow the paved Roanoke River Greenway path along the banks of the Roanoke River, running through several parks along the way. The finish will be located on the streets adjacent to River Edge Park in Roanoke.
Rep. Ben Cline (R-6th) said in a statement last Wednesday, “I am pleased that the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon has officially received the permitting necessary to hold this event. Attracting an international competition such as this speaks volumes about the economic growth and vitality of communities in the greater Roanoke and Botetourt area. This event will attract thousands of visitors from across the country and overseas, serving not only as a showcase for the beauty that encompasses our area, but for all of the great opportunities the region offers. The IRONMAN will result in an economic boom for small business and our tourism industry, as I am confident that those who visits for this event will come back to our area in the future.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said that the event will elevate the Roanoke Valley as the “top destination for outdoor recreation.” He added that the event will be the largest event ever hosted on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“On behalf of the National Park Service, we are delighted to welcome triathlon participants to the Blue Ridge Parkway as part of their experience this June,” said J.D. Lee, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Organizers and sponsors have embraced a shared stewardship ethic in their planning approach, and we are excited to be part of this exceptional regional event.”
“The Town of Vinton is delighted to have been asked to participate in the Ironman 70.3 and we are honored to be a partner in hosting this event. We are excited to have a segment of the cycling portion coming through our downtown, as the Ironman 70.3 will provide our residents with an opportunity to experience a world class athletic event up close and the event also provides an excellent opportunity for us to highlight our community and create awareness with the competitors and their families and to the many casual spectators that will be afforded a great vantage point to view and cheer on the event along the Town’s downtown sidewalks, the War Memorial Lawn or Restaurants and Businesses along the route,” Pete Peters, Vinton’s assistant town manager, said.