CLEARWATER — The Ironman World Championship 70.3, held in Clearwater since its inception in 2006, is moving west to Las Vegas, race officials announced Thursday night.
However, Ironman officials say they're going to replace the Clearwater race with a similar event — a shorter race that should cause fewer traffic problems than the current Ironman route does.
That could ease the blow of losing the world championship, which the Clearwater area depends on to bring in tourism dollars every November.
"You're still going to have athletes coming into the area, bringing their friends and families," said Ironman spokeswoman Jessica Weidensall. Starting in 2011, the Ironman World Championship 70.3 will move to Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, World Triathlon Corp. said.
This year's race in Clearwater, scheduled for Nov. 13, starts and ends at Pier 60. It will include a 1.2-mile swim, a 13.1-mile run, and a 56-mile bike race that meanders through much of mid Pinellas County. The bike race inevitably causes complaints from drivers who are inconvenienced by road closures.
Next year, the current Ironman race will be replaced in Clearwater by a new race tour that will feature the Olympic-distance triathlon.
The 5150 Series will feature a 1.5-kilometer swim, 10K run and 40K bike race. "Given the shorter distance of the event, it should lessen the need for road closures," Weidensall said.
The Ironman World Championship 70.3 typically brings about 1,500 to 1,600 top-level athletes to the Clearwater area. Weidensall said the 5150 race is projected to bring up to 2,000 athletes to this area because, unlike the championship, they won't have to qualify in other races before competing in the 5150 event.
The inaugural 5150 Clearwater event is scheduled for Nov. 12, 2011. The new race series begins March 13, 2011, in Miami, has a May 1 date in St. Petersburg at the St. Anthony's Triathlon, and is scheduled for 10 other cities before returning for the series final in Clearwater.
"We're grateful to the city of Clearwater for being a fantastic host to the Ironman World Championship 70.3 over the past five years," said Ironman's Steve Meckfessel.