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Ironman returns to North Pinellas on Saturday: Here's how to avoid traffic backups

CLEARWATER — It's that time of year again. It's time for 1,800 extremely fit people in Day-Glo spandex to plunge into the water off Clearwater Beach, then run and bike through our streets.

The Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship is Saturday morning, and drivers should keep in mind that the triathlon will make it tricky to get around parts of north and mid-Pinellas County. Clearwater Beach will be even tougher.

Once again, organizers are getting the word out in hopes that motorists will avoid traffic headaches along a 56-mile bicycle route that cuts through Clearwater, Largo, Safety Harbor and East Lake.

There are two big changes to the bike race this year. The northernmost and southernmost edges of the route are both being shifted a bit farther to the north.

"No longer will we be going south down to Pinellas Park. We'll actually only be going to East Bay Drive," said Kevin Dunbar, Clearwater's director of parks and recreation. "To make up the distance, we'll be heading farther north on East Lake Road."

For the first time, bicyclists will be pedaling all the way up to Trinity Boulevard.

Here's your guide to the Ironman triathlon — where to watch the action, along with places to avoid.

The race

• Starts and ends at Pier 60.

• Begins at 6:45 a.m. and lasts 7 1/2 hours.

• A 1.2-mile swim on Clearwater Beach.

• A 56-mile bike course on the Memorial Causeway Bridge, Drew Street, Countryside Boulevard, McMullen-Booth Road, East Lake Road, the Bayside Bridge, Roosevelt Boulevard, Belcher Road and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

• A 13.1-mile run through Clearwater Beach, downtown Clearwater and the Harbor Oaks neighborhood.

Driving tips

If you're going north and south, use U.S. 19. Avoid Belcher and McMullen-Booth roads.

Police will help drivers at intersections with traffic signals along the route.

Yield to cyclists at intersections without signals. Bikes have right of way on the course.

Drivers will share multilane roads with bicyclists. Along most of the route, cyclists will be in the outside curb lane, and cars will use the remaining lanes.

Places to avoid

Expect major delays at the following intersections, most of which will be blocked on race day. Scout around for alternate routes to avoid waiting in traffic.

• Coronado Drive at the beach roundabout, 3 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Court Street, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Drew Street and Keene Road, 7:15 to 9:30 a.m.

• Drew Street and Belcher Road, 7:15 to 10 a.m.

• Countryside Boulevard and State Road 580, 7:15 to 9:45 a.m.

• McMullen-Booth and Curlew roads, 7:30 to 11:15 a.m.

• McMullen-Booth and Keystone roads, 8 to 11 a.m.

• McMullen-Booth and Enterprise roads, 8:15 to 11:30 a.m.

• McMullen-Booth Road and Drew Street, 8:30 to 11:45 a.m.

• McMullen-Booth Road and Roosevelt Boulevard, 8:30 a.m. to noon.

• East Bay Drive and Belcher Road, 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

• Belcher and Belleair roads, 8:45 to 12:15 p.m.

• Belcher Road and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard to Clearwater Beach, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Median openings along East Lake Road between Tampa Road and Trinity Boulevard will be blocked during the bike race.

Where to watch

Spectators can catch free shuttles from most downtown parking lots and Sand Key Park. Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach is a good place to watch the swim, and the Pinellas County Courthouse and the Clearwater Memorial Causeway are good spots to watch parts of the bike race and run.

Parking

Spectators are encouraged to park in downtown Clearwater and take the shuttles. Downtown parking includes City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.; Pinellas County Courthouse, at Chestnut Street and Oak Avenue; Garden Avenue Garage, 28 N Garden Ave.; and the Municipal Services Garage, 100 S Myrtle Ave.

The run

Runners will go from Pier 60 through downtown, into Harbor Oaks and back to the beach. This will affect traffic in those areas between approximately 9:20 a.m. and 4 p.m. To get to Morton Plant Hospital, use Pinellas Street.

Beach traffic

Volunteers will begin setting up roadblocks on the beach about 3 a.m. Saturday. Drivers won't be allowed to go south of the roundabout. People needing access to and from the southern part of Clearwater Beach will need to use the Belleair Causeway.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

Fast facts

For more information

Go online to www.my

clearwater.com/iron

man or call (727) 562-INFO (4636).

On the Web

Fans can follow the action on race day at www.iron

manlive.com, where real-time race results and audio and video updates will be available.

Ironman returns to North Pinellas on Saturday: Here's how to avoid traffic backups 11/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 7:52pm]
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