A NEW bike route for this year’s Ironman UK could pave the way for 500 more athletes to take part in the gruelling triathlon — with new places reserved for local competitors.

The 10th Ironman UK, which is scheduled to be held in Bolton and the surrounding area on July 20, has seen an unprecedented demand for places.

All of the original 1,850 spaces for the endurance contest sold out in a record 50 hours, and now organisers are proposing the creation of a new bike course that could free up a further 500 spots.

The Ironman race is made up of the gruelling combination of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycle event, followed by a marathon run finishing in front of Bolton Town Hall in Victoria Square.

The proposed new route would incorporate sections in Whittle-le-Woods, Croston and Mawdesley to create a two-lap bike course.

It would allow organisers to accommodate more athletes who are desperate to race.

And as a thank you to the people of Bolton, organisers say they will ring-fence a number of these places for local athletes.

Ironman will be holding an open public meeting tomorrow night at Runshaw College in Euxton Lane, Chorley, from 7pm to 9pm to provide information and answer questions on the new bike course.

Kevin Stewart, managing director of Ironman UK, said: “Ironman UK has a growing reputation of one of the great races on the European Ironman Tour, and this would never have been possible without the welcome and dedicated support from the council and residents.

“We very much hope the proposed new bike course will continue to build on the event’s success and position Ironman UK as the UK’s premier triathlon.”

Cllr Christopher Peacock, who chairs the Bolton Sports and Physical Activity Alliance, said: “It is great news to hear they could be expanding the competition.

“Every year Ironman gets bigger and better and I am really pleased to hear that spots would be reserved for local athletes.

“I think one of the reasons the event keeps coming back to Bolton is because of the fantastic support given by the people of the borough — it really makes a big difference.”