BOLTON is bracing itself for its biggest ever Ironman boost — as organisers announced the massive event will be back next year.
The news came yesterday as cafes, restaurants and hoteliers gear up to welcome more than 32,000 people to the town this weekend.
Keith Davies, director of development and regeneration at Bolton Council, said the local authority had been negotiating with Ironman organisers for the past 12 months to bring it back to the borough next year.
Mr Davies added: “The relationship we have with Ironman has been developed over the years. We know exactly how it needs to be managed and it’s excellent news it is coming back next year.
“It has a huge internaitonal following and there’s fantastic community spirit along the route.”
Mr Davies also said he was “confident” it would be in Bolton for “years to come”.
Kevin Stewart, managing director of Ironman, said: “It is very exciting to be celebrating 10 years of Ironman UK and we are very much looking forward to welcoming all the Ironkids and Ironman athletes and their supporters to Bolton.
“We are continually working hard with the local authorities to improve the event and hope the newly positioned transition at Macron Stadium and revised bike course will both add to the success and positive experience for each competitor.”
More than 2,000 athletes from all over the world will compete in the gruelling triathlon, the sixth time it has been held in Bolton.
The contest and Ironkids, the junior section, brings an estimated extra £2.6 million to the local economy each year.
On Sunday competitors will take on a 2.4 mile open water swim in Pennington Flash in Leigh, which starts at 6am.
They then cycle 112 miles through the Lancashire countryside to the Macron Stadium for the first time, where they abandon their bikes and start a marathon of 26.2 miles, finishing in Victoria Square.
Three-times Ironman world champion Craig Alexander will start the race, and more than 30,000 supporters are expected to line the route in Bolton and cheer the athletes on.
Tomorrow 2,250 children aged three to 14 will also take part in Ironkids, the biggest since it launched in 2012.
The youngsters will race around Bolton town centre for varying distances — between 500m and 2.5km depending on their age — with the finish line at the Town Hall.
Cllr John Byrne, the council’s cabinet member, said he was delighted the event would return to Bolton next year.
He added: “Ironman is a real test of endurance and as someone who recently completed the mini triathlon in Horwich, I really admire these athletes.
“We hope the people of Bolton will come out once again, and get behind the athletes.”
An Ironman Expo will be held at The Macron Stadium tomorrow and Sunday, and the weekend’s events are free for spectators to watch.
Our reporters will be covering all the action over the weekend. Follow the live blog by going to The Bolton News website theboltonnews.co. uk.
Bolton has a bumper summer ahead with the Westfield Health British Transplant Games, including The Bolton News Donor Run, taking place between August 7 and 9, and the Bolton Food and Drink Festival once again in town over the August Bank Holiday weekend.