IRONMAN UK has shortened its cycling route by 17 miles to the anger of many competitors.

Athletes were told yesterday afternoon by email that the cycle route would be cut from 112 miles to 95 miles.

Many athletes have been upset by the decision and say their Ironman will not be a real one.

Julie Jeffery from Northampton was angered by the decision and feels the organisers should be offering refunds to competitors.

Mrs Jeffery, aged 28, said: "They are saying it's still going to be a fully sanctioned Ironman but for a lot of people competing the feeling is if you don't do the full distance you can't be an Ironman."

Mrs Jeffery, an officer worker, signed up for the event this year and is doing the event for charities Mind and Beat in memory of a school friend who died in February.

She said: "Personally if the bike ride is shortened I would like a refund. I'm doing it in memory of my friend and if it's cut it's not the event I've been telling people I will be doing.

"It's very disappointing and I understand the reasons but I felt sort of angry [when I read the email] and we should be offered a refund."

This Is Lancashire:

New cycle route for Ironman UK athletes. Picture: Ironman UK

Entry to IRONMAN UK runs to about £400 and many people travel across the world to the event which is a qualifier for the world championship in Hawaii.

An email to competitors sent yesterday at about 3.30pm said: "Despite the altered distance, IRONMAN UK Bolton remains a fully sanctioned IRONMAN event and a qualifier for the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.

"With the current fires in and around the Winter Hill area, we wish to assure you that air quality levels on the IRONMAN UK Bolton course have been continuously tested by environmental agency and civil contingency teams and show no increase to normal readings."

Another Ironman hopeful, Russ Clarke, aged 36, almost made the decision to pull out of the competition all together when he received the email. 

Mr Clarke, from Ightenhill in Burnley, said: "It's not something I think I'm going to do again. I think it was a once in a lifetime, have a go, become an Ironman and in 40 years time I can still sit over a pint and tell people I did it."

Mr Clarke, deputy headteacher at Haslingden High School, sent an emotive email to the organisers last night. 

He told them: "I’ve bought into this year’s motto presented to all first timers, ‘I will become’. I knew that come what may, by the time my head hit the pillow on Sunday night, I’d be an Ironman. Now, I’m uncertain as to what that feeling on Sunday will be.

"One thing I know is that I won’t have become an Ironman. I’ll be a shadow of one...one of the people who did it in 2018 but came up 17 miles short. I’d never be able to tell anyone I’m an Ironman because I won’t be."

He suggested he might instead be a Bronzeman. 

The email to athletes also warned about blue-green algae levels at Pennington Flash where the 2.4mile swim is scheduled.

Mrs Jeffery said: "They are saying they are monitoring the water quality and there's a chance the swim will be cancelled. If they cancel the swim it will be a duathlon — it will be a 95 mile bike ride and a run and they will still call it an Ironman."

In their email the Ironman UK organisers add: "We thank you for your patience and understanding as we manage these situations that have occurred beyond our control.

"Our thanks go out to our council partners, firefighters, rescue workers and emergency services for their efforts in containing the situation, ensuring the safety of the surrounding communities and for making it possible for the adjusted race to go ahead."

A screenshot is being shared on social media which appears to be from Ironman UK organisers to a competitor. 

In it the organisers say they "cannot offer any refund or deferral" as outlined in their rules and that they have not made the decision to change the course lightly. 

A spokesman from Ironman UK said: "Due to recent wildfires, and after extensive consultation with our council partners, local authorities and other key stakeholders, a decision was taken to implement an alternate bike course for IRONMAN UK.

"While we have made every effort to continue with the original bike course, to ensure athlete and public safety, it is necessary to implement the following changes. 

"Athletes will exit transition 1 at Pennington Flash as normal and ride 15 miles to the start of the 2-lap section.

"After climbing Babylon Lane athletes will now TURN LEFT onto Nickleton Brow instead of heading past New Road Rivington. The aid station will now be located on Nickleton Brow.

"Athletes will cross Rivington Reservoir via Knowsley Lane and continue onto Moor Road.

"Moor Road is a technical climb with a long descent. After climbing Moor Road athletes can enjoy panoramic views of the North West before starting the technical descent.

"The course will then merge onto Higher House Lane before taking a right onto Hollin Lane, left onto Coppice Lane, right onto Tithe Barne Lane merging onto Chapel Lane before re-joining the original course in Wheelton on the A674.

"The total distance of the alternate course is 95 miles, which while short, is the only solution which enables the race to go ahead, and ensures that our athletes, volunteers, marshals and staff remain safe; while also minimising the impact of the change on residents and local businesses.

"All events are subject to change due to external occurrences and with this year’s race affected by wildfires, the changes are necessary for the race to safely proceed.

"While we sympathise, we aim to continue to deliver an athlete experience to its fullest possible extent. Unfortunately, the environmental effects on IRONMAN UK have occurred beyond our control and our team, who have planned and prepared for the race for more than a year, do not take lightly this decision to change the planned course.

"Course adjustments, made in conjunction with our council partners, local authorities and key stakeholders must take into consideration the volume of athletes on the course at any given time, and the impact this will have on safety and fairness. We must also be respectful and considerate of the impact any changes will have on local residents and businesses.

"Our thanks go out to our council partners, firefighters, rescue workers and emergency services for their efforts in containing the situation, ensuring the safety of the surrounding communities and for making it possible for the adjusted race to go ahead."