ROANOKE, Va. – Thousands of athletes will flood the Roanoke Valley for the IRONMAN race this weekend.
Expect to see some traffic changes that may slow down your commute as the final touches are put into place for the race.
On Sunday, 2,500 athletes are expected to tackle the rigorous triathlon.
Combing through the course five times, Lt. Jennings Tardy with the Roanoke Police Department said 30 officers will help handle traffic on Sunday.
Signs on Reserve Avenue are warning drivers where they can’t park.
Tardy is encouraging drivers to slow down when a cyclist comes by.
“It’s not like they are just out for an exercise ride,” he said. “It is a race. So especially the earlier people, they may be moving a lot quicker than you are normally used to seeing.”
Maps of the swim, bike and run course are available on the IRONMAN website.
The IRONMAN team is encouraging people to navigate through the road closures by downloading the Waze App.
Because there are 800 more athletes this year than in last year’s race, safety is at the forefront.
The last six miles of the course were altered from last year’s route to avoid train tracks and some traffic lights.
“The run course was two loops last year on the Roanoke River Greenway,” said Erika Larsen, race director. “We extended both ways east and west to make that one loop and spread people out with more athletes. It also creates less redundancy.”
Athletes are checking in at the Ironman Village at River’s Edge Park to register and place their numbered stickers on their bikes. They then say goodbye to their bikes and head over to the starting line at Carvin’s Cove.
Pro Bike Express owner, Wesley Smith, is helping load more than 2,000 bikes on about 17 trucks.
Placing blankets over the bikes and securing them with straps, Smith takes extra precaution with a critical tool for the race.
He said as someone who has competed in races before, he understands the emotional bond athletes have with their bikes and the fear of passing them off.
“I understand and respect how much time and effort they put into this event and making sure they are well taken care of,” said Smith.
The race will kick off Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m.