IRONMAN 70.3 Ballarat ambassador Luke Bell is expecting a world-class field to contest this year’s maiden title.
Bell toured the course on Tuesday and liked what he saw across the 1.9-kilometre swim in Lake Wendouree, 90km cycle along Remembrance Drive and 21.1km half-marathon distance run through the lake district.
The 35-year-old believes the scenery alone will be enough to draw many of the nation’s best athletes to Victoria’s biggest and best sporting hub.
“The Ballarat Ironman is at a great time of year for us (triathletes),” he said.
“A lot of the Australian guys now are starting to move overseas but will return to the country in late October or early November for the start of the Australian season. It’s a perfect time of year coming into the Australian summer.
“It will be quite a strong field that will have numerous national champions and world-renowned athletes coming here to compete.”
Bell, a 17-time Ironman 70.3 victor, says the flat route could deliver one of the quickest races for any 70.3 event but is wary of the potential for Ballarat’s trademark vicious winds to make the going tough.
“Swimming on the rowing course is always going to make for a pretty quick swim because it’s about as close as you can get to a swimming pool as possible,” he said.
“The bike course will be pretty challenging if you get a bit of breeze out there but riding through the park area, under the Arch of Victory and out Remembrance Drive will make for an amazing course. “Spectator-wise, to be able to see the whole swim, multiple loops on the bike as well as the run will create a heap of excitement, atmosphere and more enjoyment for the day.”
The winner of last year’s Ironman Australia title has a proud Western District background, having been born in in Warrnambool and raised in Portland.
Bell is on his way back from knee surgery that took place in February and will return to America next Monday.
There he will begin training for 70.3 events in Hawaii and Boise, Idaho, before basing himself in San Diego for the remainder of the US season.
He says Ballarat’s reputation as a big name sporting town could be the sticking point for landing a household name come November.
“The biggest thing that most people have talked about is how the community of Ballarat gets behind sporting events,” he said. “Ballarat’s had the Australian road titles for numerous years, there’s the Australian Masters rowing championships (in October), as well as the likes of (Steve) Moneghetti and Collis Birmingham that have trained here for years.
“I think as a sporting community everyone appreciates that and a lot of people will get behind it for that reason.”