More than 1,000 athletes are traveling to Lawrence to bike, swim and run in the Ironman 70.3 triathlon Sunday, including a triathlon world champion and a former NFL athlete.
Craig Alexander, an Australian athlete who won the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Ironman Triathlon World Championships, is expected to win the men’s professional race.
“He’s clearly the favorite,” said Ryan Robinson, the race director. “But there’s obviously a handful of others who could challenge him.”
Another notable figure at the competition will be retired NFL wide receiver (and "Dancing with the Stars" winner) Hines Ward, who played 14 seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was a part of two Super Bowl victories and was a four-time NFL Pro Bowl selection.
These two will be joined by about 1,400 other athletes who range in age from 18 to 66 and are coming to Lawrence from 11 countries and 47 states, according to the World Triathlon Corp.
Sunday’s triathlon includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run at Clinton State Park.
The competitors first will swim one loop around Clinton Lake, then ride their bikes on a course through southwest Douglas County. The triathlon concludes with two running loops around the Clinton State Park campgrounds. To keep with the Kansas theme, a yellow brick road has been constructed near the finish line.
Robinson said the Lawrence event has become a staple for Ironman athletes across the country.
“We have nice clean roads and it’s a challenging course with the hills we have here in Douglas County,” he said. “And of course there’s the Midwestern hospitality.”
The professional race will start at 6:30 a.m. Sunday at the Clinton Lake boat docks. All other participants will begin their race at 6:38 a.m., also at the boat docks.
Winners will split a $15,000 prize, and the top 50 will be entered into the Ironman World Championship on Sept. 8 in Henderson, Nev.
Awards will be presented at Campground 3 at approximately 3:30 p.m., pending the time of the final finisher.