Listening to Bill Burke speak about the Ochsner Ironman New Orleans 70.3, you’d think he was taking roll at the United Nations.
“Japan, Mexico, Slovenia, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the U.K. and of course the U.S.A.,” he said. “And Venezuela and Russia and Paraguay and the Cayman Islands, the United Arab Emirates ...”
That’s just a sampling of the countries that will be represented at the eighth annual event, a triathlon set for Sunday. Athletes from 30 countries (not to mention 47 states) will compete in the endurance race: a 1.2-mile swim in South Shore Harbor, a 56-mile bike ride from the lakefront to Rigolets Pass and back, and a 13.1-mile half marathon along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
Approximately 2,000 are expected to take the challenge. And Burke, race director for Ironman New Orleans, said there is no shortage of people who want to do so in New Orleans.
“The sport is still surging,” he said. “There is room for more growth in this event (in New Orleans). We have 79 people from California right now. … There are 125 from Florida, 100 from Texas, 139 from Georgia. There even are 17 from Kansas. That may be the only triathlon club in Kansas, and they may have said, ‘We’ve never been down to New Orleans, so let’s go.’ Who knows? But this shows we are a destination for people everywhere.”
The triathlon will begin and end at South Shore Harbor, and the top male professional should complete the half Ironman in approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes, Burke said. That could be Matt Chrabot, a Colorado resident who placed second in last year’s Ironman New Orleans in 3:40:30. That was 41 seconds behind four-time champion Andy Potts, who was expected to compete again this year but had to withdraw because of injury, Burke said.
Sarah Piampiano of California won the women’s half of the event last year in 4:15:17. She is set to compete again Sunday.
In all, nearly 70 professionals will compete for $30,000 in prize money in the half Ironman. The winning man and woman each will receive $6,000. Burke said the purse is one of the biggest in the Ironman series, which takes place around the globe. Thirty spots in the Ironman 70.3 world championship are up for grabs in the local triathlon.
A race expo with vendors, live music, food and drink and more will take place at South Shore Harbor Marina, 6701 Stars and Stripes Blvd. Burke said ample parking is available, but anyone interested in seeing the finish should arrive before 9 a.m. to avoid interfering with the triathletes finishing shortly thereafter.
“You can see some of the best athletes in the world compete in one of the biggest events of their sport,” Burke said. “You just have to get there early.”
The award ceremonies are set for approximately 3:30 p.m.