Fierce contest expected in Buffalo City Ironman event

14th edition in metro to field 521 entrants

Ironman Buffalo City 70.3 2020 winner Matt Trautman crosses the finish line in East London.
TIME AGAIN: Ironman Buffalo City 70.3 2020 winner Matt Trautman crosses the finish line in East London.
Image: MICHAEL PINYANA

There may be no spectators allowed and understandably fewer entrants than in 2020 but competition is still expected to be fierce when the Ironman 70.3 SA triathlon is hosted on Sunday in Buffalo City for the 14th time.

The East London race puts athletes through their paces over a testing route with pro male athletes Matt Trautman (defending champion), Gerhard De Bruin, Frederik Henes, James McCallum, Cameron Macnair and Michael Ferreira all expected to be at the start on Sunday morning (6.35am). 

Mariella Sawyer and Natia Gous are the only female pro athletes in the field of 521 entrants.

More than 1,500 athletes took part in 2020.

And up for grabs are 30 qualifying places for the 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St George, Utah, in the US.  

The race, which has an ocean swim accompanied by a hilly bike ride and an undulating run, provides the ultimate test for participants.

It starts with a 1.9km swim at Orient Beach, followed by a gruelling 90.1km bike course with rolling hills.

“We are looking forward to this historic event.

“This will be the 14th edition of the Ironman 70.3 SA. That is 14 years of racing in Buffalo City and what an incredible journey it has been,” Ironman SA MD Keith Bowler said in a statement. 

“It feels odd to be racing in Buffalo City at this time of the year as opposed to racing in January as we traditionally do. However, we are grateful that the city has yet again allowed us this opportunity to do what we do best — host exceptional races, and this year will be no different. 

“It is extremely important to me that racing returns to Buffalo City in a manner consistent with sound public health guidelines as we did this year with two successful events, Ironman 70.3 Durban and 5150 Bela Bela,” he said. 

Road closures will allow athletes to safely navigate the cycling course before they take on a two-loop 21.1km run along the beachfront and up Bunkers Hill before coming back down again to finish at the Orient Theatre Complex.

The 2021 race will have to abide by the Covid-19 safety regulations and protocols.

One of those major adjustments will be the absence of fans due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure athletes have an incredible race experience under our Safe Return to Racing Guidelines.

“Unfortunately, due to the continued status of the Covid-19 pandemic and the regulations set by the South African government, the Ironman 70.3 SA  event cannot accommodate spectators at the race venue or on the racecourse.

“We therefore encourage the public to follow the race progress from home on the Ironman Tracker App, our social media channels, and watch the SuperSport race highlights post-race,” Bowler said.

Buffalo City Municipality executive mayor, Xola Pakati, said the race was an important economic boost for the city. 

“As Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, we want to welcome all the athletes who are participating in the 2021 leg of the Ironman 70.3 South Africa triathlon hosted in our city.

“Our city and its people are extremely supportive of the event due to its massive socio-economic spin-offs,” Pakati said.

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