Ironman Canada is making some changes to race operations in the Pemberton area when the long-distance triathlon returns in July, hoping to improve convenience for local residents and enhance the spectator and participant experience.
Race director Evan Taylor appeared before Pemberton council on Tuesday, May 20, to provide an update on the event, scheduled for July 27.
Taylor said that some of the changes were prompted by a community feedback session held in Pemberton in March. The Spud Valley will once again be hosting a portion of the 180-kilometre cycling leg.
However, in one notable difference, the route through downtown Pemberton has been changed for 2014. As triathletes arrive while coming northbound, they will take the roundabout and turn left onto Frontier Street, turn right onto Aster Street, then right on to Prospect Street before continuing down Pemberton Meadows Road.
"That move was made to improve the experience for the athletes and perhaps create more of an atmosphere in town," said Taylor.
Meanwhile, there are plans to run shuttle buses to downtown Pemberton while the event is ongoing, including one for Pemberton Meadows Road residents during the road's closure for the race. Another will transport spectators between Whistler and Pemberton. Taylor said the final details of those shuttles are being worked out with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and will be released as soon as possible.
Race officials are also planning to set up a video screen in town that will broadcast action from elsewhere on the course. Taylor said the screen would carry the same feed that broadcasts into Whistler Olympic Plaza during the race.
Taylor said Ironman officials have interest in using the Friendship Trail for a portion of the cycling route if it were completed.
"It's an exciting idea," said Taylor. "We could incorporate it into the bike course if it were paved, which would take 15 kilometres off the Pemberton Meadows Road part of the course."
Taylor noted that if the trail were used in the future, it would be a one-way course, not requiring a closure.
Acting mayor Alan LeBlanc was supportive of that idea, and asked if Ironman could kick in resources to help complete the trail or other cycling infrastructure as two-wheeled tourism continues to grow in the region.
"I truly believe there's an opportunity with Ironman, (MOTI), the Village of Pemberton and the (Squamish-Lillooet) Regional District to try to get some of this infrastructure built," said LeBlanc.
In response, Taylor said Ironman officials are "massive advocates" for improved cycling infrastructure and safety.