Ironman official at today’s announcement- Rachel Meell photo

Its official: the bike course for June’s Ironman 70.3 triathlon will include a long segment on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The route includes a steep four-mile climb from Buchanan to the parkway, then a long descent to state route 24 near Vinton. The National Park Service received more than 1,200 comments on line in support. More from WFIR’s Gene Marrano:

2-12 Ironman Wrap#1-WEB

NEWS RELEASE: The IRONMAN Group, a Wanda Sports Group company (Nasdaq: WSG), announced today course details for the inaugural Carilion Clinic IRONMAN® 70.3® Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon taking place on Sunday, June 7, 2020. The center piece for the 70.3-mile route includes the bike course that will roll along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service filled with scenic views of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

“Adding to the long history of endurance events throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge region, this year’s Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon will feature epic locations for the swim, bike and run portions of the first year event,” said Keats McGonigal, Head of Operations, North America for The IRONMAN Group. “Specifically, for the bike portion of the event, the scenic byway will offer athletes a picturesque view like no other along America’s Favorite Drive. This event presents a unique opportunity for recreational access to the park and invites participants to share in the stewardship of this special place — the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of our nation’s treasured landscapes. We are excited about the course that athletes will have the chance to experience as they achieve their dreams of crossing the finish line at the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge. We are also grateful to everyone who responded in support of the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon, realizing the overall economic benefit of the competition and recognizing the limited access of motor vehicles ensuring a safer experience for bikers.”

The 2020 Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon, taking place on Sunday, June 7, 2020, will begin with a rolling start format. The 1.2-mile swim will take place in the clear waters of Carvins Cove Reservoir. After careful consideration, the Western Virginia Water Authority is partnering with IRONMAN to hold its swimming event in Carvins Cove Reservoir because of the extraordinary opportunity this event will have to showcase the entire region to a worldwide audience. The Authority worked closely with IRONMAN to make sure that the water quality and beauty of Carvins Cove will be preserved for the benefit of all residents.

Once out of the water, athletes will take on the 56-mile bike course that is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Athletes will depart from Carvins Cove in Roanoke County and continue east into beautiful Botetourt County towards the Town of Buchanan, a quaint, walkable town with antique shops and a great view of the James River. It is the starting point for an epic four-mile climb on Route 43 to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance. The Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469-miles links Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Athletes will experience breathtaking views of the valley, as they ride and descend 21-miles of completely closed roads to the Town of Vinton at Route 24; Vinton is a gateway community to the Blue Ridge Parkway with small town charm and is adjacent to the City of Roanoke. The ride will end at the beautiful River’s Edge Park, next to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, in the heart of Roanoke, Va.

“On behalf of the National Park Service, we are delighted to welcome triathlon participants to the Blue Ridge Parkway as part of their experience this June,” said J.D. Lee, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Organizers and sponsors have embraced a shared stewardship ethic in their planning approach, and we are excited to be part of this exceptional regional event.”

After transitioning to the run at River’s Edge Park, athletes will experience the Roanoke River Greenway, a paved trail alongside the Roanoke River Blueway for the run course, providing athletes shade while running through several parks along the course. The finish is conveniently located on the streets adjacent to River’s Edge Park.

Located in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is the largest metropolitan area in Virginia’s beautiful mountain region. It is a hub for outdoor recreation, arts and culture, and business west of Richmond. Roanoke is best known for the iconic Roanoke Star, which sits atop Mill Mountain and is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. For outdoor lovers, Roanoke offers a bevy of hiking and biking trails convenient to downtown and was designated a Silver-Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Virginia’s Blue Ridge has staked its claim as America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital and is the perfect setting for an IRONMAN 70.3-branded event.

“Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR) is poised to welcome IRONMAN athletes and fans as the host destination,” said Lee Wilhelm, Chair of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “The outpouring of support from athletes, longtime residents and community stakeholders who took the time to contact the NPS was truly remarkable.  We are grateful to live in a region where the people are passionate about tourism.  Visit VBR is committed to working collaboratively with our regional partners and IRONMAN to ensure the race is a success.”

Headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia, Carilion Clinic, a not-for-profit health care provider that serves more than one million people in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Southwest Virginia regions, has been named title partner of the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon.

“Carilion Clinic is excited about collaborating to sponsor the IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge,” said Dr. Thomas K. “TK” Miller, vice chair of orthopaedics and chief of sports medicine at Carilion Clinic and Chairman of the IRONMAN Global Medical Advisory Board. “Inclusion of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the bike route completes a trio of scenic natural settings for the triathlon course with unparalleled beauty at every turn. Carilion is looking forward to this unique opportunity to team with IRONMAN to promote the benefits of exercise and fitness and advance our mission of improving the health of the communities we serve.”

For more information on the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge triathlon, visit www.ironman.com/im703-virginia-blue-ridge. For more information on the IRONMAN brand and global event series, visit www.ironman.com. Athlete inquiries can be directed to virginia70.3@ironman.com. Media related inquiries may be directed to press@ironman.com.