Despite some tacky distractions, organizers call triathlon a success

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By John Foster

Aside from a couple incidences of mischief, Sunday’s Ironman bike leg ran smoother than ever, race officials report.

Race officials, law enforcement personnel and government officials met Tuesday to discuss problems from the race and plan for next year. In all, the consensus is Ironman competitors and organizers encountered fewer problems than expected.

The most notable problem arose when about 40 competitors noticed their tires going flat and upon inspection, found tacks in them. It seems they were placed somewhere near the intersection of U.S. 42 and Ky. 53, Ironman bike course director Philip LaHaye said. 

No one sustained injuries or quit the race because of the tacks, he said, and they find tacks on an Ironman course every four or five years, presumably from a disgruntled resident.

Another athlete reported someone throwing a bottle out of a truck at them.

Oldham County Police Lt. Tim Wakefield said there are no suspects in either incident.

LaHaye said competitors also reported a Hummer driving down U.S. 42, encroaching on their lane in what seemed like an attempt to scare the competitors.

But in all, the day went by without many hitches, he said.

“You walk away and say it’s expected as long as no one gets hurt,” he said.

Oldham County EMS transported one competitor with an injured shoulder from a wreck. They also transported two spectators, one who tripped and fell and another who felt woozy from being out in the sun. EMS crews gave minor assistance to eight athletes with minor scrapes or dehydration.

During Ironman 2008, EMS crews transported about 14 or 15 athletes to local hospitals, he said.

“It was incredible,” LaHaye said, attributing the low number of injuries to cool weather and proper planning.

A cyclist also sustained injuries in Prospect after striking a car that pulled out in from of them, LaHaye said. EMTs treated the competitor for minor injuries. 

That section of the bike race — along U.S. 42 between the intersections of the Gene Snyder Freeway and Timber Ridge Drive created the most problems, LaHaye said. Cyclists rode against traffic for a section before crossing lanes at Timber Ridge, creating a total standstill, he said. 

That problem should be alleviated when the bridge on River Road is fixed and the bike route can resume that course.

In addition to fewer injuries, Oldham County Police Lt. Col. Billy Way reports lighter traffic than in years past. 

He attributes that to people getting used to the race as well as the communication effort. County officials issued a call to 23,000 Oldham County residences about the race, erected road signs two weeks prior to the race and purchased cable TV spots to alert residents to the thousands of bikers going to be on the road.

There were more issues with pedestrians than bikes this year, La Grange Police Chief Kevin Collett said. More barriers were needed near Cedar Street. Spectators there pushed closer to the street and some were almost struck by cyclists, Ann Zimlich with Discover Downtown La Grange said. 

She said they also ran out of parking spots for spectators this year and will need to find more parking, whether it be running a shuttle to The Rawlings Group or to Commerce Parkway.

LaHaye said the bike route is ideal for their purposes, with a good place for spectators in La Grange. This is the third in a five-year contract with the Louisville Sports Commission. He said Ironman will keep coming back to Louisville and Oldham County as long as the sports commission will have them.

In an interview after the meeting, attorney Stuart Ulferts said Oldham County government doesn’t have much say about whether the race comes back or not. Under Kentucky law, it’s legal to ride a bike on the road and county police are obligated to protect cyclists, drivers and spectators in an event like the Ironman.

“The county police have absolutely no say about who uses the road,” he said, “within the law.”


E-mail us about this story at: jfoster@oldhamera.com