An influx of visitors for yesterday's Ironman 70.3 Shepparton meant the victors weren't the event's only winners, with local businesses sharing in the spoils.By Fiona Broom
Those who crossed the finish line at yesterday’s Ironman 70.3 Shepparton and snagged a spot at the world championships weren’t the only winners from the event — the influx of visitors meant the town and its businesses also came out on top.
About 1400 competitors from across Australia, with families, support crews and friends, made the trek to what has become Shepparton’s premier sporting event.
Thousands of cars filled Kialla Lakes and families sprawled on grassy patches around the lake as the iron men and women took on the gruelling event.
Among the visitors was the Coomealla Triathlon Club, from the NSW side of the Murray River near Mildura.
Competitor Lars Kogge estimated he spent about $700 on accommodation, meals, petrol, entry and other expenses during his four-day stay in Shepparton.
‘‘We went to the GV Hotel for dinner last night and there’s a party there tonight. We couldn’t even get a park in our hotel after dinner,’’ he said.
‘‘We had a very nice breakfast at Stefanos this morning. It must be good for the economy.’’
Coomealla club president Peter Gray agreed the income for Shepparton must be ‘‘astonishing’’.
Mr Kogge said he signed up competitors from the club one minute after entries opened and booked accommodation immediately to avoid missing out — though those lucky people who got late entries had some trouble.
‘‘I have a friend who slept on a mate’s couch in his room because otherwise she’d be sleeping in the back of the ute,’’ he said.
The seasoned triathletes praised the volunteers who helped run the triathlon, while Shepparton’s weather also got the nod.
They said the well-organised event also shone a spotlight on fitness and staying active.
‘‘It’s impeccable, brilliant — there’s nothing else you can say,’’ Mr Gray said.
As bow-legged competitors stretched out cramped muscles, volunteer Matt Tracy continued handing out drinks to those finishing their three laps of the lake.
He said the mostly local volunteers had watched the event grow year on year.
‘‘Last year really upped the ante,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a pretty positive thing for the town. I can imagine it would bring a lot of people to the town and it highlights Shepparton in a positive way.’’
The Ironman 70.3 Shepparton is also attracting future triathletes.
Mr Tracy said his seven-year-old daughter watched Saturday’s kids’ triathlon with a view to getting involved next year — when she’s a bit steadier on her bike.
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