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Ironman, lax require vax — also reduce numbers

A referee calls a penalty during a Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse match in August 2019. (News photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — Both the Ironman triathlon and the Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament will return to Lake Placid this summer with a vaccination requirement and a cap on the number of athletes allowed to compete.

Ironman Race Director Greg Borzilleri and Summit lacrosse tournament co-founder George Leveille briefed the North Elba Town Council on their respective events’ plans during the town’s board meeting last week. Lake Placid village Mayor Art Devlin also spoke about Ironman and lacrosse returning during the village board meeting on Monday, May 17.

Ironman is scheduled to return to Lake Placid, Keene, Jay and Wilmington on July 25. The Summit Lacrosse Youth tournament is scheduled for June 28 to 30 and the Lake Placid Summit Classic tournament is slated Aug. 2 to 8, according to a news release from the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

Ironman organizers plan to reduce race capacity by at least 20%. Borzilleri told the town council last week that organizers are anticipating registrations to stay in the mid-2,000s because many people are still concerned about traveling. Usually, there are many athletes who register but don’t end up participating, he noted. In 2019, about 3,000 athletes registered, but about 2,400 showed up.

The lacrosse tournament expects to host fewer than 60 teams, or about 180 to 200 people, according to Leveille. That’s far fewer than the normal number of well over 200 teams.

Organizers of the Ironman and Summit lacrosse events will be responsible for verifying that all eligible athletes, staff, volunteers, spectators and vendors in designated venues can provide proof of vaccination, according to a news release from ROOST.

Ironman organizers plan to take a number of steps to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.

Preliminary plans for the event given to local officials show that the swim start may still begin at the village beach, but athletes would be lined up along Mirror Lake Drive, distanced apart rather than crowded together on the beach. Swimmers would enter the water 6 feet apart. Masks would be required until the athletes enter the water. The area would be barricaded from the tennis courts on Mirror Lake Drive to the Beach House on Parkside Drive. There would be a checkpoint for limited access to the start area between the Beach House and the toboggan run.

Spectators at both the swim start and the finish line would be asked to provide proof of vaccination.

The number of bicycles per bike rack may be reduced to allow athletes to have more space to transition from the swimming phase. Changing tents may be eliminated — athletes would change at the bike rack area. Athletes would also be spaced out in the transition area to avoid contact.

The number of volunteers at aid stations along the route may be reduced, and all volunteers would be provided with “enhanced PPE,” according to Ironman’s written plan. Athletes would be encouraged to get what they need from self-serve aid stations, rather than have volunteers hand them food and drinks. Bike aid stations would remain the same as usual. The medical tent would still be open as usual.

Organizers are planning to reroute the course somewhat because of ongoing construction at the Olympic Speedskating Oval. The finish line will be on Main Street across from the Oval, according to Devlin. A barricade would be set up around the finishing area to control access.

Athletes who finish the Ironman may not be handed medals or finisher gear, and instead may be asked to pick up their own medals and gear at a table that volunteers would restock.

Borzilleri told the town council last week that “people are so excited to come back here,” and Ironman hopes to be a “world leader in event operations with this model.”

Devlin said on Monday that the village and town continue to work with both Ironman and Summit lacrosse as the events come closer to ensure that both “stay on top of any and all changes brought about by the state and county.”

“Lake Placid has been very fortunate to have two great partners in Lacrosse and Ironman who both care about the community and the events that they put on. One only has to look at the quality of the events and the give back to the local charities over the years,” he wrote in a statement sent to media after the meeting. “Both organizations have done a great job of complying with state, county and local requirements. This, along with their willingness to reduce their fields and require proof of vaccinations for their athletes, staff, officials, volunteers, vendors and spectators has allowed both the town and the village to welcome Ironman and Lacrosse back to Lake Placid.”

Village Trustee Jason Leon said he’d spoken with people in the community about Ironman and “they seem split.” He asked if the village would “be an advocate for shutting it down” if the regulations are too lax or if the local COVID situation regresses, even if the state or county is OK with the event.

Devlin said the village has already been “more aggressive” than the state and the county, and told Leon that yes, the village board would be able to stop the race if it came to that.

“We’re not taking this lightly,” he said.