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Ironman competition means millions of dollars for Augusta

Ironman race route. (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 at 11 o'clock -- September 27, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Ironman competition turned Augusta into an athletic playground Sunday, with athletes running, biking and swimming throughout the CSRA.

According to the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, with more than 3,000 athletes coming into town and their guests, the event is suppose to bring approximately $2.5 million into Augusta's economy.

The athletes went 70.3 miles combined on Sunday, but no matter where they finished in the race, they were just happy to finish.

"It's always an accomplishment to finish these things," Brooks Keys of Anderson, S.C. said.

This is his tenth triathlon he's done and he said he ranks this one as one of the top triathlons he's ever taken part in.

"The event has a great opportunity to be one of the best races in the country," he said. "Great course, great volunteers, which makes it that much better."

Another participant, Jessica Evans agreed with him she said.

"Great race, very well organized and a good run," she said. "It was beautiful, but it was tough."

The event started at 7:30 a.m. when racers flooded the Savannah River before cycling through Aiken County for more than 50 miles. They then crossed state lines again before finishing up with a run through the finish line at the Augusta Commons.

Businesses though also benefited from the race as thousands of people opened their pocket books to go out and eat in many of the Downtown restaurants.

The New Moon Cafe opened their doors two hours early on Sunday to cater to the early morning crowd, said manager Toni Horton.

"We actually had record breaking sales Saturday," she said. "And then were like 'Oh my goodness what are gonna do tomorrow.'"

They ended up really benefiting from their location as well, since many of the supporters were eating in front of their restaurant during the race.

"We actually expected (Sunday), but (Saturday) was a surprise," she said.

But just across the street the Blue Sky Kitchen also benefited big time from the event, as they also hit record breaking numbers over the weekend, said store manager Hakz Kaniho.

"We actually did about what we do in a whole week in two days," he said. "We didn't expect to do numbers like this. We were hoping to but didn't expect to."

The restaurant also opened their doors on Sunday, when they're normally closed for business, but he said this was an opportunity they couldn't miss.

The winners of the race in the Pro Men's and Women's division of the event were Greg and Laura Bennett, a couple from Boulder, Co. The two finished in 3:47:07 and 4:22:36 respectively.

The event is coming back to Augusta again next year.

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