LIUZHOU, South China, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Wanda Sports will kick off China's Ironman 70.3 season in Liuzhou, a city known as a lush, mountainous paradise in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
In a launching ceremony held in the Wenchang Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon, organizers said the Ironman 70.3 opener will be held on April 1 during the Sanyuesan Festival, and is to be heavily characterized by Zhuang ethnic flavors.
Bank of Liuzhou signed a presenting partnership contract with Wanda Sports at the ceremony which was attended by Liuzhou vice mayor Jiao Yaoguang, Bank of Liuzhou vice president Xu Guangbin, Wanda Sports China deputy general manager Liu Chun and local athlete Wei Guojie.
Ironman 70.3, also known as a "Half Ironman," is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the Wanda-owned World Triathlon Corporation (WTC).
The Florida-based company, bought by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group in 2015, organizes, promotes and licenses the Ironman Triathlon, Ironman 70.3, the 5150 series of triathlon races and several cycling, running and multi-sports events.
With two successful Ironman 70.3 races held in Hefei and Xiamen in 2016, which attracted athletes from a total of over 100 countries and regions, the 2017 Ironman 70.3 calendar has three new cities on board - Liuzhou, Qujing and Chongqing.
Liuzhou vice mayor Jiao Yaoguang said that the ironman race will be a shot in the arm for the city's tourist industry, putting Liuzhou on a global map of tourism and sports.
As with much of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the landscape around Liuzhou is a mix of rolling hills, mountain peaks, caves and unique karst scenery. The city is also known as the Dragon City and the World's Best Natural Bonsai.
Strong ethnic flavors will be on display during the race, which will take place in the middle of a local festival called Sanyuesan, a singing and dancing cerebration which climaxes on March 3 on the Chinese lunar calendar, which is Feb. 30 on the 2017 solar calendar.
Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou will begin with a swim in the Liu River, cutting right through the center of the city. Spectators will have the unique opportunity to watch the swim from the elevated banks of the river and the nearby bridge. Athletes will exit the water to transition next to beautiful Broom Hill Park.
The bike course takes riders north out of the city following the river for 35 kilometers before crossing west though the city to begin the second loop. Athletes can expect incredible views as they parallel the Liu River on this rolling course with smooth, clean road surfaces.
The two loops of the run course offer athletes a chance to see the scenes of the city as they complete two loops through downtown Liuzhou, along both banks of the Liu River. The final stretch will bring competitors down the Wenchang Building Complex with the Liuzhou cityscape providing the backdrop to the finish.
Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou, which has 30 qualifying slots for the 2017 Ironman World Championship and 50 qualifying slots for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship up for grabs, has registered 400 athletes from 48 countries and regions. The most famous of the competitors are Australian Brad Kahlefedlt and his Czech wife Radka Vodickova, men's and women's winner in Hefei last year, and Britain's Tim Don and South Africa's Jeanni Seymour, who won the men's and women's title in Xiamen 2016, as well as Xiamen women's runner-up Sarah Piampiano from the United States.
The Liuzhou event is also endorsed by Adidas and bike maker Suprarace.