THE triathlon which turned Mt Martha’s main road into a racetrack last weekend was described as an overwhelming success by organisers and a blow to business by traders.
“It was a sell-out with 650 competitors – including 100 kids on the Saturday – and we couldn’t have fitted any more in,” said Sufferfest owner Scott Hollow, who runs similar events all over Australia.
“We have got feedback from competitors and just about all said it was one of the best they had been in – on perhaps the best course in Australia.”
The triathlon saw the Esplanade between Mt Martha and Mornington closed for six hours on Sunday.
The organiser paid $160 for a permit from Mornington Peninsula Shire which was not formally issued until three days before the event. VicRoads gave Sufferfest free use of roads but did not suspend normal road rules.
Mr Hollow, a Mt Martha resident, estimated the event drew 2000 people to the area over the 3-4 March weekend – with 10 per cent from interstate and about half from outside Mt Martha.
“It must have been good for local businesses.”
But traders saw the day through different eyes. Butcher Ken Roane and IGA supermarket owner Rod Allen both said they were down on sales – especially on the Sunday.
“We were really knocked around – probably down 30-40 per cent,” Mr Roane said. “We were down probably 50 customers because the competitors took up all the car parks.
“Saturday wasn’t too bad, but we may as well have shut up shop on the Sunday.
“Customers either couldn’t get to the shop or couldn’t get a parking space.”
Mr Allen estimated the event caused a three per cent loss in sales. “It didn’t affect us as much as I thought,” he said.
“There was a bit of a downturn, but we have been down lately. Our customers may have done some pre-shopping before the weekend.”
The clash of dates with the 19-year-old Clean-Up Australia Day left many organisers scratching their heads. “It just shouldn’t have happened,” Bird Rock beach coordinator Di Lewis said.
“We can’t understand why Mornington Peninsula Shire doesn’t have a coordinated program showing which events are on and if they will clash.”
The mix-up prompted some soul-searching among councillors.
The mayor Cr Bryan Payne said the council was “very concerned and is seeking some changes to the way we do things so we are all on the ‘same page. There was some confusion,” he said. “We thought we had fixed it up last year but there was a clash again. We have asked officers to review our procedures so it doesn’t happen again.”
Mr Hollow said the race, which had shire, police and VicRoads’ permits, was well run and that competitors had complied with road rules.
He was unaware of issues at the Watson Road and Esplanade intersection where pedestrians – some with young children and others with fishing roads – were forced to run the gauntlet or risk being run down even when red pedestrian lights indicated all vehicles should stop.
“We had marshals at that crossing and there was never an issue,” he said.
VicRoads said competitors in road races such as the triathlon “must obey road rules … in events where exemptions have not been given”. None had been given for the weekend’s event.
Mr Hollow said he was confident the triathlon would be held again next year but “later in March; probably not on Clean-Up Australia Day”.
Dual Hawaii Iron Man winner Levi Maxwell won Sunday’s marquee event: the Mt Martha Sufferfest Long Course Triathlon consisting of a 1.9 kilometre swim, 90 kilometre ride and 21.1 kilometre run, in a time of 4:05:55. He was followed home by Nathan Buschkuehl, Gerard Wild, Matt Clark and Jackson Brazzale. The first female was Kate Bramley in 5:02:32.