OCEANFRONT racing is the hallmark of Mooloolaba Triathlon, which will take centre stage on the Coast on March 17, 2013.
Starting on the beach, the swim course at the mercy of the elements, which has helped the event become a landmark on the triathlon calendar.
While Noosa has traditionally been the beacon of popularity, Mooloolaba has quickly gained ground and like its northern sibling sells out within hours.
Mooloolaba also has a brilliant atmosphere with the esplanade transformed into a sporting mecca for the weekend. The cafes and retailers are a hive of activity from the Friday night where the festival begins with a 5km run.
Like Noosa, triathlon registration can be undertaken on the Friday or Saturday, and USM Events has the process down to a fine art.
Bike racking has to be done on the Saturday. Transition for individuals is the Mooloolaba Road car park, while teams rack at the car park near UnderWater World.
Conditions can have a major impact on times at Mooloolaba. Mother Nature is the unknown quantity, and while swell is rarely an issue in the protected bay, challenging conditions have seen the first race leg move into nearby canals.
Wave start analysis is important as walking to the swim start takes about 15 minutes from transition.
Competitors start about 1km south of the surf life saving club, swimming out about 200m and then follow the coast back before returning to shore in front of the Loo With A View.
If there are any waves those with surf skills can get some assistance onto the beach, and there is an immediate test of the legs with soft sand and then steps up to the esplanade toward transition.
From the moment riders get into the saddle there is little reprieve. Not far from transition is a short climb which starts on the esplanade and leads onto Buderim Avenue.
Once at the top there are some small undulations where it is a good opportunity to take on drinks and nutrition before making the right hand turn onto the Sunshine Motorway.
There is a short downhill run which provides some good momentum as competitors begin the ride which is straight and flat toward Coolum.
Riders first pass over the Maroochydore Road Roundabout, then head across Maroochy River Bridge, while the next key landmark is the David Low Way roundabout at Pacific Paradise.
Just shy of the Coolum roundabout is the 20km mark and hairpin turnaround.
In recent years there has been a strong tail wind on the way out, which then makes for a challenging return.
Passing back over David Low Way marks the 28.7km point, and riders are buoyed by the sight of "Mooloolaba" on directional signs as they head back along the motorway.
There is an incline as riders take a left hand turn off the motorway back onto Buderim Avenue and it's a signal that the bike leg is nearly done.
Along Buderim Avenue there is a chance to pick up some speed with some small hills and riders should take care unclipping shoes with the right hand turn back onto the esplanade.
Spectators are packed along in the esplanade precinct and especially around the cafe areas. Those who take off their shoes before the dismount should have it done before making the tight right hand turns near transition as it can be tight if there are other competitors nearby.
With running shoes on the triathletes gain encouragement from the crowd as they head out of transition and onto the road which on any other weekend of the year are sought-after beachfont car parks. The area is transformed into the expo during the festival, but fenced off for the triathlon and competitors run through the tents on their way toward Maroochydore.
The end of the tents is where the tough stuff begins. Runners climb Alexandra Headland hill three times over 10km, but there is plenty of encouragement from spectators along the way who line the incline on both sides.
After getting over the hill runners get to the first water station, and then it's a flat journey past apartment blocks, then Alexandra Headland Surf Club before reaching the first turn at Sixth Avenue.
Heading back along Alexandra Parade there is another water station before tackling the hill again. The turn for the second lap is in front of the Mandin resort, at the top of the hill.
Runners follow the same route as the first lap, but when atop Alexandra Headland for the third time they can keep left and head for home.
It's a steady decline back down to the tents and the finishing chute.
Once inside the tents there's another injection of adrenalin with spectators providing encouragement to the end.
The blue carpet and the finishing arch is a welcome sight, and afterward competitors can recover with water, Endura and fruit while overlooking Mooloolaba's pristine bay.
Check out the course maps here:
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