Iron team behind Cairns adventure festival
THE brains behind the Cairns Ironman could probably find freelance work in the Cairns police's SERT team.
While the city slept, these guys worked to transform the area into a sporting mecca, fit for the world's best ironman competitors and a showcase of the region's tropical wares.
On June 4 last year, anyone who took part in the gruelling competition was probably giving themselves a well-earned rest, icing sore muscles, enjoying a massage or tasting their first cleansing ale in months after hours of gruelling training.
But for USM chief operating officer David Ray and his team, the cogs for this year's logistically challenging event were already in motion.
This year's ironman and 70.3 events on June 9 are completely sold out, with more than 3000 people signed up across both competitions, while an extra 600 committed to other Adventure Festival events.
"It's easy enough to shut a road and put bikes on it, but we've got to work into the local community," Mr Ray said.
"You can't just shut everything down, we've got to work out a way to make it work for everybody."
Seven people spearhead the team with a host of support staff, although only two are based in Cairns full-time senior project manager Tammy Barker and functions co-ordinator Kellie Gillies.
The rest are literally sport's version of FIFO travelling to USM events around the Asia-Pacific region as they happen and making planning pitstops along the way.
Senior project manager Chris Jarvis looks after operations for the entire festival, doing everything from meeting monthly with emergency services, sourcing power for sites and checking locations of "marine life" before swimmers plunge into the Trinity Inlet depths.
"At 2.30 in the morning (before the ironman race) you're out there on a 50cc scooter cruising around in the dark, watching this big truck in front of you which is 10 times the size of you, putting out all the cones," he said.
"We have 7000 cones we need to put out, so that's quite an operation, and that's all before the sun comes up when the swimmers jump in the water."
The success of the Cairns event in its first two years is indisputable, and Mr Ray says it has been a pretty easy sell to the big-name athletes.
"There's parts of the course where I still go, 'Wow, this is great,' and that's the sort of feedback we get from competitors as well," he said.
"I'm probably a little bit biased, I love this event, but I reckon it's the best cycle course I've worked with, it truly is spectacular."
The task of getting the big guns here falls to national manager Melissa Stephens, who said there were plenty of carrots dangling, but it was also about getting them involved to help promote the event. tag The Cairns Adventure Festival runs from June 2 to June 10, with Cairns Ironman and 70.3 events on June 9.
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Working hard: Kellie Gillies, Melissa Stephens, Chris Jarvis, David Ray, George Shield and (front) Tammy Barker and Taryn Leslie. Picture: STEWART MCLEAN