The Ironman 70.3 World Championships return to North America with the Sept. 9-10 races taking place in Chattanooga.
After their 2006 inception, the 70.3 world championships were held in Clearwater, Fla., until 2011 when they left for a more challenging course in Nevada before spending three years abroad in Quebec, Austria and Australia.
Racers won't have to worry whether the smaller new kid on the block can pack a punch.
Race organizers made sure the course hits early and hits hard.
"A championship course is defined by the hard level that really orchestrates the competition," Chattanooga Sports Committee President Tim Morgan said.
Chattanooga's swim leg is widely considered an easier course than most other host cities.
That won't be the case for the world championships.
Instead of the usual downstream swim, the longest portion of the leg will now be directly against the current.
The world-class athletes will enter from the Tennessee Riverwalk across from AT&T Field and swim 300 meters across the river before swimming 860 meters against the strong current on the river's north bank.
Racers will then turn and swim back across the river past Walnut Street Bridge before swimming downstream for the final 470 meters.
Once racers have completed the swim, they will hop on their bikes and head out on the usual Ironman path, but the torture doesn't end with the swim.
Five miles south of town, competitors will take a turn onto Ochs Highway and climb 3.5 miles up Lookout Mountain.
The bike leg will wind through Lookout Mountain on Red Riding Hood Trail through Fairyland and descend on Highway 136 before turning north and heading back to Ross's Landing.
The running leg – which already is widely considered to be Chattanooga's hardest stretch – will take two loops through the Scenic City, showing off its bridges, downtown and North Shore area.
It also features a stretch down Riverfront Parkway and along the Tennessee Riverwalk before its winding adventure through North Shore, Barton Avenue, Coolidge Park and to the finish line at Ross's Landing.
"The world championship courses are always hard as heck," said Chattanooga Triathlon Club member Todd Viens. "It's really going to be a challenge, but I think people will be up for it, and there's a lot to see; a lot of beauty on the course."
Racers will see much of that renowned beauty.
Chattanooga offers its riverfront and downtown area leading to Lookout Mountain that will take riders into Georgia to see more mountains, open land and Walker County's scenic views.
Viens, who will be competing in Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, competed in last year's world championship in Australia. He believes the area's scenic nature, the course's toughness and the climb up Lookout Mountain will brand Chattanooga in the minds of many international athletes and their families.
"I think people are going to be surprised when they see our little town," he said. "Most people probably haven't heard of Chattanooga, but they're certainly going to remember it after they finish the race."
Contact Mark Pace at email@example.com or 423-757-6361. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace.