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Richie Caiazza wheels his bike through the first transition during the 2015 Chattanooga Ironman.

For every Ironman Chattanooga 2015 competitor Sunday, six people came to the Scenic City.

The local economy will take those numbers every day of the year.

And while an expected $11 million economic impact is important for Chattanooga, the 12,000 people who arrived for the Ironman also bathed in the hospitality of residents only happy to help the city live up to its Outside Magazine title as 2015 Best Town Ever.

"You go to some cities," Virginia competitor Chad Henault told Times Free Press reporter David Cobb, "and it's an inconvenience for them. But this city actually seems welcoming and very supporting."

Welcoming and supporting is something Chattanoogans do well.

Head of the Hooch and USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships participants and attendees could vouch for the annual welcome, and the families of five servicemen slain in the line of duty at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center in July could speak for the community's support.

And despite 2014's first Ironman Chattanooga event earning a 97 percent approval rating from competitors, the second-highest mark worldwide for the year, the event had something to build on. Last year's competition was marred by oil and tacks that were spread along West Cove Road in Walker County, Ga., during the bike portion of the event, causing misfortune for some of the competitors.

On Sunday, law enforcement agencies and other officials made sure that wasn't a problem. And the result, according to Ironman officials, was the closest finish in Ironman history.

When lanky Kirill Kotsegarov took two big strides to cross the finish line at 8 hours, 8 minutes and 32 seconds, he was only two seconds ahead of 2012 Olympic team alternate Matt Chrabot and only eight seconds ahead of Stefan Schmid.

It was the second Ironman win for Kotsegarov, 29, a Tallinn, Estonia, native who currently lives in Santa Fe, N.M., but his first since 2009.

"What a day it was!" the former University of Tartu student posted on his Facebook page. "Great swim, solid bike and a sprint in the end of Ironman. Couldn't even imagine winning my second Ironman in closest ever finish in Ironman history."

Carrie Lester was the women's winner in the 144.6-mile race, but she won't be able to repeat her pro title in 2016 because the Chattanooga event, as part of an Ironman test program, will have only male pros. However, the age-group competition still will have male and female fields.

Ironman 2016 will be hard-pressed to top this year's event, but with the city's unflagging welcome and support, it may yet become the most popular stop on the Ironman U.S. Series.

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