PEMBROKESHIRE is getting ready to welcome over 10,000 extra visitors to the county this week for the spectacle of one of the world's toughest sporting events, Ironman Wales.

This afternoon sees the Ironman Wales' popular curtain-raiser - the Ironkids event, where youngsters of all ages can experience the thrill of finishing under the iconic Ironman Wales arch.

The 2017 edition of the race tomorrow (Sunday) will see 2,200 athletes from 45 different countries taking on the 2.4 mile swim at Tenby's North Beach, the 112-mile bike ride taking in the coast and countryside of south Pembrokeshire and the 26.2 mile run in and around Tenby.

Of the total field, 38.6 per cent of the athletes racing will be taking part in Ironman Wales for the first time, and the race will once again feature Wales rugby legends, Shane Williams and Ryan Jones, and a strong contingent from Pembrokeshire.

Western Telegraph: Some of the UK and the world's best professional Ironman athletes will be showcased, with the men's professional field headlined by France's Romain Guillaume and the Netherlands' Bas Diederen, along with Great Britain's Harry Wiltshire and Philip Graves.

As an athlete who thrives on tough courses, Guillaume will be well-suited to the Ironman Wales bike course. He usually adopts the tactic of going hard on the bike, amassing a lead before holding off challenges on the run.

He has had a successful, but not perfect, season so far.

A good win at Ironman 70.3 South Africa in January was followed up with second place finishes at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and Ironman 70.3 Dublin. At Ironman UK he was in a strong position, leading the race on the bike, before a fall unfortunately ended his race prematurely.

Diederen - who is also powerful on the bike - is an Ironman champion with wins at Ironman Maastricht-Limburg to his name, along with strong performances at big races.

Philip Graves is returning to Wales with designs on the top spot after coming runner-up in 2016, where he recorded the fastest professional bike split.

With Guillaume and Diederen in the field, an intriguing battle could develop.

Lucy Gossage - who took the Ironman Wales ladies title in 2013 - will be the professional women's favourite, as she comes into the race in supreme form, winning Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and Ironman UK.

Other women to watch out for on the podium will be Great Britain's Kate Comber, who placed fifth in Wales in 2016, and the USA's Dede Griesbauer who is a three-time Ironman champion.

Ironman Wales is renowned world-wide not just for its challenging course but the legendary support of the Pembrokeshire crowds in towns and villages and particularly on the finishing straight on Tenby's Esplanade.

The swim is the opening race of Sunday's challenges and gets underway at 6.55am.