Skip to Content


Longshot Thomas, Favorite Cave win Wildflower

Written by: Timothy Carlson
Date: Sat Apr 30 2011

LAKE SAN ANTONIO, California -- Jesse Thomas, a 2002 Stanford steeplechaser who is in his first year as a triathlon professional, shocked the men's field with a come-from-behind victory at the 29th Wildflower long course triathlon Saturday. After two second place Wildflower finishes, two-time ITU world champion Leanda Cave held off a strong charge by Mary Beth Ellis by 7 seconds to claim the women's crown at the challenging, classic half Ironman distance test in Monterey County, California.

"I can't quite believe it yet," said an exuberant Thomas after finishing in 4:04:45 with a 26-seconds margin over runner-up Clayton Fettell and 1:14 over third-place James Cunnama. "It's like a dream!"

Cave, who took second to Samantha McGlone in 2008 and second to Virginia Berasategui in 2009, held off a race-long push by Mary Beth Ellis by a razor-slim 7 seconds margin to win her first Wildflower title.

"I've won other big titles, but I love this race and always wanted to win here," said Cave. "I've had close races with Mary Beth many times and she really got the best out of me today." In fact, Cave came just five seconds short of Julie Dibens' 2010 race record -- an excellent accomplishment on a day where the bike course was beset by strong head- and side-winds.

THE MEN

Thomas, who quit the Texas Ironman 70.3 at Galveston with cramps a few weeks ago, came out of the water 17th, surged to 8th place, 6:30 back of the leaders by the end of the bike, then blitzed past 7 men with a race-best 1:13:53 run.

Thomas made quick work of the first 4 men on the run, but was still out of sight of leader Clayton Fettell of Australia and hard charging chaser James Cunnama of South Africa with 3 miles to go. Once the three men hit the 10-mile run turnaround, Fettell noted that the previously unknown Thomas ("that guy in black") was moving well, but his attention was focused on holding off Cunnama, who had two Ironman 70.3 runner-up finishes this year.

"I was focusing on catching Clayton, but then this guy passed me like I was standing still," said Cunnama after surrendering 2nd place at Mile 11.5. Fettell said he hadn't looked back and was focusing on his stride when Thomas approached from behind as they neared the top of the steep declivity of Beach Hill at Mile 12.
"He came by me so fast there was nothing I could do," said Fettell, whose previous best competitive performance was a 5th at the Ishigaki World Cup in 2009.

"I knew from my running days when you pass someone you crush it," said Thomas. "You don't want to leave them any hope they can stay with you."

Still, there were bad memories of his hamstring malady in Texas, so Thomas comforted himself with one idea: "I knew if my legs stayed attached to my body, nobody could outrun with in a sprint finish," said the man with an 8:35 PR in the steeplechase and a low 14-minute 5k PR.

Matt Lieto, who was rooming with Thomas at Wildflower, had a well-balanced day with a 9th- best 24:15 swim, 6th-best 2:20:58 bike and 8th best 1:20:47 run to take 4th place in 4:09:05.

Chris Legh, the 2000 Wildflower champion, combined a 24:58 swim, a 2:24:19 bike and a 4th-best 1:17:40 run to finish 5th in 4:09:49. Jordan Rapp had the 2nd best bike in 2:19:15 but faded to 6th with a 1:23:17 run to finish in 4:10:54. Nicholas Thompson surged to 7th with a 2nd best 1:16:54 run, while Tim DeBoom took 8th in 4:12:08.
THE WOMEN

Current Ironman 70.3 World Champion Jodie Swallow of Great Britain emerged from the water first with a 23:53 swim, followed by Mary Beth Ellis (24:42) Leanda Cave and Tenille Hoogland (both 24:44), Annie Warner (24:46) Samantha Warriner (25:59), Emily Cocks (26:00), Magali Tisseyre (26:01), and 2009 Wildflower champion Virginia Berasategui (26:04).

On the bike, much honored stars Berasategui and Swallow both got position fouls via the stagger rule in effect in Wildflower. Both failed to see the justice in the calls, which nonetheless cost them both 2 minutes and lost momentum which threw them both out of contention.

Cave and Ellis survived the bike unscathed by penalties and they posted the fastest (2:34:20 by Cave) and second best bike splits (2:35:19 by Ellis) and took off well ahead on the run. When the duel was over, Cave won it on the bike. Her third-best women's run of 1:25:37 held off Ellis's second-best 1:24:42 run by those sliver-thin 7 seconds, leaving them plenty of room to withstand third-place finisher Magali Tisseyre's women's best 1:23:59 run by 4 minutes.

In a personal landmark finish, Canadian Tenille Hoogland, who won the Tri-California Treasure Island Triathlon and San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz last year, combined a 24:45 swim, 2:37:54 bike and a 1:30:33 run to finish 4th, ahead of famed competitors Virginia Berasategui (5th) Samantha Warriner (6th), Jodie Swallow (7th) and Desiree Ficker (8th).

Avia Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
Lake San Antonio, California
April 30, 2011
S 1.2 mi/ / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.

Results

Elite Men

1. Jesse Thomas (USA) 4:04:45
2. Clayton Fettell (AUS) 4:05:11
3. James Cunnama (RSA) 4:05:59
4. Matt Lieto (USA) 4:09:05
5. Chris Legh (AUS) 4:09:49
6. Jordan Rapp (USA) 4:10:54
7. Nicholas Thompson (USA) 4:11:07
8. Timothy DeBoom (USA) 4:12:08
9. Bjorn Andersson (SWE) 4:14:36
10. Dan Hugo (RSA) 4:15:41


Elite Women

1. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:27:58
2. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 4:28:05
3. Magali Tisseyre (CAN) 4:32:06
4. Tenille Hoogland (CAN) 4:36:26
5. Virginia Berasategui (ESP) 4:37:16
6. Samantha Warriner (NZL) 4:39:07
7. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 4:43:50
8. Desiree Ficker (USA) 4:46:03
9. Annie Warner (USA) 4:48:09
10. Julia Grant (NZL) 4:51:15

  

Articles related to this one
Wildflower man Jesse Thomas
Jesse Thomas surprised quite a few folks with his recent win at the 2011 Avia Wildflower triathlon and to some degree he also surprised himself. Slowtwitch had a few words with the fast running triathlete. 5.05.11
Bikes at the 2011 Wildflower
The bike segment at Wildflower is quite tough and slowtwitch shooter Timothy Carlson captured images of the Pros out on course. 5.06.11
Fettell, Lester take IM 70.3 Port Macquarie
Clayton Fettell and Carrie Lester won the menís and womenís titles in hard-fought contests at Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie 11.05.11
Stairway of Champions addition
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of his Wildflower triathlon, Terry Davis erected a Stairway of Champions with plaques honoring all long course winners. On the 1983 men's plaque, there was a surprise addition. 5.04.12
2012 Wildflower Pre Race
Wildflower celebrates its 30th anniversary with a new Stairway of Champions; former champs and current contenders prep for another great duel. Photo Gallery by Timothy Carlson. 5.04.12
Thomas repeats, Jackson superb
Jesse Thomas ran away from the competition to repeat his title at the AVIA Wildflower Long Course Triathlon. Heather Jackson showed great running speed to take the women's race over Linsey Corbin in course record time. 5.05.12
Bjorn Andersson's Hotta
Bjorn Andersson rode a Hotta bike at Ironman 70.3 California at Oceanside and Devashish Paul snapped a few pics of that old school ride. 4.03.13
Thomas, Jackson repeat at Wildflower
Jesse Thomas outran Australian Leon Griffin to take his third straight win at Wildflower long course; Heather Jackson earned her 2nd straight Wildflower victory passing Kat Baker on the run. 5.04.13
Raelert, Dibens dominate Wildflower
Michael Raelert and Julie Dibens, 2009 Ironman 70.3 World Champions, continued their domination of the distance with record and near record performances at Wildflower. 5.01.10
Wildflower Contenders to Watch
With Michael Raelert not on the start list, the menís contest is wide open; and with defending womenís champ Julie Dibens not starting either, keep your eyes on a talented and hungry women's field. 4.27.11