NEW YORK CTY -- Rebeccah Wassner used her home court knowledge of the Central Park run to post a 34:36 10k and dominate the field, and Greg Bennett used a second-fastest bike and run to earn his fourth straight Nautica New York City Triathlon victory and turn the tables on the men who edged him in a finish line sprint two weeks ago at Minneapolis.
After surviving a blazing bike attack by 20-year-old cycling sensation Andrew Yoder and putting time on Minneapolis Life Time winner Matt Reed and runner-up Andy Potts, three-time Life Time Fitness Toyota Series champion Bennett turned on the jets with a run that left Andy Potts 37 seconds behind at the line and consigned Minneapolis winner Matt Reed to third place another 76 seconds in arrears.
When the race was done, Potts combined a Hudson River current-aided swim in 12:34, biked 40k out and back on the Henry Hudson Parkway in 58:37, and ran 31:13 around a hilly Central Park jogging path to finish in a swift 1:45:50 aided by clouds and mild temperatures.
Bennett, just starting to regain full form after losing 12 weeks of running training earlier this year due to a glute muscle-sciatic nerve problem, avenged a near-photo finish third place behind Matt Reed and lunging runner-up Andy Potts two weeks ago at Minneapolis.
"Two weeks ago, my adductor (groin) muscle was hurting so much I was thinking of pulling out of Minneapolis," said Bennett. "It came good at the last minute. But it was still very tight and I had to run with a defensive technique -- smaller steps and high cadence. Today, I felt good, ran strong and opened up my usual stride."
Potts reacted to his second straight second place finish with his usual sportsmanship and wry appraisal of his race. "I led the swim and the bike until Yoder and Bennett came through," said the 2009 Ironman California 70.3 and Escape From Alcatraz winner. "When I started the run, I could see Greg ahead on 72nd Street in the mile before Central Park. The gap seemed to be around 30 seconds, definitely in my sight and on my mind, because I had been able to outrun him lately. When I heard the gap was down to 25 seconds, I thought it was possible, but from Mile 2.5 to 5 he kept the pressure on and held me off."
While Bennett paid tribute to his two non-drafting rivals -- "I could never relax when I knew that the best non-drafting triathletes in the world, Matt Reed and Andy Potts, were back there" -- he offered high praise for the up-and-coming 20-year-old Andrew Yoder who tore apart the bike before yielding to his elders on the run.
"The bike was incredibly hard," said Bennett. "That Yoder! Hats off to him. Holy crap! What an awesome athlete."
After the current-aided swim left Yoder right in the front pack with Potts, Reed and Bennett, he only gave up 20 seconds on the half-mile run to T1 and went to work. Yoder took past Reed easily and took down Potts and Bennett by Mile 10. "That boy is incredible," said Reed, who said at that point said his legs felt dead and was thinking of quitting the race. "Every race he's done has really impressed me. I think he should go straight to cycling."
Bennett added: "It was a little bruise to the ego. I like to think of myself as one of the best cyclists in the sport."
By the time his ride was over, Yoder finished 90 seconds ahead of Bennett in 56:37 -- two minutes faster than Bennett, 2:50 faster than Potts, and 3:07 faster than Reed - renowned non-drafting cyclists all. Adding to his sensational riding is Yoder's small size and modest demeanor that resembles no one so much as the actor who played the self-effacing, 15-year-old Rolling Stone prodigy rock writer Cameron Crowe in the movie Almost Famous.
"I'm a small guy, but I can get aero and motor away for sure," said Yoder, who has decided to forego college and is training and racing triathlon full time. "I love to go hard on the bike. I don't put in a lot of volume into training It just comes naturally. And every race I seem to get faster."
Yoder held his 90-second lead on Bennett for two miles, then surrendered to Potts a few minutes later. "I know I am not in their league on the run, so I tried to bank as much time as I could on the bike," said Yoder. "For now, my 34:41 run was good for me and so was this finish."
Earlier this season, Yoder took a 4th behind Reed and Potts in Miami, 2nd at Columbia where he lost a sprint for the win to Terenzo Bozzone, and 2nd at Philadelphia, where he out split super-cyclist David Thompson on the bike but dropped on the run.
Reed may have been thrown when Yoder went by him on the bike, but got his form back and exacted late race revenge. "I felt so bad on the bike I contemplated quitting," said Reed. "But I just kept going once I started to run with Stuey (Stuart Hayes), we ran together about a mile before I had to stop to fix a blister. When I got going again, I passed Stuart. Then I saw Yoder ahead and put the hammer down and got him for third just before the 6-mile mark."
Reed thought his slightly off form performance -- 6th-best 59:44 bike and third-best 31:55 run -- could be explained by an over-reaching attempt to Life Time Fitness Minneapolis and home town Boulder Peak two weeks ago. "I felt horrible all day today," said Reed. "Trying to o those two races on a weekend wasn't very smart of me. It took a lot out of me."
At the end, Bennett seemed pleased both with his Big Apple Four-Peat and also with his continuing rivalry with Reed and Potts. "Back in the 1980s, they had the Big Four (Mark Allen, Dave Scott , Scott Tinley and Scott Molina). Now I think you have a Big Three right now with Matt Reed, Andy Potts and myself. Between us, there aren’t any better guys in non-drafting triathlon. That's what makes this win so special. I feel very fortunate to beat them."
With Sarah Haskins off in Hamburg, Emma Snowsill anticipating hip surgery and Julie Dibens recovering from a mountain bike training crash, the New York women's field might have seemed a shade sub-par. But Rebeccah Wassner's 1:58:12 finish and 34:36 run would have beaten all recent contenders' overall time and run performances except for the legendary Olympic gold medalist Snowsill.
Wassner, winner at St. Anthony's, Columbia and Philadelphia and a strong runner-up to Mirinda Carfrae at the rugged Rev3 half-Ironman in Connecticut, gave her best performance of the year at New York City, leaving a fine performance by runner-up Becky Lavelle 2:05 behind.
"After six tries, it feels great to finally win my home town race," said Wassner, who shares a Manhattan apartment with her husband. "I must have run in Central Park a million times and I know every twist and turn in the road and it really is a home advantage."
Wassner came out of the water just 5 seconds behind Becky Lavelle and 3 seconds behind Escape From Alcatraz winner Mary Beth Ellis, outran everyone to her bike and opened up an early lead. Wassner was apparently firing on all cylinders after taking fourth, one place behind Lavelle at Life Time Fitness in Minneapolis two weeks prior.
"I led until three-quarters of the way back on the bike," said Wassner. "It was a long downhill section and there was nothing I could do when Becky Lavelle came by. She is one of the best non-drafting triathletes and best cyclists in the world and she's faster on the downhills no matter what I do."
Lavelle was more modest. "Maybe it was my weight on the downhill," said Lavelle. "I used what I had. I have to take advantage."
Behind them,. significant threats Samantha Warriner, the 2008 ITU Olympic distance bronze medalist, and Mary Beth Ellis, the 2008 Ironman 70.3 silver medalist, were taken out of contention by various mishaps. Warriner was riding in close proximity to Ellis and Margaret Shapiro when she was assessed a stop and go penalty for a position foul. Ellis started with a slow leak in her tire which escalated to a full on, disk-damaging flat at the halfway point of the bike.
Lavelle held off Wassner into T2. "I took a bit of a casual transition to regroup for the run," said Wassner. "I felt really strong on the run and passed Becky just as we entered Central Park about Mile One."
"When we got to the park, she was running significantly faster and pretty soon was just gone," said Lavelle, who seemed happy with her second-best 36:46 run and second place finish in 2:00:17. "I had been disappointed with my runs so far this year," said Lavelle. "I got a beautiful new bike to start the year but I just felt there was something wrong with my run. When we looked at it carefully, my new bike had s saddle that one inch further back and my legs could not run as well as I knew I could. Without time to refit my new bike, I just took out my old bike today and it worked."
Margaret Shapiro, coming off twin surgeries for her hip and shoulder last Fall, was thrilled with her third place finish3:04 behind Lavelle. "I really love hilly courses," said Shapiro, the 2005 ITU age group overall world champion. "And I really thought this course was great. Because this was my first time here, I was a little less aggressive than I might have been had I known where the course was going. Now I plan to be back here for sure next year."
Slowtwitch covered this event LIVE and here is the link to our coverage.
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Nautica New York City Triathlon
New York City
July 26, 2009
S 1.5k/ B 40k/ R 10k
1. Greg Bennett (AUS) 1:45:50 - $8,000
2. Andy Potts (Colorado Springs, CO) 1:46:27 - $4,000
3. Matt Reed (Boulder, Colorado) 1:47:43 - $2,000
4. Andrew Yoder (Lancaster PA) 1:47:50 - $1,000
5. Stuart Hayes (GBR) 1:48:02 - $500
1. Rebeccah Wassner (New York NY) 1:58:12 - $8,000
2. Becky Lavelle (Los Gatos CA) 2:00:17 - $4,000
3. Margaret Shapiro (Henderson VA) 2:03:21 - $2,.000
4. Samantha Warriner (NZL) 2:05:32 - $1,000
5. Mary Beth Ellis (Colorado Springs CO) 2:08:28 - $500