After a year’s hiatus due to the drought, Wildflower is back with a bang as Heather Jackson won her 4th WF long course title and Rodolphe Von Berg snapped Jesse Thomas’ streak of six straight Wildflower victories.
In the 35th Wildflower long course event, Jackson combined a 27:54 swim in a happily full Lake San Antonio, a women’s-fastest bike split to lead into T2, and a women’s-best run to finish in 4:34:45 with a 4:21 margin of victory over Carrie Lester of Australia and 11:36 over Robin Pomeroy of the U.S.
Jackson started her day 3:24 behind swim leader Jen Spieldenner and 44 seconds behind Carrie Lester. In a hurry, Jackson passed Lester soon into the bike leg and went past Spieldenner into the lead by Mile 10. While Jackson’s bike and run splits were not recorded accurately, she had a significant lead at T2 after an estimated 2:32 bike split (4 minutes faster than Lester for a 3 minute lead at T2) and ran an estimated 1 hour 30 minutes half marathon for a 4:34:45 race finish.
“I didn’t know my lead at T2, but I didn’t take it easy,” said Jackson. “I was trying it go as hard as I could as if it was Kona or another big race. I just pretended that Daniela [Ryf] or Rinny [Mirinda Carfrae] was behind me.”
Jackson said she had one discouraging moment. “Mile 6 or 7 on the run I was pretty low,” said Jackson. “I felt pretty horrible going up this steep hill. After a mile of just doubting myself, when I got up over the hill ran down into the campground, all of sudden all these people are screaming and cheering your name. So that helped.”
Jackson said she could relax when she saw Lester on the out and back at Mile 10. “I was almost back up to the top and she was starting down into the pit.”
Jackson’s fourth victory (2012-2013-2014-2018) puts her one behind Paul Newby-Fraser’s record five wins on the Wildflower long course.
Jackson said it feels good to have four plaques on the Wildflower steps of champions, just one fewer than Newby-Fraser. “That’s very good company,” said Jackson.
After a record six straight Wildflower victories, Bend, Oregon’s Jesse Thomas finally met his match in 25-year-old Rodolphe Von Berg of Boulder, Colorado.
Von Berg started out with a 23:22 swim split that gave him a 2:01 lead on Thomas. Thomas gained back 8 seconds with a 1:42 transition time. Von Berg increased his lead to 4:52 with a race-best 2:14:53 bike split that was 2:59 better than Thomas’ effort. Thomas gained back 2:33 with a race-best 1:17:11 run split, but fell 2:38 short of maintaining his streak.
Nathan Killam of Canada took 3rd with a 4:11:37 time that was 10:57 back of the winner.
Von Berg, who at 25 years of age is 13 years younger than Thomas, was thrilled to be in the exalted company of Wildflower winners. “I was walking up the stairs where the plaques of the winners are set,” said Von Berg, “and I was looking at all the names: Chris McCormack. Jesse Thomas the last six years. Terenzo Bozzone. Peter Reid. The guys from Boulder - Simon Lessing, Tim DeBoom, Cam Widoff, Wolfgang Dittrich. It is just amazing to think my name will be up there too.”
After edging out six-time defending Wildflower champion Jesse Thomas recently at Oceanside, Von Berg said he was encouraged: “In Oceanside I was 5th and he was 6th. He had a little niggle before Oceanside so he wasn't at his best. I knew for this one he would be fired up. I just tried to get the biggest gap possible on the swim and the bike and then run solid so he could not catch me. That pretty much what happened. I had a 5 minute lead in T2. And then I finished within two minutes of his run split [1:17:11 to 1:19:44].”
Like Jackson, Von Berg wasn’t sure how much of a lead he had starting the run. “I had no idea the gap after T2,” he said. “So I didn’t know if I had just 90 seconds or 5 minutes on Jesse when I started to run. I hadn’t seen anyone the whole bike. But I had no idea how close he was. So I had to run hard and I did for about 10 miles. Then there was an out and back portion at Mile 10 and I saw he wasn't there, so I could enjoy at least the last mile.”
In a Facebook post, Thomas was gracious about the end of his streak and generous with praise for Von Berg: “All good things must come to an end. Proud of my race today & happy to pass the #WildflowerTri torch to a super talented @Rudyvonberg. Honored & proud of what I experienced over 7 years at this event, many awesome memories I’ll never forget.”
Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
Lake San Antonio, California
May 5, 2018
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Heather Jackson, 34 (USA) S 27:54 T1 1:58.9 B N/A T2 1:14 R N/A TOT 4:34:45
2. Carrie Lester (AUS) S 27:10 T1 2:10 B 2:36:12 T2 1:14 R 1:32:18 TOT 4:39:06
3. Robin Pomeroy (USA) S 27:19 T1 2:11 B 2:44:40 T2 1:09 R 1:31:00 TOT 4:46:21
4. Jennifer Spieldenner (USA) S 24:31 T1 2:03 B 2:45:42 T2 1:16 R 1:37:52 TOT 4:51:27
5. Kinsey Laine (USA) S 25:54 T1 2:14 B 2:43:01 T2 1:31 R 1:41:23 TOT 4:54:05
1. Rodolphe Von Berg (USA) S 23:22 T1 1:50 B 2:14:53 T2 00:49 R 1:19:44 TOT 4:00:40
2. Jesse Thomas (USA) S 25:23 T1 1:42 B 2:17:52 T2 1:08 R 1:17:11 TOT 4:03:18
3. Nathan Killam (CAN) S N/A T1 N/A B N/A T2 R N/A TOT 4:11:37
4. Stephen Kilshaw (CAN) S N/A T1 N/A B 2:23:36 T2 00:59 R 1:20:22 TOT 4:13:06
5. Sean Daugherty (USA) S 25:25 T1 1:45 B 2:20:12 T2 1:08 R 1:25:03 TOT 4:13:36