Potts, Wassner top St. Anthony’s

On a blustery day with three foot waves in the Gulf of Mexico, Andy Potts took over the lead for good when Matt Reed flatted at Mile 10 of the bike and Rebeccah Wassner ran down race leader Sara McLarty with half a mile to go to win the elite titles at the 26th edition of the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg Sunday.

The men

Potts, a super swimmer with world class winning credentials in all distances, emerged fourth from the turbulence of Tampa Bay in 18:27, 11 seconds back of pre-race favorite Matt Reed. Coming into the race in top form after a big win at Ironman 70.3 California, Reed pulled out to a 90-second lead over Potts by Mile 10 of the bike. When Reed flatted and withdrew, Potts then blasted to the lead with a second-best 54:28 ride.

“It was about halfway when I passed Matt when he had a flat,” said Potts. “He kinda gave me a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, ‘Oh well. These things happen.’ It was definitely unfortunate because he and I bring out the best in each other. But I wasn't completely upset about him being out, either. He is tough.”

The 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and multiple Escape From Alcatraz winner then polished off a 1:46:33 finish with a race-best 31:38 run that gave him a 1:29 margin of victory over runner-up Terenzo Bozzone of New Zealand, the current Ironman 70.3 World Champion. Stuart Hayes of Great Britain took third, another 43 seconds behind Bozzone.

“I ran pretty well coming off the bike,” said Bozzone. “I could see Andy up the road about 40 seconds and I later got it down to 30 seconds, then he pulled away again. Andy is just a class act. It seems like he had the best swim and bike combination in the race.”

“It’s nice to see I haven’t lost my Olympic distance chops,” said Potts. “The plan is not to. I wanted to break 32 on the run and I did. It’s nice to get a big early season W.”

Mark Van Akkeren of Boulder, Colorado, who had the second-best swim in 17:32, crashed on the bike and did not finish. Van Akkeren, who suffered minor injuries, was treated and released at on-site medical services. Van Akkeren, who suffered minor injuries, was treated and released at on-site medical services.

A clearly disappointed Matty Reed spoke to slowtwitch after the race. "I had great swim, and was feeling good. Took the lead about 2 miles. Started rolling it out and had about 1:30 lead is what they said when I flatted the back wheel (disc)... I kept rolling on it thinking no way, no fricking way, for about 2 miles and it was dead flat, on the rim. So I had no choice but to call it a day. I am super bummed as I love that race, was feeling good and could tell it was going to be a good day with the lead I had," and added "I will be back to St. A’s next year to get that title back, I can promise you that."

The women

McLarty, a super swimmer whose previous best professional finish was a third place at Escape from Alcatraz in 2006, carved out a big lead in choppy seas that forced organizers to cancel the age group swim. McLarty’s women’s best 19:27 swim gave her a 55-second margin over two time ITU Under 23 World Championship silver medalist Jasmine Oeinck (20:22), another second on current Ironman 70,.3 World Champion Joanna Zeiger (20:23), another second on Sarah Groff (20:24) and five more seconds on Wassner (20:29).

After her race-best 1:00:29 bike split, McLarty held a 1:52 lead on Wassner after her 4th-best 1:01:18 bike, and 2:12 on Groff after her 6th-best 1:01:44 bike split.

McLarty, pushing herself to the ultimate on her way to a 9th-best 38:03 10k run, held a 20-seconds lead on Wassner with 1.2 miles to go. Wassner, the two–time defending champion at the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon, winner of last year’s Columbia Triathlon and 4th place finisher at the 2008 City of Los Angeles Triathlon, caught McLarty with half a mile to go and sped on to a race-best 35:38 run split, a 2:00:04 finish and a 21-second margin of victory. Sarah Groff, the USA’s top ranked ITU World Cup Triathlete last year and second place finisher at California Ironman 70.3 last month, pipped McLarty for second just 50 yards from the finish. Groff’s second-best 35:55 run gave her a 2:00:21 finish time, just six seconds in front of McLarty.

“It was hard,” said Wassner. “I came out of the water 5th and I had to pass Jasmine Oeinck and Joanna Zeiger and Sarah Groff on the bike. Once I’d done that, I looked to try to find Sara McLarty. She had a great ride and came into transition two minutes ahead.” Wassner, who had worked hard on her running after the bike with new coach Cliff English, wasn't fazed. “I thought ‘Oh well, it will be a hard run.’ Once I was on the run course I thought if I ran my own pace I’d be able to catch her. But I didn't catch up to her until three-quarters of a mile to go and didn’t leave her until half a mile to go.”

Wassner, who started her pro career at 29, is now 33 and with a clutch sub-36 to win against a tough field can now feel at home competing against the best women Olympic distance triathletes in the world. “It was my biggest win,” she said. “Definitely. A lot of people were surprised I won. But this is my 4th year of racing pro, and I trained hard for it and I feel like I deserve to win. And it feels great to know all the hard work paid off.”

The verdict on the swim

The tough water conditions in St. Pete forced organizers to cancel the swim portion for the age group athletes. The almost 3000 amateurs competed in a duathlon instead. If any of the age groupers felt left out because the pros did the swim, listen to three top pros. They were asked by slowtwitch about the swim conditions and their thoughts on the decision to cancel the swim for the age groupers:

“It was pretty rough out there,” said Bozzone. “I could not sight well and threw up because I swallowed so much salt water. So I struggled in the swim, felt sick on the bike and played catch-up all day.”

“It was smart to cancel the swim for the age groupers,” said McLarty. “It was like swimming in a cheap washing machine that really sucks. It was brutal. Sometimes I felt like I wasn't going anywhere. Going in a straight line was next to impossible. If you’d had an aerial view of my swim, it would have seemed quite crazy, all zigs and zags. When I went around one of the turns, I got tangled up in the buoy rope and could not get out for a while. The lifeguards on paddle boards and kayaks were from Volusia County Beach Patrol in Daytona Beach – I trained with them growing up in DeLand. They could not even launch the kayaks off the beach. Just knowing they could not even get out in the water was scary.”

“Without a doubt it was the right call to cancel the swim for the age groupers,” said Potts. “We pros have experience and training under our belts. But even as a pro, I was very uncomfortable out there. I almost debated whether or not I should keep going. The conditions were serious. The waves were close together and we kinda got hit from right and left and straight ahead. I’m still nauseous even now five hours later because of it.”

St. Anthony’s Triathlon
St. Petersburg, Florida
April 26, 2009
S 1.5k/ B 40k/ R 10k

Unofficial Results

Elite men

1. Andy Potts (USA) 1:46:33 $10,000
2. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 1:48:02 $5,500
3. Stuart Hayes (GBR) 1:48:45 $4,000
4. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 1:49:50 $2,000
5. Andreas Raelert (GER) 1:49:54 $1,500
6. Matt Chrabot (USA) 1:49:57 $1.250
7. Cameron Dye (USA) 1:50:28 $1,000
8. David Thompson (USA) 1:50:33 $750
9. Kevin Collington (USA) 1:51:09 $600
10. Andrew Starykowicz (USA) 1:51:25 $400

DNF: Mark Van Akkeren (bike crash) Matt Reed (flat tire)

Elite women

1. Rebeccah Wassner (USA) 2:00:04 $10,000
2. Sara Groff (USA) 2:00:21 $5,500
3. Sara McLarty (USA) $4,000
4. Jillian Peterson (USA) 2:01:48 $2,000
5. Jasmine Oeinck (USA) 2:01:56 $1,500
6. Joanna Zeiger (USA) 2:02:30 $1,250
7. Dede Griesbauer (USA) 2:03:55 $1,000
8. Bree Wee (USA) 2:04:00 $750
9. Nina Kraft (GER) 2:05:33 $600
10. Tenille Hoogland (CAN) 2:06:06 $400
11. Brooke Davison (USA) 2:06:27
12. Joanna Lawn (NZL) 2:06:32
13. Becky Lavelle (USA) 2:07:04

For more photos of the St. Anthony's Triathlon check out sportzfoto.com