Michael Raelert came a close third out of the water and took the lead forever within a few miles of the bike on his way to a lonely 6-minute 1-second margin of victory over runner-up Joe Gambles. Julie Dibens took a 1:46 lead after the 61-degree swim in Lake San Antonio and never looked back for a true wire-to-wire statement race that left runner-up Desiree Ficker 7 minutes 9 seconds in her dust.
Michael Raelert finished in 3:55:57 and set the second-fastest Wildflower long course time in history - just 2 minutes 14 seconds slower than Terenzo Bozzone's earth-shattering 2006 mark. Julie Dibens' 4:27:53 performance in Wildflower's chilly waters, daunting hills and rugged trails smashed Samantha McGlone's 2006 course record by 3 minutes 15 seconds.
When the dust had cleared, their vaunted competitors bowed to the overwhelming talent displayed by the two hottest half Ironman racers on the planet.
"Michael Raelert has the most talent of any long course triathlete in the world right now," said Belgium's Rutger Beke, a regular in Kona's top 5 for the last decade, who took 8th Saturday. "I think his swim and his bike is better than Craig Alexander. And with his 1:09 speed at the half marathon, I think he has the potential to outrun everyone in Kona - if he races this year."
Defending Wildflower champion Virginia Berasategui, who bravely fought through the lingering aftermath of painful injuries suffered in a March bike crash to take third, had similarly lofty plans for Dibens. "She will be a contender at Kona," said Berasategui, who finished third at the Ironman World Championship last year. "She will give Chrissie a fight. That will make it interesting for the spectators and be good for the sport. The last two years, Chrissie was gone and the rest of us were fighting for second."
Of the two Wildflower champions, Dibens at age 35 has committed to her Kona debut. Raelert, an admittedly young 30, says he is still on the fence.
"I have to talk to my brother Andreas, my coach" said the ebullient German who looks more like a young 21.
Why? Wouldn't Andreas, who finished third in his Kona debut last year, advise his younger brother to stay away a few years to get his own chance at glory first?
"No no," said Michael Raelert. "He only wants me to avoid getting burned out. I am still very immature, and look only at the very next race. Andreas takes the long view and I trust his judgment. I will decide in the next few weeks."
Dibens' win - and the women she beat - underlined her emergence as a relatively late blooming superstar. Dibens' win comes on a career hot streak that started with her win at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship last November, where she became the first woman to break the 4-hour barrier at the half Ironman distance. The streak continued with a $50,000 win at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March.
Dibens started her day with a 25:26 swim that gave her a 1:46 lead over defending champion Virginia Berasategui of Spain then really poured it on the field. Dibens' race-best 2:30:57 bike gave her an 8:41 lead over Berasategui, 10:32 over off road specialist and three-time XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid of Canada and 10:59 over Ficker, whose career high point was a second place finish at Ironman Hawaii in 2006.
While Ficker, who finished 10th at the 2009 New York City Marathon, ran the women's-best 1:24:47 half marathon run and passed Berasategui and McQuaid, that only whittled Dibens' lead by 3:41.
The same is true of Raelert's fast rising eminence. "There were a lot of great guys in the field and I was quite happy to beat then," said Raelert of competitors who included former long course World Champion, Ironman Hawaii second place finisher and two-time Wildflower runner-up Eneko Llanos of Spain and former ITU long course medalist and two-time $200,000 winner of the Hy-Vee Triathlon Rasmus Henning of Denmark. Llanos finished third in 4:03:34, Great Britain's 21-year-old phenom Philip Graves finished fourth in 4:03:54 and Henning fought off a sore back to finish 5th in 4:05:42.
On race day, he left them all in his wake.
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Avia Wildflower triathlon in pictures
28th Avia Wildflower long course
Lake San Antonio, California
May 1, 2010
Swim 1.2 miles/ Bike 56 miles/ Run 13.1 miles
1. Michael Raelert (GER) 3:55:57
2. Joe Gambles (AUS) 4:01:58
3. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 4:03:34
4. Philip Graves (GBR) 4:03:54
5. Rasmus Henning (DEN) 4:05:42
6. Martin Jensen (DEN) 4:06:43
7. Joe Umphenour (USA) 4:09:22
8. Maik Twelsiek (GER) 4:09:57
9. Kevin Everett (USA) 4:10:50
10. Conrad Stoltz (RSA) 4:13:14
1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 4:27:53
2. Desiree Ficker (USA) 4:35:02
3. Virginia Berasategui (ESP) 4:39:46
4. Magali Tisseyre (CAN) 4:40:04
5. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 4:43:28
6. Haley Cooper (USA) 4:47:24
7. Linsey Corbin (USA) 4:48:32
8. Julia Grant (USA) 4:49:32
9. Amy Marsh (USA) 4:50:06
10. Lesley Paterson (GBR) 4:50:31