Julie Ertel and Matt Reed got away from their closest rivals on the run to take the elite titles at the USAT National Championships Saturday in Hagg Lake, Oregon.
Both winners bounced back emphatically from below expectations Olympic performances (Ertel 19th, Reed 32nd) to earn their second elite national titles on a cool final day of summer in the challenging rolling hills in the Pacific Northwest.
Ertel, the USA Triathlon defending champion, 2007 Pan Am Games gold medalist, Tuscaloosa Olympic Trials winner and 2008 Olympian, took her second elite national championship by 10 seconds over 2008 ITU World Championship silver medalist Sarah Haskins.
Sarah Groff of Boulder, Colorado, was 40 seconds back of Ertel in third. As she did in the Olympics and at the Hy-Vee triathlon this year, Laura Bennett was two minutes back of Ertel in fourth, with Chicago and Los Angeles Triathlon winner Becky Lavelle 2:30 back in 5th place.
Ertel and runner-up Sarah Haskins had split in many one-on-one duels before, but Saturday Ertel ran away from her fellow Olympian on the fourth and final run lap on her way to a race-best 37:37 10km.
“I really liked the rolling hills,” said Ertel. “There were no flat sections where anyone can rest.” Ertel said she noticed Haskins fell off the pace on the third run lap, and gapped her rival on the final lap. Sarah Groff, picking up where she left off with a close third place at the second round of the US Olympic Triathlon Trials in Tuscaloosa, ran the third-fastest 10km split on this grinding hard course to take third.
Reed’s win was not so close.
“I kind of lost motivation after the Olympics, but I’ve got a family to support,” Reed told USA Triathlon media after the race. “I won this race in 2004 and I wasn't going to let a chance for another national title go to waste. It was important to show everyone that the Olympics wasn’t how I normally race.”
Reed of Boulder, Colorado fell flat at Beijing after an intense, heroic two months chase around the globe earning the points necessary to earn the US men a third starting slot for the Olympics. Saturday’s redeeming win added to his Tuscaloosa Olympic Trials win in April, a 5th place at the ITU World Championship in June, and early season wins at Miami and St. Anthony’s.
Reed took his second US Elite National title virtually wire to wire, earning a 68-second margin of victory over hard charging Joe Umphenour of Seattle, Washington, whose second-fastest run vaulted the 39-year-old from Seattle, Washington from 5th after the bike to his first elite nationals podium in 12 tries.
While Reed sealed the deal with a 7th fastest 34:56 run on the hilly, strength run, the 6-foot 5-inch star earned most of his winning margin with a two-man bike breakaway with fellow Matt -- Chrabot -- of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I wanted to do the bike part hard and knew we could break it up a bit,” Reed told USA Triathlon media.
“I took off hard straightaway up that first steep hill,” said Reed in a telephone interview. “Actually the only thing I did wrong, when I was jumping on the bike I sat behind the seat and nearly crashed, but I held it together.”
Reed said that in the first lap of the bike, it was a four-man break with Brian Fleischman, Joe Umphenour and Chrabot. “We were all going really hard when Joe and Brian took one turn near the top of the course and Brian got caught in too big a gear and they got dropped. Matt is probably the best biker in the field apart from myself – and I knew we were going to get away. Matt and I didn't wait for them, and they never got back on.”
When the demanding 40 kilometer ride was over, Reed and Chrabot’s 59:49 and 59:51 rides put a little more than a minute and a half over the chase pack.
Reed was full of compliments for Chrabot’s ride and fearless, generous contributions to the breakaway. “Matt rode fantastically hard the whole way,” said Reed. “He could not have been a better partner to ride with. He was super strong and never took any soft turns. The last two laps he was hurting but still rode as hard as he could. In the end, I think it cost him second place. By then we had a big enough lead for him to back off and hold on. But no sense beating himself up – there were 12 guys in the chase pack behind riding super hard and they weren’t just letting us get that big lead.”
On the run, Reed left Chrabot behind and maintained enough speed to hold off his pursuers by more than a minute so he could soak in the crowd and wave an American flag in the finish chute. In perhaps a more dramatic performance, Umphenour’s last-lap run charge at a second-best 34:16 pace passed Under 23 winner Ethan Brown by six seconds for the silver medal. “It’s nice to finally get on the podium at Nationals,” said Umphenour. “I was kind of disappointed I couldn’t go with the front pack on the bike. But maybe sitting in that pack allowed me to catch up.”
Reed’s win was made a little easier when six-time USAT elite champion Hunter Kemper withdrew before the race due to injury and 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Andy Potts also did not start reportedly because he is preparing for Kona. In addition, US Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker dropped out after the swim.
USA Triathlon Nationals
Hagg Lake, Oregon
September 20, 2008
S 1.5k/ B 40k/R 10k
1. Julie Ertel (Irvine CA) 2:05:46
2. Sarah Haskins (Colorado Springs CO) 2:05:57
3. Sarah Groff (Boulder CO) 2:06:26
4. Laura Bennett (Boulder CO) 2:07:51
5. Becky Lavelle (Los Gatos CA) 2:08:19
6. Jasmine Oeinck (Colorado Springs CO) 2:08:59
7. Mary Beth Ellis (Boulder CO) 2:10:17
8. Jillian Peterson (ST. Louis, MO) 2:13:55
9. Rachel McBride (Vancouver Canada) 2:15:05
10. Annie Warner (Nine Mile Fall WA) 2:15:33
1. Matt Reed (Boulder CO) 1:54:30
2. Joe Umphenour (Seattle WA) 1:55:38
3. Ethan Brown (Lowell MA) 1:55:44 *
4. Matt Chrabot (Virginia Beach VA) 1:56:33
5. Brian Fleischmann (Colorado Springs CO) 1:57:02
6. Seth Wealing (Incline Village NV) 1:57:12
7. Tim O’Donnell (Colorado Springs CO) 1:57:16
8. Kevin Collington (Orlando FL) 1:57:29
9. Steve Sexton (Davis CA) 1:57:35
10. Victor Plata (Sacramento CA) 1:57:50
11. Matt Seymour (Honolulu HI) 1:58:21
12. Peter Mallet (Golden CO) 1:58:33
13. Brian Lavelle (Los Gatos CA) 1:58:53
* U23 National Champion