Jesse Thomas won his 6th straight Wildflower long course title and Liz Lyles dominated the women's field on a bright blue sunny day at Lake San Antonio.
Thomas started with a 9th-fastest 26:14 swim, mowed through the field with a 2nd-best 2:18:27 bike split and then polished off his 6-peat with a race-best 1:17:01 run to the finish in 4:05:32, giving him a 2:45 margin of victory over race record holder Terenzo Bozzone and 5:04 over 3rd-place finisher Chris Leiferman.
The win puts Thomas in rare air. With his 6th-straight win of a major triathlon, Thomas can now aim at catching and matching Mark Allen’s 10 straight wins at the Nice International Triathlon.
Lyles opened with a women’s 7th–best 29:41 swim which put her 2:31 behind swim leader Lauren Goss, took the lead with a women's-fastest 2:41:13 bike split and closed with a women’s-best 1:27:21 run to finish in 4:42:17 with a 6:26 margin on runner-up Laurel Wassner and 9:16 on 3rd-place Emily Cocks.
Thomas Roos of Palo Alto led the swim in 25:16 with Jesse Thomas 11th, just 58 seconds later. By the end of the 2 mile run to the transition, Thomas took the lead starting out on the bike leg. In the first 20 miles, Wildflower race record holder Terenzo Bozzone of New Zealand and Jason Pederson of Porter Ranch, California joined Thomas at the front and the trio had a 1:30 lead on Thomas’s fellow Bend, Oregon friend Matt Lieto and Ben Collins of Chicago, Illinois.
Full of energy from his long distance preparations for Ironman Lanzarote, Thomas charged past Bozzone and Pederson to a 90 seconds lead on the two-mile climb up Nasty Grade.
“I hit Nasty Grade as hard as I ever hit it before,” said Thomas. “According to Strava, my times from that turn to the top of Nasty Grade was 45-50 seconds faster than I've ever gone. I was up out of the saddle for a big chunk of that climb and I opened up 90-seconds on Terenzo. But I think he came back the last 5-8 miles.”
On the final 14 miles to T2, Bozzone counter-attacked and cut that lead to under a minute as they started the run.
By Mile 1 of the 11.2-mile run, Bozzone came within 40 seconds of Thomas. “I was feeling pretty flat starting the run,” said Thomas. “Terenzo put in a charge the first couple miles and got within about 40 seconds before we got the trails and hills. Somewhere on the first five miles on the second run I pulled away from him.”
As they charged through the toughest of the Wildflower trails, Thomas found his stride and finished off all challengers with a race-best 1:17:01 [combined] run that brought him home with nearly a 3 minute margin on Bozzone and 5 minutes on Chris Leiferman.
Lauren Goss of Boulder, Colorado and Emily Cocks of Napa, California led the swim in 26:46 and 26:49 respectively, which gained them a 2:11 advantage on Laurel Wassner of New Paltz, New York and 2:55 on defending champ Liz Lyles of Reno, Nevada.
After the swim, Lyles quickly got to work.
“I caught Emily and Lauren on Beach Hill [one mile into the bike course] and just rode behind them for a bit,” said Lyles. “Finally I decided I needed to pick up the pace and I took the lead and never looked back.”
Charging hard on her way to a women's-best 2:41:13 bike split, Lyles arrived at the 41-mile mark at Nasty Grade together with Cocks, while the duo had a 1:30 advantage on Wassner.
“I hammered the bike, said Lyles, “but it was a different feeling because I didn’t have to charge as hard as I did last year to catch Heather [Jackson] and Rachel [McBride] who were lights out bikers."
After Nasty Grade, in the final 14 miles to T2, Cocks faded back to Wassner, who continued her charge to a women’s 2nd-best 2:42:01 bike split. Cocks and Wassner started the run together, a few minutes back of Lyles.
Lyles ran away from her chasers and created an unassailable gap by Mile 7. Last year Lyles won a dramatic come-from behind duel with Rachel McBride and Heather Jackson. Lyles passed McBride with a mile to go and passed Jackson just 200 meters from the line. This year, Lyles could luxuriate in her victory with a 6-minute lead over Wassner and 9 minutes on Cocks.
“I kind of cruised down that last hill this time,” said Lyles. “Last year Heather and I were just annihilating our knees. It was big push last year, but today I didn't want to do anything stupid to jeopardize winning the race and not getting to the finish.”
Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
Lake San Antonio, California
April 30, 2016
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Jesse Thomas (USA) 4:05:32
2. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 4:08:17
3. Chris Leiferman (USA) 4:10:36
4. Chris Baird (USA) 4:11:17
5. Matt Russell (USA) 4:12:54
6. Nathan Killam (CAN) 4:14:15
7. Jason Pederson (USA) 4:15:23
8. Matt Lieto (USA) 4:18:37
9. Maik Twelsiek (GER) 4:19:14
10. Ben Collins (USA) 4:19:50
1. Liz Lyles (USA) 4:42:17
2. Laurel Wassner (USA) 4:48:42
3. Emily Cocks (USA) 4:51:33
4. Robin Pomeroy (USA) 4:57:47
5. Lauren Goss (USA) 4:59:43
6. Alyssa Godesky (USA) 5:04:00
7. Erin Green (USA) 5:05:40
8. Leslie Miller (USA) 5:07:26
9. Jessica Smith (USA) 5:08:14
10. Kelly Kosmo (USA) 5:08:31