Longshot Jesse Thomas, favorite Leanda Cave win Avia Wildflower Long Course
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011
Jesse Thomas, a first year triathlon professional who was the darkest of dark horses against a world class field, shocked the triathlon world with a come-from-behind victory at the classic Wildflower long course triathlon Saturday.
"I can't quite believe I did it," said Thomas, a 2003 Stanford graduate with a school record of 8:35 in the 3000 meter steeplechase who took up triathlon seriously only last year after five years spent as an entrepreneur and an MBA grad student. After passing race leaders Clayton Fettell of Australia and James Cunnama of South Africa in the final two miles, he crossed the line of the 1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1 mile run on the lakes and hills and trails of inland Monterey County in 4 hours 4 minutes and 45 seconds with a 26-seconds margin of victory over Fettell and a 1 minute 14 seconds advantage over third place finisher Cunnama. "It was like a dream today," said Thomas.
Thomas, an admittedly inferior swimmer and work-in-progress on the bike, started the day off with a 17th best swim, then made a moderate surge to 8th ;place after the bike - 6 minutes and 40 seconds back of eventual second place finisher Clayton Fettell, a 24-year-old Australian whose best previous finish was a 5th place at the 2009 Ishigaki World Cup and a similar deficit to South African James Cunnama, who had an Ironman Florida win last year as well as several half Ironman distance victories.
On his way to a race-best 1:13:59 half marathon run, Thomas cut through the first four men ahead with dispatch. By the final run turnaround at Mile 10, which afforded a good look at his competitors, Fettell noticed Thomas was running with good form but kept his focus on the proven competitor Cunnama. "I was focused on catching Fettell, but this guy passed me before I could react," said Cunnama. Thomas roared past Cunnama at Mile 11.5, then took down Fettell at Mile 12. "He came by so fast there was nothing I could do," said Fettell.
"I made a strong move," said Thomas. "In my running days, you go by somebody you crush it. You don't want to give them a thought they can stay with you."
Prior to his victory at Wildflower, Thomas placed 8th at the Boise y 70.3 in 2010, said he "got hammered" racing a few times in Europe (27th at the London Triathlon), took 5th at the recent Kenah Olympic distance triathlon and dropped out of his most recent race at Galveston, Texas.
Leanda Cave, a two time International Triathlon Union World Champion from Great Britain with a long list of long course North American victories to her credit, followed up her second place finishes at Wildflower in 2008 and 2009 with a narrow victory over U.S. star Mary Beth Ellis in the 29th edition of this classic half Iron-distance event.
"This is a race I always wanted to win," said Cave, who had won the shorter Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon several times as well as multiple victories at the Ironman 70..3 distance to go with her 2002 ITU Olympic distance World Championship and ITU long course world title. "This is the one the legends always win. This race will go down in history. It's a great race with a great crowd - one of the best races in the world."
Cave had to overcome the relentless pressure of Ellis, who started the demanding, hilly trail and pavement run 90 seconds down to her British rival. After 9 miles of running even, Ellis started to cut down on the lead ands had Cave just 100 yards away coming to a final steep incline down Beach Hill Road a mile from the finish. "I tried to keep my turnover as fast as possible on that downhill, but my calves and quads were starting to cramp up," said Ellis, the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Championship silver medalist. "I tried to run as fast as I could but Leanda's long legs were better at the end."
Cave finished in 4:27:58, just five seconds short of matching Julie Dibens 2010 course record. The fast finish was a testament to Cave's strength on a day in which head- and side-winds buffeted the riders on much of the bike course. In the end, Cave won the race with her race-best 2:34:20 bike split which was 59 seconds faster than Ellis's mark.
Armed with her lead after the bike, Cave's third-best women's run of 1:25:37b held off Ellis's second-best 1:24:42 run by 7 seconds. And the big lead they both forged on the swim and bike offered enough cushion to keep Magali Tisseyre's women's-best 1:23:59 run 4 minutes back in third place.
Avia Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
Lake San Antonio, California
April 30, 2011
S 1.2 mi/ / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Jesse Thomas, (Eugene OR) 4:04:45
2. Clayton Fettell (AUS) 4:05:11
3. James Cunnama (RSA) 4:05:59
4. Matt Lieto (Bend OR) 4:09:05
5. Chris Legh (AUS) 4:09:49
6. Jordan Rapp (Thousand Oaks CA) 4:10:54
6. Nicholas Thompson (Orinda CA) 4:11:07
7. Timothy DeBoom (Boulder CO) 4:12:08
8. Bjorn Andersson (SWE) 4":14:36
9. Dan Hugo (Boulder CO) 4:15:41
10. Gavin Anderson (Louisville CO) 4:17:11
1. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:27:58
2. Mary Beth Ellis (Boulder CO) 4:28:05
3. Magali Tisseyre (CAN) 4:32:06
4. Tenille Hoogland (CAN) 4:36:26
5. Virginia Berasategui (ESP) 4:37:16
6. Samantha Warriner (NZL) 4:39:07
7. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 4:43:50
8. Desiree Ficker (Austin TX) 4:46:03
9. Annie Warner (Nine Mile Falls WA) 4:48:09
10. Julia Grant (NZL) 4:51:15