Mystery Man Jesse Thomas Wins Avia Wildflower; Cave Wins Women’s Race

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2011 Avia Wildflower Triathlon Photo Gallery

By Courtney Baird


In the men’s race, super swimmers Clayton Fettell—an under-23 ITU short-course Australia national champion—and American Dustin McLarty—who is pro triathlete Sarah McLarty’s brother—exited the water first.

By mile 10 on the bike, Fettell was still in the lead, but he was followed closely by Bjorn Andersson, Joe Umphenour, Gavin Anderson, McLarty and John Dahlz.

Ironman champion and super cyclist Jordan Rapp moved his way up into third by mile 26, behind leaders Fettell and Andersson. The chase pack included Dan Hugo, James Cunnama, Matt Lieto and Joe Umphenour.

Andersson worked his way ahead of Fettell by the end of the bike leg and was first into T2, two minutes ahead of Fettell. But Fettell passed Andersson early into the run and was leading by 10K, with Cunnama, Andersson and Rapp following behind.

While all of this action was happening, a mystery racer—someone who was mislabeled as No. 87 and ignored by race spotters—was making his way into the lead. This man was Jesse Thomas.

Thomas started charging hard out of T2 and began passing the leaders. Before the race announcers knew what was happening, Thomas had passed everyone and crossed the finish line in approximately 4:03.

Thomas is a former All-American steeplechaser from Stanford University who has been working on his swim and bike. He is married to professional runner and Stanford alum Lauren Fleshman.

Fettell was second and Cunnama came in third.


In the women’s race, Mary Beth Ellis of Boulder, Colo., was the first out of the water. She was closely followed by a group of athletes including Ironman 70.3 world champion Jodie Swallow, former ITU short-course world champion Leanda Cave and Magali Tisseyre.

Cave demonstrated her riding prowess on the bike; she led almost wire to wire into T2. But Mary Beth Ellis, Tenille Hoogland, Samantha Warriner and Magali Tisseyre followed closely behind her during the race’s second leg.

2009 Wildflower champion Virginia Berasategui of Spain slowly worked her way up the ranks during the bike and by mile 46 she was sitting in fifth ahead of Tisseyre and Swallow. She was also fifth into T2 behind Cave, Ellis, Warriner and Hoogland.

Tisseyre moved into third behind Cave and Ellis at the 10K mark of the run.

As the run progressed, Ellis kept inching up on Cave and was only meters behind her as they neared the finish. But Cave held on for the win, missing the course record by just 8 seconds. Ellis finished second.

Men’s final

1. Jesse Thomas

2. Clayton Fettell

3. James Cunnama

4. Matt Lieto

5. Chris Leigh

Women’s final

1. Leanda Cave

2. Mary Beth Ellis

3. Magali Tisseyre

4. Tenille Hoogland

5. Virginia Berasategui

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