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Triathletes Descend Upon Washington For Inaugural Event

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They only look mild-mannered. Wait until tomorrow! Photo: Delly Carr
They only look mild-mannered. Wait until tomorrow! Photo: Delly Carr

Written by Susan Grant

On Sunday, June 21 the streets of the nation’s capital will be filled with triathletes from across the world as the only North American stop on the eight-city 2009 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU Championship Series slices through town.

People in Washington, D.C. are used to streets being closed as the whirl of the presidential motorcade pushes down Pennsylvania Avenue. This Sunday the black limos will be replaced by tricked out tri bikes as 65 male and 65 female elite athletes race for a chance at part of a $150,000 prize purse and bragging rights as the top finisher in the first ITU race ever held in the state. The D.C. Dextro Energy triathlon is part of eight races across the world, which will culminate in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship in Gold Coast, Australia on Sept. 12.

This weekend’s race has athletes from dozens of different countries, with the strongest showing from U.S. with a grand total of 18 athletes. Olympians Andy Potts, Matt Reed, Laura Bennett, Hunter Kemper, Sarah Haskins and Jarrod Shoemaker will toe the line along with current top-ranked U.S. athlete Sarah Groff and Washington, D.C. native Rebeccah Wassner. Potts, who has been focusing on his long-distance, non-drafting races this year will be making his first ITU race return in Washington this weekend alongside his finish-line sprint buddy Reed.

The top four male finishers at the 2008 Beijing Olympic triathlon whose teeth-clenching sprint for the finish line captivated the world—Germany’s Jan Frodeno, Canada’s Simon Whitfield, New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty and Spain’s Javier Gomez—will do battle against one another this weekend once again. Australia’s Dmitry Polyanski of Russia is currently ranked first in the world championship series standings and he will be one to watch out on the racecourse on Sunday. Brad Kahlefeldt, who narrowly lost to Docherty at the 2009 Tongyeong, Korea ITU World Championship Series, will also be a contender this weekend.

Bennett, who narrowly missed the podium in Beijing last year, is one of the top female contenders in this weekend’s race, along with her fellow U.S. Olympic teammate Haskins. All eyes will be planted on 2008 gold medalist Emma Snowsill of Australia along with bronze-medalist and fellow Aussie teammate Emma Moffatt. Switzerland’s Magali Di Marco Messmer currently leads the Dextro Energy Triathlon female rankings, but Japan’s Juri Ide strong swimming and running skills make her a top female contender this weekend as well.

In addition to the elite Olympic-distance race, Sunday will also feature sprint and Olympic-distance age-group racers. One of the more famous local triathletes on hand will be D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who will be racing alongside 400 other athletes from 34 different countries.

The D.C. racecourse will begin in the Potomac River, often referred to as the “Nation’s River,” which runs for more than 380 miles and grows to more than 11 miles wide before exiting into the Chesapeake Bay. The bike and run courses will follow along the National Mall and will pass by several famous monuments including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol and the White House before finishing along Pennsylvania Avenue.