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Jesse Thomas (USA) got his fifth-straight victory at the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon, while fellow American Liz Lyles passed three-time champion Heather Jackson (USA) in the finish chute to claim her first win at this race.
In the second year for the format of swim, two-mile run, bike, 11-mile run, the unstoppable Wildflower champion Jesse Thomas kept up his streak for a five-peat on the relentlessly hilly course.
Thomas exited the swim about 2:30 off of leaders Davide Giardini and Brian Fleischmann, who came out just over 22 minutes to start their first run of the day through the dried-up San Antonio lake bed where the Wildflower swim used to be held. Thomas made up a few seconds with the fastest “T1 run” and started getting to work on the bike.
By mile 50, Thomas cut in enough time to make the pass and take the lead from Giardini. He rolled into T2 in first thanks to a race-fastest 2:19:18 bike split. Behind the leaders was the second-fastest cyclist of the day—Matt Lieto (2:19:45)—who worked his way in behind his Bend, Ore., training partner during the run to take second place. Chris Leiferman chipped away during the tough trail run to earn the third spot on the podium.
Heather Jackson was also in the multiple-titles defending position at today’s race, with a recent victory at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside solidifying her as the clear favorite. Emily Cocks led the women out of the swim (24:46), and two minutes back was Jackson, who blazed through the T1 two-mile run to get out on the bike course just behind Rachel McBride.
During the ride, McBride and Jackson went to battle, swapping leads throughout the course every few miles. McBride ultimately edged her out into T2 and out onto the run course, where she held her lead until just after mile 9 when Jackson made the pass back. Jackson had her sights closed in on another victory all the way into the finish chute. But behind her, a speedy Liz Lyles was closing in, running a 1:38:31 to Jackson’s 1:45:13. With only a quarter-mile to go, Lyles passed Jackson in the finish chute to break the tape and take her first Wildflower win. Jackson finished second and McBride held her spot for third.
(Note: Jackson crossed the finish line only a few seconds behind Lyles, but results posted on Wildflower’s website and below show a three-minute difference. In response, Wildflower said, “Heather crossed seconds after Lyles, however she collapsed before she hit the timing mat so it didn’t log her course time until she got up and walked over it.”)
Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
Lake San Antonio, Calif. – May 2, 2015
1.2-mile swim, 2.2-mile run, 56-mile bike, 10.9-mile run
1. Jesse Thomas (USA) 4:10:02
2. Matt Lieto (USA) 4:12:21
3. Chris Leiferman (USA) 4:12:58
4. Thomas Gerlach (GER) 4:14:01
5. Derek Garcia (USA) 4:14:31
1. Elizabeth Lyles (USA) 4:32:07
2. Heather Jackson (USA) 4:35:04
3. Rachel McBride (CAN) 4:36:10
4. Carrie Lester (USA) 4:44:09
5. Laurel Wassner (USA) 4:44:44