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American Jesse Thomas earned his sixth-straight win, while fellow American Liz Lyles started a streak of her own by defending her 2015 title at the 34th running of the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon.
Thomas managed a 26:14 swim, a 2:18:27 bike, and a race-best 1:17:01 combined run split. Lyles came out of the swim at 29:41, had the fastest bike split for the women at 2:41:13, and backed it up with a combined 1:27:21 run (which also happened to be the fastest in the women’s field).
Race morning offered sunny skies and cool breezes as the elite men lined up to start the day. At 25:16 after the gun went off, Thomas Roos (USA) exited the water followed by Alexander Schilling (DEN) at 25:47. Following these two solo athletes was a pack of eight (including Thomas), all within 10 seconds of each other. By the end of the 2-mile run to transition though, Thomas had taken the lead and began the bike in front.
Out on the bike, course record holder Terrenzo Bozzone (NZL) and Jason Pederson (USA) took the lead from Thomas. Around the 20-mile mark, the three had a 1:30 lead on fourth (American Matt Lieto) and fifth (American Ben Collins). Thomas, finding some extra power in his legs, overtook Bozzone and Pederson to earn the lead before the top of the infamous Nasty Grade and held his lead into T2.
Bozzone caught Thomas heading into T2 and by mile one of the run, he and Thomas were running shoulder to shoulder. Soon though, the 6:40 average pace began to wear on Bozzone and Thomas pulled away to take the victory with nearly a three-minute buffer. Bozzone finished second. Chris Lieferman (USA) took third, followed by Chris Baird (USA) in fourth and Matt Russel (USA) in fifth.
The women’s swim was fairly spread out, with Lauren Goss (USA) and Emily Cocks (USA) exiting the water over two minutes on Laurel Wassner (USA) and nearly three minutes ahead of Lyles. On the bike, the women initially spread out until Cocks and Lyles reached the bottom of Nasty Grade side by side. Here, Lyles pulled away up the grade to build a 1:30 lead over Wassner, while Cocks started to lose some ground. Lyles led the women into T2, with Wassner and Cocks battling for second and third as they exited transition. Out on the course, Lyles only continued to lengthen her lead. At the finish, Lyles enjoyed nearly a six-minute lead over Wassner (4:48:42), thankful to avoid another dramatic sprint finish as she did last year with pro Heather Jackson. Cocks ended up taking third in 4:51:33, and Robin Pomeroy (USA) and Lauren Goss rounded out the top five.
With the drought greatly affecting much of California, Wildflower continues to be a swim, run, bike, run. While many don’t seem to enjoy this type of race at much, two-time winner Liz Lyles claims something different: “I love running as fast as I can that first bit, it’s almost like it’s just a long T1.”
2016 Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
Lake San Antonio, Calif. – April 30, 2016
1.2-mile swim, 2.2-mile run to T1, 56-mile bike, 10.9-mile run
1. Jesse Thomas (USA) 4:05:32
2. Tereno Bozzone (NZL) 4:08:17
3. Chris Leiferman (USA) 4:10:36
4. Chris Baird (USA) 4:11:17
5. Matthew Russell (USA) 4:12:54
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