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The 2012 LA Paz PATCO Triathlon Pan American Championships may be the most exotic event of the year.
Manuel Huerta, a professional triathlete from Miami, is not particularly religious. But he has been praying a lot in preparation for his next race — not that he will finish first, but merely that he and his bike will survive the journey to the start.
So far, praying has not sufficed. Huerta’s $5,000 Orbea Orca bike did not make the connecting flight to Buenos Aires from Miami; it arrived a day later than he did, pushing back the last leg of a 26-hour trip. At least his bus did not stall in the summer heat on the bumpy, eight-hour drive past hundreds of miles of cow pastures to La Paz.
A triathlon scheduled for Sunday in the heart of this remote pueblo in northeast Argentina has drawn a stacked professional field. It kicks off the 2012 qualifying season for the Summer Games in London, the fourth Olympics in which the triathlon has been included.
For those used to competing in places like Lake Placid, N.Y.; Hamburg, Germany; and Kona, Hawaii, La Paz may be the most exotic event of the year.
“When I first heard there were piranhas in the river where we swim, I felt a little nervous,” said Huerta, 27, who has competed in La Paz three times. “But people in the town told me they are not actually the dangerous kind.”
Huerta is well known around town. He won the race in 2008. Another top finish this year would help his chances for claiming a spot on the United States Olympic team for the first time.
Read more: Nytimes.com