A thick mist hung eerily over Young Lake just after dawn on Sunday morning as dozens of people including spectators, athletes and media gathered on the shore in anticipation of the start of the fifth consecutive Sooke Subaru International Triathlon.
To start the day-long competition was a new event added this year—the “chase,” which featured elite professional athletes competing for $15,000 in cash and prizes in the Olympic distance consisting of a 1500-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike ride and a-five km run.
“In previous years we put the pro race in the half ironman, but we wanted to try and get a little bit tighter racing for the television,” said coach Lance Watson who is also the president of the organizing body LifeSport Coaching.
The event, which Watson also said gives developing athletes from Victoria an opportunity to experience a world class event without having to travel, had the pro women given a 15-minute head start over the men.
Out of the water first was Amanda Stevens, an American ironman champion from Colorado Springs.
“I think having the chase format was really good this year. Just kinda having the guys coming after us and you know that kinda kept me more engaged the whole race and trying to stay out in front,” said Stevens.
And stay in front she did—of the women, anyway. No other woman was able to match her speed for the rest of race and she placed first in her category, 16th overall with a time of two hours, 13 minutes and 48 seconds.
“Yesterday they told us how much (the head start) was, 15 minutes, and I was like this is good. And then Brent came flying by me and I was like huh, why didn’t we have a few more minutes,” said Stevens with a laugh.
Olympian Brent McMahon of Victoria, while not as quick as Stevens in the water, proved to be faster on land. Making up for lost time on the bike, he held a lead against the men and caught up to the cycling women. After transitioning to the run at John Phillips Memorial Park, he never looked back.
“Eventually I caught (Amanda, but) she put the hurt on the other guys,” said McMahon in a victory speech after the race. “I had a lot of fun trying to chase the girls.”
Brent passed Stevens at Whiffin Spit and went on to place first overall in the pro race with a time of 1:54:40. Jeff Symonds from Penticton wasn’t too far back finishing second overall at 1:59:11.
Also new to this year’s triathlon was a different course that featured a bike ride along West Coast Road—a 15 km portion which was closed to traffic until noon—past Jordan River and back.
“There was people at the end of their driveway, they knew they couldn’t get out for the day so they came out with their coffee and they cheered us on. It’s great to have the (town) come out and support it,” said McMahon, who now has the 2012 Summer Games in sights.
“I actually head to Hungary this week for a race on the way to qualifying for London, so this was one good effort before I head off.”
Stevens, who has taken part for the second year in a row, said she enjoyed the revised layout.
“The course is absolutely phenomenal. It’s beautiful out here and it was quite the challenge. If it wasn’t challenging we wouldn’t be out here,” she said. Up next for her is the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
This year’s triathlon drew 40 professionals, the most ever assembled on Vancouver Island, and total participants came from four countries, five provinces and 13 states, according to LifeSport.
Part of the Subaru Western Triathlon Series, the last leg of the tour will be in Banff on Sept. 10.