City hosts world’s largest triathlon

By JeffGraveline

World-class athletes descended upon the lakefront for the 27th annual Chicago Triathlon on Aug. 30.  More than 9,300 amateur competitors and almost 70 professional triathletes from around the globe swam 1.5 kilometers, biked 40K and then ran 10K. The race was part of the Life Time Fitness Triathlon Series Race to the Toyota Cup.

The race started on the Chicago lakefront at Monroe Harbor, Lake Shore Drive and Balbo Avenue. Starting the race in the cold waters of Lake Michigan, 57 waves of amateur competitors started every four minutes in groups of 80 to 150 people.

“The swim was the hardest part. It was so cold; it was like 60 degrees out there,” said 24-year-old Chicago resident Jessica Urgo.

Urgo, a student at Miami Ad School – Minneapolis, completed the amateur international distance race in 2 hours and 39 minutes.

The first wave of amateur triathletes started at 7:30 a.m. and the final wave hit the water at 10:30 a.m., 45 minutes before the professionals.  Most were happy to complete the race and were waiting at the finish line for the pros.

Matty Reed, a 2008 U.S. Olympic Triathlon team member, started the day tied for 1st place in the overall standings with Andy Potts, a 2004 U.S. Olympic Triathlon team member and 2007 USA Triathlon Triathlete of the year.

Potts set a blistering pace in the water, churning through the choppy waves in just over 15 minutes. As the first professional male triathlete out of the water, Potts earned a $1,000 bonus, but Reed wasn’t far behind.

Sprinting into the transition area several hundred yards north on the lakefront, Potts mounted his bike and rode north on the Lake Shore Drive bike course. Reed was trailing and quickly made up ground on the bike leg of the race.

“My strength is the bike, so I knew I could make up some ground on that,” Reed said.

As Reed pursued his foe and eventually surpassed him, he knew he had to keep his eye out for Potts mounting a comeback. However, that comeback would never happen. Reed, Potts and other professionals are known to go as fast as 30 mph on their bikes. With a 20 m.p.h. tailwind coming from the north, the pros reached speeds of almost 40 m.p.h. on Lake Shore Drive as they headed south. Potts was speeding along when an amateur competitor came into his lane. Potts attempted to pass him, but instead went head-over-handlebars. The crash sent Potts to the hospital for tests and overnight observation.

“I didn’t know what happened to him until I got to the turnaround and I couldn’t see him,” Reed said. “I thought for sure that he’d be there and I didn’t see him through the field. I knew for sure that something had gone wrong; I thought maybe it was a flat.”

Potts’ absence didn’t slow Reed down, though, as he finished the bike course in first place and earned the $1,000 bonus for being the first professional male into the second transition area.

Out of his bike shoes and into his running shoes, Reed began the running portion of the course.

“It gave me a piece of mind [not seeing Potts],” Reed said. “I knew that getting off the bike, Andy will always be there. He’s a really tough competitor.”

Running south down the path, Reed and other competitors ran past Buckingham Fountain, Museum Campus and McCormick Place before reaching the turnaround for the final stretch to the finish.

Reed kept a steady pace during the finalleg of the course and crossed the finish line a full minute ahead of 2nd place finisher Matt Charbot.

The women’s race was won by Sarah Haskins in a time of 1:59:48; both Haskins and Reed received $10,000 for their victorys.

Reed’s win put him in sole possession of first place in the overall Toyota Cup standings with 28,000 points, a full 10,000 points ahead of Potts and Greg Bennett. Haskins’ win put her in third place, within striking distance of first place Becky Lavelle, who was just 5,000 points ahead.

Since amateurs and pros generally run on the same course, the city of Chicago tries to keep an hour separation between them.  Potts wasn’t the only professional to take a spill because of an amateur. Julie Dibens had the same thing happen to her, but her crash was less severe and she wasn’t taken to the hospital.

Dibens crashed while reaching for her water bottle, as several amateurs crossed into the professional lane,  she told the Chicago Tribune after the race.

As the rest of the professional field ran the course, Dibens was at the finish line. Waiting for her fellow competitors.

Having completed the triathlon, 23-year-old Joe Rudy of Chicago took time to reflect back on his race day as he watched the pros finish their race.

“It feels great to compete and finish. That’s why I do [triathlons],” Rudy said.