Rakita, one of the fifteen pros from Colorado in this race (out of twenty-four), was Lebrun’s last hurdle. Rakita had the best swim (17:57), was the first rider up the big climb that gained 2,000 feet in five miles straight out of the swim, and held the lead until about mile nine before Lebrun made his move.
Where the other riders had a chance was on the downhill, as Lebrun was riding an incredibly light bike (19 lbs) that was meant for climbing, but not so much for descending.
“I pushed on the uphills because my bike is great for climbing but I was cautious on the downhills because the lighter tires are slippery, and I didn’t want to risk a crash. I knew that if I could get out on the run close then I would be in good position.”
Indeed he was, heading out on the run in first but not by much. As Lebrun left transition he could hear the announcers calling in Middaugh, Wealing, and Rakita.
“When I heard they were all right behind me I thought ‘oh no’ because Seth and Josiah are really fast runners, so I went as hard as I could on the first climb (600 feet) so I could be out of sight of those two and hopefully take away some of their motivation. I was running like it was a 5k and not a 10k and so I really suffered on the last climb (also 600 feet) but luckily was able to hold on,” said Lebrun.
Wealing, who is on a racing path that could lead to representing Team USA at the London Olympics, showed that his training is in prime form. Despite going off-course and missing a buoy during the swim that cost him maybe a minute he recovered nicely and was strong all day.
Considering he had the fastest run and finished just 23 seconds behind Lebrun one can only wonder how the race might have played out without the miscue.
Middaugh, meanwhile, who lives just a few minutes down the road from this course and was favored by many to win because he’s had such a strong season (fastest run split and 2nd place finishes in three of the last four races) just didn’t have the power today.
“I really don’t know what happened,” said Middaugh after the race as his two-month old daughter Larsen took a nap on his chest. “It was just one of those days, and I kept pushing and waiting for my legs to kick in and feel strong but it just never happened.”
Rakita, recovering from some knee ailments that have slowed him a bit this season, had his best showing of the year in fourth, and Cody Waite rounded out the top five. The results were similar to last year when Lebrun won, Mike Vine (who did not race today) took second, Middaugh third, Waite fourth and Rakita fifth.
Also of note, ITU long-course road triathlete Justin Hurd finished sixth, Will Kelsay posted his third straight top seven (finishing in seventh place), Dan Hugo (who said he felt stronger today than he did three weeks ago when he was second at the XTERRA East Champs in Richmond, VA) was in contention on the bike but fell to eighth. Age group phenom Jason Michalak, the reigning amateur XTERRA National Champ, finished ninth overall and won the amateur division, and Brad Zoller who lives a stone’s throw from the lake placed tenth.