Jesse Thomas and Liz Lyles emerge victorious from 34th edition of iconic triathlon
By Luke Yates
Jesse Thomas and Liz Lyles won the elite long course races at the Wildflower Triathlon at Lake San Antonio this weekend.
For Thomas, this was a remarkable sixth consecutive victory, whilst, Lyles also became a multiple winner of this prestigious event, retaining the title she won in 2015.
“Surreal would be the first word,” said Thomas after the race. “Amazing. Exciting. It’s been a blast. This race means a whole bunch to me.
In the men’s event, most people were predicting the race to come down to a battle between Thomas, 36, from Bend, OR, and Terenzo Bozzone, 31, from New Zealand. Bozzone is the course record holder, set in 2006, and was returning to Lake San Antonio for the first time since 2008.
Thomas Roos, 31, from Palo Alto, was the early leader, completing the 1.2 mile swim in 25 minutes, 16 seconds. Bozzone exited the water just 56 seconds later, with Thomas right on his heels just two seconds further back.
“I had a remarkable swim for me. I came out with those guys (the leading competitors) and I was really psyched with that.” said Thomas.
Thomas immediately made up his time deficit on the 2.2 mile transition run from the swim to the main transition area, meaning he was in the lead heading out on to the extremely hilly, 56 mile bike course. He was soon joined at the front by Bozzone, and Jason Pedersen, 29, of Porter Ranch.
Eventually Pedersen dropped back, leaving Thomas and Bozzone vying for the lead. Bozzone pulled ahead at one point, but Thomas attacked after about 40 miles, on the notorious climb, nasty grade. Bozzone was powerless to respond.
Bozzone did cut into Thomas’ lead heading into the second transition, meaning the reigning champ headed out onto the 10.9 mile run with an advantage of just over a minute.
“Jesse made a move on nasty grade and I thought, ‘Yeah you’re crazy. You can go buddy. I’ll see you on the run.’ But he just kept putting time into me the rest of the race.” said Bozzone.
Thomas wasn’t about to give up his title. He kicked hard as soon as he got out on the run and Bozzone wasn’t able to make up the time. Thomas sprinted home down the finisher chute to take the victory in 4:05:32. Bozzone was less than three minutes behind in second, finishing in 4:08:17.
“Terenzo can run like anyone so I didn’t know what was going to happen.” said Thomas. “It was just a lucky day. I feel very happy, and very thankful for Tri Cal (the race organisers) and everyone here supporting me.”
Chris Leiferman, 30, of Longmont, CO, third in 4:10:36.
Full elite male results can be found here.
In contrast to the men’s race, Lyles, 38, of Reno, NV, dominated the women’s event to retain her title in superb fashion.
The race in 2015 was one of the closest in history, with Lyles edging out reigning three time champion, Heather Jackson, by a matter of seconds.
Jackson wasn’t in the field in 2016, and Lyles used her ability and experience leave her competitors trailing behind.
Lyles was seventh on the swim, but powered through the transition run to move into third place, heading out on the bike. She then took complete control, recording the fastest bike split of the day.
“It was windier than last year, so it made the bike out a little more challenging. But we had some good tail winds that were so fun, just to ride at that speed.” said Lyles.
Laurel Wassner, 41, of New Paltz, NY, was the closest to matching Lyles, but the champion moved further clear with the fastest run of the day to come home in first place with a time of 4:42:17.
“I think I was just challenging myself. I always have this motto, ‘Do the best you can on this day.’ That’s all you can ask for.’” said Lyles. “I was just trying to better my times and myself.”
Wassner came home in second place, more than six minutes behind Lyles, in 4:48:42, with Emily Cocks, 39 of Napa, third in 4:51:33.
Full elite female results can be found here.
Luke Yates is a journalist, focusing on endurance and adventure sports. When not writing, he can often be found training for triathlons or planning his next expedition. His last big adventure was to cycle tour halfway around the world, taking in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.