Back-to-back wins for both
For the second year in a row Gunnison residents Brian Smith and Rebecca Dussault won the USAT Winter Triathlon Nationals in Utah. The win qualifies them for spots on the U.S. team headed to the winter triathlon world championships in Norway in February.
While Dussault had no trouble winning her title, both Mike Kloser and Jay Henry chased Smith for the entire race.
Smith took the lead two minutes into the opening stage, a five-kilometer run on snow and asphalt, but Henry turned up the heat during the second leg of the race, a 10-kilometer bike section.
The course was two laps on the same track that the run happened and athletes were met with fairly choppy conditions on their bikes.
“It had all these craters from the run and it made it quite challenging,” says Smith.
Smith got a scare in the home stretch of the bike portion when he over-shifted his big ring, forcing him off his bike.
Henry managed to cut Smith’s lead down to 30 seconds on the bike portion and looked to reel him in on skis.
“Jay was barreling down on me and I was definitely running scared when I got on skis,” says Smith. “I needed to stay on it and stay on the gas.”
After an admittedly rough start in the first four kilometers of the ski section, Smith dropped the hammer for the final four kilometers to seal the win, coming across in a time of one hour, nine minutes and 32 seconds, a minute ahead of Henry.
“I felt like I had a convincing win,” says Smith. “I really had to put together a good race to beat [Henry].”
Dussault dropped her competition for good during the run. After running neck-and-neck with notoriously fleet-footed Emma Garrard for a while, Garrard post-holed a couple of steps in a row and Dussault took over.
“I just pegged a really high heart rate and kept it the whole race,” says Dussault.
All alone in front of the women’s field, Dussault looked inward to challenge her to maintain her pace.
“It’s hard when you’re out in front alone,” says Dussault. “I just said to myself, ‘Race like you’re at Worlds right here, right now.’”
In addition, Dussault was gunning, as she often does, for the men’s leaders. Though she never quite reeled them in, she ended up in fourth place overall, just three minutes behind Kloser.
While Smith will definitely be headed to Norway to compete in both European winter triathlon championships and the world championships, Dussault remains on the fence as she waits to find out if she’s going to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The U.S. cross-country team was named on Tuesday, January 19, and while Dussault was not picked in the first round, additional members could be named on January 29.
“I have a ticket to Norway but I’ll be changing that if I hear some really, really good news on the 29th,” says Dussault. “Either way, February will be exciting.”