From the Vail Daily
AVON — The altitude was the x factor as Major League Triathlon racing came to Nottingham Park on Saturday. Nevertheless, the Cleveland Rock & Roll were able to maintain their dominance and come away with a win at 7,500 feet.
The home team at Saturday’s competition was the Colorado Peaks, who finished in second and third in the first two Major League Triathlon events this season. With Vail native John O’Neill as their anchor, the Peaks again found themselves in second on Saturday.
“I thought when I got on the run and I heard my split was 30 seconds off the leader, that maybe I could catch him,” O’Neill said. “They’re just a good team.”
O’Neill said during the second leg of the race, when Cleveland Rock & Roll member Kevin McDowell was penalized 10 seconds for exiting his bike on the wrong side of the bike racks, the Peaks were thinking this might be their chance to finally upset the Rock & Roll.
“The fact that he was able to stand there for 10 seconds, get back in his flow, finish and the team still hold onto the win, it just goes to show you how strong they are,” O’Neill said.
The transitions between swimming, biking and running happened fast, and it was easy to get confused, McDowell said.
“The camera guys were in the middle of the bike path where I was going through,” McDowell said. “I made a decision to go right, and I was wrong, so I got a penalty. During the penalty I was just trying to keep my composure and thinking how much harder I had to go on the next lap.”
The event was broadcasted live on Facebook, part of the spectator friendly effort Major League Triathlon has underwent in an effort to develop a following in their second season.
Venues like Nottingham Park contribute to the spectator friendly nature of the event, as does the unique format employed by Major League Triathlon, which they call a “Super Sprint Mixed Team Relay.” Two male athletes and two female athletes from each of the eight teams complete a 300 meter swim, 4 mile looped bike course and 1 mile run.
The short legs allow for fast racing, with each athlete spending less than 10 minutes in each phase of the competition. The high speeds and small venues combine to give spectators something to see at all times, with individual athletes able to contribute an element of showmanship as well as athletic talent.
On Saturday, Olympian Ben Kanute gave the most crowd-pleasing performance. Bringing his team the Indy Cats into podium position from the back of the pack, Kanute’s mastery of the biking portion of the course showed fans what makes him an athlete to watch in the American triathlon scene.
“This is the coolest place I think we’ve gone so far on the circuit,” Kanute said of Avon. “Just from the interest in the local community, to the way they’ve designed this course. This has been a good event.”
Kanute said the biking portion of the competition was similar to something you might find in a European race.
“This is about as narrow as it gets, as technical as it gets,” he said of the Nottingham Park rec path. “Europe is known for that, they’re streets are always pretty narrow. Every so often you get a race like that in the U.S.”
O’Neill said road bike racing on the Nottingham bike path is similar to single-track racing in mountain biking events.
“When you want to make a pass, you’ve got to tell the person you’re passing,” he said. “So we were pretty vocal out there, we were yelling at each other quite a bit, but that’s racing.”
Major League Triathlon’s 2017 season wraps up Sept. 9 in Cleveland, where the undefeated Rock & Roll will have a home field advantage.
“I think it’s a privilege to get that pressure,” McDowell said. “Everything has been going well, and we just got to carry the momentum that we have into this series.”
The Cleveland event will be held in conjunction with NEOCycle, the largest urban cycling festival in the U.S. The event features Cyclocross, track cycling, a family friendly night ride and more than 50 vendors including food trucks, live music and craft beer.
Visit majorleaguetri.com, for more information.