Sunday, May 13, 2012

STX 2012 Part 2: Hangin' with the Pros

Andy Potts wins it all
Webb: One of the cool things about doing the St. Croix sprint is it affords you the opportunity to meet some of the professional athletes that inspire and/or motivate us. As a sprint competitor you are allowed to be in the transition area during the 70.3 race. After racking our bikes and organizing our transition area, we naturally began forming a tunnel to cheer the pros out of the water. Of course, Andy Potts came out of the water first followed quickly by France's Stephane Poulot. The former high school swimmer and pro cyclist Lance Armstrong came out of the water in third followed by Andres Castillo, Frederik Van Lierde and 2010 STX champ Terenzo Bozzone.

On the women's side former STX Champ Nina Kraft was first out of the water. After her came Mary Beth Ellis, who had one of the better Ironman seasons in 2011, Sara Gross, Angela Naeth and Marie Danais.

With the big winner!
Elle: Of course everyone was straining their necks to see Lance. And everyone was whispering comments when he was having difficulty getting his speed suit off. I have to admit, I'm not a huge Lance fan, but one of my favorite moments of the race was when I was on the sprint bike course, and at one point, flying around the corner and almost right at me, came Lance on his bike on the 70.3 course (they share part of the course). I was on a little Lance high for a couple of miles after that. It's not every race you cross bike paths with a TdF winner.

And since we're on the Lance subject, as I came running into the finish, I could hear the announcer, and was excited to hear him say my name as I crossed, but guess who happened to be finishing his bike leg, arriving to the transition area, ready to steal my thunder? Lance! I thought, "Great, just as I'm making my big finish, everyone is going to be looking the other way." But the announcer seemed to turn back to the little sprint race just in time to mention my name.

It's Terenzo Bozzone!!!
Webb: Yeah, I thought the race director and I were going to share a moment or two. The RD was calling in everyone by name and location. He took the opportunity to dig the as-for-now hapless Red Sox when I came across the line. ("Hey Webb, how about them Red Sox?") That did not bother me. It is common for people to pick on the mighty when they are down and the Red Sox have earned it. But Elle hadn't. I could see her barreling down the home-stretch and the RD was prattling on and on and on about Lance. I actually started my way over to the RD (conveniently located above the finish line) to tell him not to forget about Elle. When I was about 10m from the finishing mat, I heard him shift his focus to Elle. And then so did I.

Watching Andy Potts finish one of the hardest 70.3 races in the world like he just finished a Sunday stroll was pretty amazing. And he was so gracious! Doing all of the interviews, signing autographs, and taking photos with everyone who asked. Terenzo Bozzone and Angela Neath were equally gracious. I was totally impressed with the professionalism of these athletes, and felt proud to be in a sport with them.

Webb: Potts was unbelievable. I guess when you put on that kind of performance (he broke the run record that day, until Andres Castillo came in 4th moments later to break it again) your adrenaline really kicks in. Poulot was not far behind and was whisked away by medics. He looked like he was hurting. Not long after Poulot, Lance came in and also made a quick exit. I heard someone say something about drug tests. I can't be certain but I think it was for both Poulot and Lance. I guess it is tradition in WTC races that the top 3 are drug tested and then random for the rest of the pro field. True or not that seems like a good practice.

With winner, Angela Naeth
Perhaps the coolest part was when Elle met Bozzone after his 5th place finish. It is no wonder everyone likes the guy. He immediately congratulated Potts and then took 10 minutes to cover the next 30 feet so he could shake everyone's hand, take pictures and sign autographs. Elle patiently waited her turn. When she approached him, what does he say to her? He asked her how her race went. And he was totally sincere. 

Angela Naeth should have received a bonus for gutsiest athlete of the day. She is known for being one of the top cyclists in the women's pro field. Apparently she built a decent lead on the bike, but not a comfortable lead. Really though, is there a comfortable lead when Mary Beth Ellis is behind you? She flatted her rear tire at mile 50. She made the decision not to fix the flat and ride the rim the final six miles. She came in to T2 first, then ran a sub 1:20 half-marathon to break the course record. (Naeth is a pretty nifty runner too.) One can only imagine if she had not flatted how much faster her time would have been.

After Naeth came across the line we stole a few minutes with her to get a picture. She was super courteous since it was clear she needed to go to meet with race officials and do an interview as she made her walk. We got the photo, thanked and congratulated her again and hopped on our bikes to return to the house. As we were riding against the runners, of course we saw our good 'ol friend, Karen Smyers on the course. We seem to see her everywhere. I think she owns the most number of wins at STX 70.3. She came in 10th on the day for yet another amazing finish.

At the Awards Banquet
with Mary Beth Ellis
Elle: The real cherry on the top of this incredible racing day was at the Awards Ceremony Banquet where a post-race meal for all the athletes was attended by age-groupers and pros alike (except Lance, who was no where to be seen). And there I was, up at the bar, chatting (flirting) with the one and only Terenzo Bozzone! As I gushed about how amazing I thought he was, he actually said to me, "You're making me blush!" OMG. THAT just happened! We also got to snap a photo with Mary Beth Ellis as she walked by. And then, at the presentation of awards, we happened to be standing right next to Andy Potts and his family, so of course we were chatting them up. Can you believe it? Chatting with the Andy Potts. And his family. Unreal.

Webb: I was a little late catching up with Elle through the throng. I was a little surprise to see her chatting with the Potts, but then again, I wasn't. Anyway, we withstood the endless speeches which seemed to be directed at local journalists and not at the athletes. Finally, they got to the awards presentation and first up was the Women's Sprint Top 5. When they called Elle's name she started her way up the front and Andy Pott's yelled to her, "Yeah! Make it happen!" I think she had a pretty good night flirting with Bozzone and being cheered on by Potts. We'll need to carry that over into training back in Boston.

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