Tri the Boat met with great weather, hundreds of competitors
Stagecoach — No doubt, the frigid temperatures of Stagecoach Reservoir or the steep hills surrounding the water made triathletes winded Sunday morning and afternoon.
But never mind the rugged terrain for the first-ever Tri the Boat triathlon at Stagecoach State Park — most of the athletes battled their way through the three sections, fighting the urge to gaze at the scenery in what proved to be amazing conditions for the race.
Nearly 250 individuals started and finished the triathlon, 71 completing the Olympic course and 176 finishing the half-Ironman. Event organizor and five-time Ironman champion Heather Gollnick estimated that the vast majority of Sunday’s athletes were out-of-towners, many treading on Routt County triathlon terrain for the first time.
“Everyone was like, ‘It’s so beautiful here in Steamboat,’” Gollnick said. “We have 90 percent of our people who aren’t even from Steamboat. We have people all the way from California and Atlanta and all over.”
Steven Mantell cruised to victory on the Olympic course, posting the best time in each of the swim, cycle and run categories en route to a total time of 2:02:30, more than eight minutes beyond Nick Noone in second place (2:10:57) and Kirk Framke in third (2:16:15).
The top women’s finisher on the Olympic course was Sarah Hilliard, who placed 10th overall — men’s or women’s — with a time of 2:42:49. Deborah Janssen was second in 2:45:47, and Kimberly Ledger was third in 2:55:54.
Forty-three women finished the Olympic triathlon, compared to 28 men.
In the half-Ironman division, 19-year-old Sam Long was the top finisher, winning by nearly four minutes with a time of 4:23:02. Brian Folts was in second in 4:27:28, and Kevin Koch took third in 4:32:17.
On the women’s side, Amy Lichon was the top half-Ironman finisher in 5:09:18, followed by Monica Folts (5:11:26) and Andrea Wilhelm (5:15:58).
“Dang, it was hard,” said Steamboat’s Marietta Roberts, the top women’s finisher in the masters category of the Olympic course. “I told Heather, ‘You picked a good, good ride and run for this race.’ It was very challenging. Of course, it was beautiful, too.”
Gollnick said that including the relay sections, about 330 racers were on the course for the inaugural event, the second of the summer in Steamboat and the first of this magnitude. The challenge, the longtime triathlete said, comes with hosting a race like Tri the Boat in its first year.
But by all accounts, it went about as well as could be expected.
“It was a first-year event, and first-year events are always hard,” Gollnick said. “But it was great.”
Swimmers plunged into the reservoir waters that typically hover in the low 60s this time of year before taking on the bike course that consisted of one loop for Olympic distances and two loops for the half-Ironman.
Much of the bike ride and running sections took place on the steep pitches of Routt County Road 14 southwest of Stagecoach Reservoir, where the Yampa River enters.
“To compare it with the Catamount race (Steamboat Triathlon), this one is five to six times harder,” Roberts said after her race. “Catamount is all river road and back. This one is up, up, up, then down, down, down. It had a lot of rolling hills, but the rolling hills were long and steady.”
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