Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Breaking down the keys to winning the St. Anthony's Triathlon

ST. PETERSBURG — Former Olympian and reigning Ironman 70.3 champion Joanna Zeiger knows you don't have to be the fastest swimmer, biker or runner to win the St. Anthony's Triathlon.

"You have to be strong in all three events," said Zeiger, a 38-year-old world-class triathlete who also happens to have a Ph.D. in genetic epidemiology, the study of genes, the environment and disease. "To finish first, you have to be smart on each leg."

Zeiger, who broke the course record by more than four minutes at the Ironman World Championship 70.3 in November in Clearwater, knows the value of being a well-rounded athlete. She has been an Olympic trial qualifier in three sports: swimming, marathon and triathlon.

"You never know what is going to happen," she said. "You can feel good on the swim and bike, but then you go to run, your legs just won't go. You have to be ready for anything."

The swim

For the average triathlete, the .9-mile open-water swim is usually the most intimidating part.

"For the recreational athletes, the swim can be a real show stopper," said pro Andy Potts, last year's St. Anthony's runnerup. "But when you get to our level, everybody can hold their own."

Potts, a former University of Michigan swimmer and widely considered to be one of the best open-water men in the sport, is usually first out of the water. In the Ironman 70.3 in November, he demolished the record by covering the 1.2-mile swim in 21 minutes, 44 seconds.

"You are not going to win a race on the swim," Potts, 32, of Princeton, N.J., said. "But you can sure lose a race on the swim."

The course on Tampa Bay, like any other open-water venue, can be flat as glass or a churning mass of 4-foot rollers.

"A lot of people just try to survive the swim," he said. "But if you want to make up some time, or build a lead, you do it on the bike. That is where you spend 50 percent of your time."

The bike

The course is flat and fast. The streets can be hot and humid in late April, but if you are a top pro cranking along at 30 mph, the wind will cool you a bit.

"The bike is the longest leg," said Becky Lavelle, a two-time St. Anthony's winner. "A lot can happen out here."

Because drafting (riding too close behind another competitor to get a wind break) is illegal at St. Anthony's, a strong cyclist has a definite advantage on the 24.8-mile course. A competitor who builds a strong lead on the bike portion can also have a psychological advantage.

"You know … out of sight, out of mind," said Lavelle, 34, from Minnetonka, Minn. "You don't want to lose sight of somebody on the bike."

Last fall at the Ironman 70.3 in Clearwater, Lavelle led the pack out of the water and was out in front on the run. But eventual winner Joanna Zeiger never lost visual contact, and when she had the chance to move out in front, she took it.

"So while biking might the longest leg, and you can get an advantage, in the end, it often comes down to the run," Lavelle said.

The run

At 24, Terenzo Bozzone is a relative newcomer to the professional triathlon circuit. But the New Zealander had four junior titles when he set a course record at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Clearwater in November.

"This sport is so competitive," said Bozzone, who competes in his first St. Anthony's competition Sunday. "All the guys can swim, bike and run."

But Bozzone learned quickly that the pro scene has its specialists. "You have guys who are good at the shorter distances, others are better on the longer course," he said.

Last year in Clearwater, Bozzone trailed Andy Potts coming out of the water and could not capture the lead during the biking portion. But he came out of the second transition area first and took off running.

"You try to keep up on the swim, hold your own on the bike, then hope you still have some legs left for the run," he said.

Bozzone and held off several challengers during the run.

"So I guess you can say, in the end, it all does come down to the run," Bozzone said.

Terry Tomalin can be reached at or (727) 893-8808.

fast facts

26th St. Anthony's Triathlon

What: Olympic distance event featuring some of the world's top professionals, and nearly 4,000 amateurs from 18 countries, 45 states and six U.S. territories.

When/where: 6:50 a.m. Sunday; Straub Park/Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg

Distance: 1.5K (.9 mile) swim; 40K (24.8 mile) bike; 10K (6.2 mile) run


Triathlon details

Notables: Defending champion and U.S. Olympic team member Matt Reed; 2007 Ironman 70.3 world champion Andy Potts; 2008 Ironman 70.3 world champions Terenzo Bozzone and Joanna Zeiger; 2005 and 2006 St. Anthony's winner Becky Lavelle; 2007 Ironman 70.3 world champion Mirinda Carfrae.


Schedule: Friday, Sports and Fitness Expo, noon to 7 p.m., Straub Park; Saturday, Meek and Mighty Triathlon, 7:30 a.m., North Shore Pool; Sports and Fitness Expo, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Straub Park; athlete check-in, Vinoy Park

Breaking down the keys to winning the St. Anthony's Triathlon 04/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 1:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct'


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  2. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  3. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  5. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games


    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.