ST. PETERSBURG — In a field loaded with superstars, Cameron Dye was a relative unknown. But that didn't stop the 26-year-old from passing several of his mentors Sunday to win the St. Anthony's Triathlon.
"These guys are my idols," Dye said after claiming the biggest victory of his four-year professional triathlon career. "It is an honor to be racing with people like Greg Bennett, Craig Alexander and Matt Reed … to win is just unbelievable."
The Olympic-distance event, one of the fastest in the United States, is the season opener for many professional triathletes and typically draws more than 4,000 athletes from the United States, Europe and Australia.
"Everybody thinks this is a great place to race," said Dye of Boulder, Colo. "It is always fast. … Everything is first class."
The former swimmer for the University of Iowa finished the 1.5K swim four seconds behind California's Dustin McClarty but quickly took the lead on the 40K bike ride.
"The wind was rough but I train in the mountains, so I like a hard bike," he said. "The tougher the ride, the better it is for me."
Boulder is considered a Mecca for triathletes. Four of the top five male finishers have homes there but Dye is the only Boulder native currently competing on the professional triathlon circuit. "I guess you could say that's my claim to fame," he quipped.
That is until Sunday. Now Dye can put a major win on his race resume and deposit $10,000 of prize money in his bank account. Going into the final leg, a 10K run, Dye had a sizeable head start.
"My plan was to just run as hard as I could and not look back," he said. "I didn't see anybody else until the turnaround."
That is when Dye spotted Bennett, 38, an Aussie with a history of chasing down competitors.
"With 1 mile left, my legs started to go," Dye said. "I knew Greg has some wheels, so I started getting a little worried. But when I looked back in the chute and didn't see him, I knew I had won."
Bennett, who had 31:46 split for the 6.2-mile run, was pleased with his effort.
"Us old guys need a bit of a warmup," he joked. "I had a good swim, bike … I just needed a little more time on the run."
Two-time Ironman World Champion Alexander, who is used to much longer distances, said he was hoping to just come out and be competitive in this fast, short-course event.
"A lot of these guys specialize in the shorter races," said the 37-year-old known to his friends as Crowie. "I had the top gear, but I just didn't have the overdrive need for this one."
Former New Zealander Matt Reed, now a member of the U.S. Olympic team, had another disappointing performance. Reed, who won St. Anthony's in 2007 and 2008 but blew out a tire in 2009, finished fifth behind Stuart Hayes.
"I just didn't have it on the bike," said Reed, widely viewed as a dominant cyclist in the sport. "But I'll be back next year."
In the women's ranks, Sarah Haskins, a 29-year-old former elementary school teacher from Colorado Springs, Colo., finished more than a minute ahead of her nearest competitor with a time of 1:58:49.
A standout high school runner and swimmer, Haskins was the first woman out of the water then steadily increased her lead throughout the race.
"I was hoping for a little cooler conditions," said Haskins, who won here in 2008 and sat out 2009 after a foot injury. "The swim was a little choppy and the ride a little windy, but I think that worked in my favor."
Miranda Carfrae, a 29-year-old Australian currently training in Boulder, was third off the bike but made up ground on the run. With 1 mile to go, Carfrae locked American Jillian Petersen in her sights.
"I just tried to relax and not get ahead of myself," said Carfrae, whose 10K time of 34:55 was the fastest run in the female pro ranks. "At that point I just wanted to keep running and not blow up."
Carfrae caught Petersen in the last mile and snatched second place. Petersen, a 27-year-old who swam in the same youth system as Haskins, was nonetheless pleased with her performance.
"Each year I just keep getting better," she said. "I started off my first year in 14th, moved up to fourth last year and now finished third. As long as I keep improving, I am happy."