ST. PETERSBURG — Defending champion Filip Ospaly didn't worry about the swim or bike legs of Sunday's St. Anthony's Triathlon. The 36-year-old from the Czech Republic is used to coming from behind.
"I always feel strong on the run," he said after winning in a course record of 1 hour, 45 minutes, 50 seconds.
"I've been in this sport for more than 20 years, and the strategy still seems to work."
The triathlon drew the largest pro field in the 29-year history of the event with 84 world-class athletes — some of whom will be headed to the 2012 Olympics in London — racing along St. Petersburg's waterfront.
Ospaly, the 2006 European champion and 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympian, picked off runners one by one during the final leg of the Olympic distance triathlon. He averaged 5:02 per mile over 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) despite the humidity after swimming .9 miles (1.5K) in rough water and biking 24.9 miles (40K) along the blistering blacktop.
"I just got back from Israel and the European championships," said Ospaly, who finished 19th there. "So the heat didn't bother me at all."
Australian Joshua Amberger, 23, was the first man out of the water. He covered the new swim course, which paralleled North Shore beach, in 18:00. Hot on his heels was Cameron Dye, 28, the 2010 St. Anthony's champion from Boulder, Colo.
Amberger, who would finish fourth, got out in front on the bike but soon found himself in a pack with Dye and Ben Collins, 29, of Seattle who delivered the fastest bike time of 53.09. But in the end, it came down to the run.
"I think I went out a little too hard in the first 5K," said Dye, who finished fifth in 1:47:01. "I just couldn't keep them off."
Collins, who graduated from Columbia with a degree in mechanical engineering, finished second, nine seconds behind Ospaly in 1:45:59, which also broke the course record of 1:46:10.
"It is not the first time that Filip has passed me on the run," Collins said. "He's solid."
Collins has his sights set on the Olympic trials May 12 in San Diego.
"This was a good way to get the cobwebs out of my head," he said.
Timothy O'Donnell, 32, of Boulder, who was coming off Ironman 70.3 wins in Puerto Rico on March 18 and Galveston, Texas, on April 1, also broke the record, finishing third in 1:46:04.
"I wish I had a little more real estate to try to make up some time on the run," said O'Donnell, who finished the run in 31:38.
"But there were some great runners out there. This was just an unbelievable field this year."
In the women's race, defending champ Sarah Haskins sailed, finishing in 1:56:55 to shatter the course record by 50 seconds.
"I was out there on the run when people started yelling, 'Sprint! Sprint! You'll break the record,' " she said. "So I sprinted."
This is the fourth St. Anthony's victory in five years for Haskins, 31, of Clermont. She was followed by her training partner, Alicia Kaye, 29, also of Clermont, in 1:59:16.
"If I am going to lose, I don't mind losing to Sarah" Kaye said. "She is such a great athlete and an even better friend."
Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected]