ST. PETERSBURG — Filip Ospaly came into Sunday's St. Anthony's Triathlon hoping to stay with the pack on the swim and bike, then spring his attack on the run.
"The strategy worked," said Ospaly, a 35-year-old professional from the Czech Republic. "I just turned it on at the end."
Ospaly finished the course, which featured a swim leg that was shortened by 500 meters because of high winds, in 1 hour 41 minutes, 22 seconds. He was just 14 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Matt Reed, the St. Anthony's champion in 2007 and 2008.
"He just ran great," said Reed, who went head-to-head with Ospaly for much of the last half mile. "I knew it was going to be close. … I just couldn't put him away."
Last year's men's champion, Cameron Dye, had a good swim and then took the lead on the bike around the 5-mile mark.
"My background is in swimming, so I just have to try to get out front and stay there," said the 27-year-old from Boulder, Colo. "You have to pretty much go all out and just hope you can hold it."
This Olympic-distance course, with its 1.5-kilometer swim, 40K bike and 10K run, is considered one of the fastest on the professional race circuit, which is why so many elite competitors come to St. Petersburg to kick off the triathlon season.
But Sunday's shortened swim required the triathletes to run a little farther from the swim exit to the bike transition area, which threw some racers off their game.
"It seemed like an extra half mile to get to the bike," Dye said. "But this is triathlon … you never know what to expect."
Many of the top athletes were also looking at St. Anthony's not only as a chance to win part of the $65,000 purse, but also earn qualifying points for the new global 5150 Triathlon Series from the same race organizers who put together the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii.
"This is a big win for me," said Ospaly, a three-time Olympian and former European champion. "I had knew that if I just kept (Dye) in sight, I could finish strong and pull it off."
Ospaly, who finished second at last year's Ironman 70.3 in Clearwater, turned in an impressive 30 minutes, 54 seconds on the 10K run. Reed's split was 31:29.
"I picked up some ground on the bike as soon as we turned around and headed back into the wind," said Reed, a native of New Zealand who now lives in Colorado and races for the U.S. Olympic team. "I had a good run and overall am pleased with my performance. I needed a good race to get my head straight."
In the women's field, Sarah Haskins, who won last year's race, was one of the first out of the water and then established a strong lead on the bike and run, finishing first in 1:52:28.
"It was a great race, as usual," said Haskins, 30, of Colorado Springs. "I love coming here, the city, the race organizers really take good care of us. All the pros just love St. Petersburg."
Haskins, a member of the U.S. Olympic team and the 2009 USA Triathlon athlete of the year, finished 14th in the International Triathlon Union World Championship Series last year. An excellent swimmer, Haskins was hampered by a calf injury for much of last year but won the Chicago Triathlon on Aug. 29.
"She had a phenomenal bike and run," said Sarah Groff, 30, who finished the swim in 11:34, shoulder-to-shoulder with Haskins. "She just pulled away from us on the bike and all we could do was watch her go."
Liz Blatchford, a 31-year-old from Queensland, Australia, finished second in 1:53:07. That was 27 seconds ahead of third-place Groff, from Hanover, N.H.
"I usually race with the IT (International Triathlon Union) where it is legal to draft," Blatchford said. "I did my best to try to hang in there on the bike and then tried to make a move on the run."
Blatchford picked up some ground there.
"The first 5K went great," she said. "But then the second 5K I had nothing left. I just couldn't catch her."