ST. PETERSBURG — One week after securing a spot on the U.S. Olympic triathlon team, Matt Reed held off a challenge in the bike portion of the St. Anthony's Triathlon by rival Andy Potts to win for the second year in a row.
"I tried to break him on the bike, but he stuck to me like glue," Reed said of Potts. "He is tough. He always brings his A game."
On the women's side, Sarah Haskins, 27, took first overall.
"The swim was a little choppy," she said. "But I was able to get enough of a lead and hold onto it on the bike."
Conditions were near perfect Sunday for the 25th anniversary of the race that had 4,000 competitors swim, bike and run.
Potts, winner of the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Clearwater, finished the 0.9-mile swim Sunday — the first leg of the triathlon — in 18 minutes, 12 seconds, fastest of the day.
"I didn't think Matt was that close to me on the swim," Potts said. "I got out of the water and saw him right there, and I knew it was on."
He was followed three seconds later by Olympic trials rival Reed, who secured his spot on the U.S. team last week in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"I was right on his heels," said Reed, a native of New Zealand who recently became a U.S. citizen. "We were right there together."
Potts still has a chance to join Reed on the Olympic team. "That is where I am going to focus my energy from here on," he said.
Meanwhile, Cameron Dye, 24, of Boulder, Colo., finished two seconds behind Reed.
Haskins was the first woman out of the water, completing the swim in 19:39. She was followed 57 seconds later by Alicia Kaye, 25, of Maynard, Mass. New York's Rebeccah Wassner and England's Julie Dibens, both 33, came out of water together just five seconds later.
A race can be won or lost in the transition area. The most difficult is "T1," where the athletes shed wet suits and get into cycling gear.
"With the pros, it is a real art," said Matt Moss, an avid triathlete who owns St. Petersburg's Florida Bicycle Sports, a shop that caters to triathletes. "The good ones know how to do two things at once. They slip into their shoes as they are moving and off they go."
Getting in and out of the transition area in less than two minutes is an accomplishment. Potts, 32, was the only one in the 32-man pro field to break a minute in the first transition area.
Reed was the second man out of the water but quickly caught Potts and passed him on the bike. The two traded the lead back and forth several times.
"For 54 minutes, we went at it on the bikes," Potts said. "Either I was ahead, he was ahead, or we were side by side."
During his 2007 win, Reed broke the race wide open on the bike, averaging more than 28 mph for the 40K (24.8 miles).
"That is pretty incredible," said Brian Harrington, a USA Triathlon board member who served as race announcer. "You got to remember, this race course has a lot of turns. To average that kind of speed is phenomenal."
By Mile 20, Reed regained the lead.
On the women's side, Haskins had bought herself enough time on the swim that Wassner, even though faster on the bike, could not chip away at her lead.
By the time for the 10K run (6.2 miles), Reed had established more than a minute lead, and it was unlikely that he would be caught. He took off, and by the time he had crossed Coffee Pot Bayou Bridge and turned down Brightwaters, Reed had lengthened his lead to 100 yards.
At the turnaround, with 3.1 miles left in the race, Reed had a solid 15 second lead.
Reed crossed the finish line at 1:46:34, breaking the magical mark of 1:47 for the second year in a row. Potts finished in 1:46:52 and joined the same elite club whose members include Australian Olympic team member Greg Bennett (2007 — 1:46:30), Rasmus Henning (2006 — 1:46:14) and Hunter Kemper (2006 — 1:46:54).
Bennett said he felt a little tired, having just flown in from Australia on Friday.
"I knew this would be tough, but this is the start of a very long season," he said. "I am just happy to have run a 31 minute 10K."
His fellow Australian, Craig Alexander, the winner of four Ironman 70.3 events last year, finished nearly two minutes later in fourth.
"I had a slow transition," he said. "I couldn't make up that lost time on the bike."
Richie Cunningham of Brookline, Mass., finished fifth, and the University of Florida's Kevin Collington, who took second in the college national championships last weekend in Tuscaloosa, was not far behind.
"I was pretty sore coming into this," said Collington, 24, who finished 14th last year. "I had eight days between races. If it had only been seven, I think I would have been hurting."
For the second year, St. Anthony's had an elite amateur men's division that allowed the best of the age groups to start in their own heat. These are the best of the rest and turn in times not much slower than the pros.
"It is hard to find time to train," said Adam Webber, 26, a police officer from Pennsylvania who, as the top elite amateur, finished 16th overall. "I get put on a swing shift, and it is tough to keep everything balanced."
Eric Bell, 29, a personal trainer from Knoxville, Tenn., finished second in the same division, 21st overall.
"To really be good at this sport, you need time for rest and recovery," Bell said. "If you are out working, you are not resting and recovering."
The third-place amateur, Craig Greenslit, runs a $100-million construction company in Colorado.
"I get up early, squeeze what I can in at lunch," the 38-year-old father of two said. "The only way I can make time for this is to fly in the night before and try to get out the same day as the race."
Terry Tomalin can be reached at (727) 893-8808 or email@example.com.