ST. PETERSBURG — Jan Frodeno, the gold medal winner from the 2008 Olympics, came from behind on Sunday to win the 30th annual St. Anthony's Triathlon in 1 hour, 45 minutes, seven seconds.
"I think that last piece of cheesecake really helped me on the run," the 32-year-old German said. "I needed that little bit of extra energy."
Frodeno fought off the heat, humidity and a late surge by Ivan Vassiliev, a 29-year-old from Russia who beat Frodeno out of the water but lost his lead during the 40-kilometer bike ride.
"It was a good, honest bike race," said Frodeno who is used to drafting off his competitors on the International Triathlon Union circuit. "I wasn't sure how I was going to feel coming off an hour of all-out riding like that, but luckily, I was able to hold it together in the run."
The 1.5-kilometer swim course, churned up like a washing machine by 15 mph winds, challenged even the pros.
"I've never raced in water so choppy," Frodeno said. "I felt sorry for the age group swimmers."
After the men's and women's pro heats, officials shortened the swim course that parallels St. Petersburg's North Shore Park to approximately 750 yards for the amateurs.
"People always think that when it is rough like this, the good swimmers have an advantage," said 30-year-old Sara McLarty of Clermont, the first woman out of the water. "But we like it flat; when good technique really makes a difference."
McLarty lost her lead to fellow Clermont resident Alicia Kaye, runnerup at last year's race. Kaye caught New Zealander Nicky Samuels on the bike and followed up with a strong run to win in 1:57:10.
"This means so much to me," Kaye, 30, said. "This is always one of the most competitive fields in the world, and to win. … I wanted this so bad."
Josh Amberger, a 24-year-old from Australia, was the first man out of the water. But 29-year-old Cameron Dye from Boulder, Colo., got out ahead on the bike and held off the pack, finishing the leg with a top-10 time of 53:58.
"I was super pleased with my performance," said Dye, who finished seventh overall. "When you have a half-dozen Olympians chasing you down, you are happy just to hang in there as long as you can."
Frodeno, one of the best runners in the sport, held off Vassiliev during the 10-kilometer run. Vassiliev had a faster split, but his time of 31:11 wasn't enough to overtake Frodeno.
"I felt great," said Vassiliev, who was racing with 24-year-old brother Denis. "The heat didn't bother me at all."
Hunter Kemper, a four-time Olympian originally from Longwood, finished third in 1:47:35.
"I'm still having trouble with a calf injury," said the 37-year-old who now lives in Colorado Springs. "I had to pretty much slow to a jog for the last mile on the run."
Kemper, a perennial St. Anthony's competitor, got his triathlon start racing in the Meek & Mighty as a youth.
"I just love it here," he said. "I will always keep coming back."
Security was tight in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, and the triathlon went off without incident.
"Disgusting,'' Frodeno said of the blast that killed three and injured about 260.
"Sport is what brings us all together. It doesn't matter what race, religion or nationality, when we are out here competing, we are all the same."
Frodeno was kicked in the face during the rough-water swim.
"I hope my nose doesn't look too crooked," he said. "It feels like it is broken."
Samuels didn't mind the swim conditions but found it a little scary at first on the bike course.
"I was out there alone, and there are a lot of turns," the 30-year-old said. "I wasn't quite sure where to go."
Third-place finisher Emma Moffatt of Australia, a country known for its sun and surf, said she found the race enjoyable. She hails from Queensland, a region on the country's east coast that is also known as the "Sunshine State."
"We have a race just like this," Moffatt said. "I feel like I am home here in St. Petersburg."
Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected]