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Race recap: Toronto Triathlon Festival celebrates five years

Credit: Irene Ying
Credit: Irene Ying

— By Chris Willer

The Toronto Triathlon Festival celebrated its fifth anniversary with another excellent execution on Sunday July 10, 2016. The race offered amateur sprint and Olympic distance events as well as the Elite Age Group/Under 23 and Junior Cup draft legal races. With a continued partnership with the venerable triathlon Olympic gold and silver medalist Simon Whitfield on hand, the family-focused “Traffic Redefined” triathlon accomplished its goal – finely running a complicated urban race venue in a safe manner so everyone could enjoy.

The organizers should continue to be lauded for their grand idea of hosting an impressive and growing triathlon in the heart of one of Canada’s most dynamic downtowns. To close off parts of the Lakeshore Boulevard, Gardiner Expressway, and Don Valley Parkway – all major car thoroughfares – for the race remains a major coup for triathletes, sport enthusiasts, and tourism. The majority of weekend car commuters were honking in support of the athletes as they swam in Lake Ontario near Ontario Place and in a similar stretch of the breakwater as to where the recent Pan Am Triathlon was held, riding on the highways on the breathtakingly bike course, and running along the flat Lakeshore Boulevard trail. The weather on race weekend was excellent and while thunderstorms blew through over the weekend, when it was time for racing, there were no clouds in sight on a hot and still day.

The Olympic distance event kicked-started a full morning of racing. Chris Van De Water living up to his namesake, blasted comfortably ahead in the calm and cold waters along the Ontario Place grounds in a time of 18:28 taking a lead of more than 2 minutes on most competitors into the bike course. Andrew Bolton and Daniel Clarke used their impressive sub-1 hour 40km bike skills to come onto the run in the pole positions. Out on the hot and flat 10km run course Bolton held off a faster Clarke and Van De Water to have the three contest the medal placing all accomplishing a sub-2 hour Olympic distance race. Tyler Chuang of Mississauga and Nicholas Kolodzie of Oshawa rounded out the top 5 showing both youth and experience count equally in contesting the victory in our sport.

Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) – Top 5 Men

  1. Andrew Bolton M-Elite 1:55:19
  2. Daniel Clarke M25-29 1:55:56
  3. Chris Van De Water M35-39 1:57:33
  4. Tyler Chuang M20-24 2:04:55
  5. Nicholas Kolodzie M40-44 2:06:16

The women’s race was more of a one athlete event with Kirstie Kniaziew from Leamington coming out of the swim with a couple of minutes on her nearest competitor and then consistently stretching her lead on the bike and the run. She cruised in more than 9 minutes up on Nina Sieh, Jasmin Aggarwal, Sayaka Tiessen, and Lisa Goetze whose times where only about a minute apart from each other. Sieh, Aggarwal, and Tiessen all in their twenties look to have a future as training partners pushing each other to excellent splits. Goetz from Toronto showcased that in the 35-39 age category you can hold onto a lot of speed as you gain endurance.

Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) – Top 5 Women

  1. Kirstie Kniaziew F40-44 2:05:14
  2. Nina Sieh F25-29 2:14:26
  3. Jasmin Aggarwal F20-24 2:15:37
  4. Sayaka Tiessen F25-29 2:16:34
  5. Lisa Goetz F35-39 2:17:22

The Elite Age Group/U23 draft legal Ontario Cup race launched the sprint distance events after the dust had settled from the terrific Olympic distance racing earlier in the morning. All eyes were on Jackson Laundry who has had an amazing season with recent local wins in Welland and Belwood. Myles Zagar outswam him and that few metres held to the finish line with a hard charging and motivated Laundry trying to keep his stellar race season win streak alive. Zagar emerged from the swim 23 seconds up on a small pack including his brother Aiden. Laundry was 51 seconds adrift in the swim from the pace and that margin was too much to run down on the short course. Laundry took some roadway back with the fastest bike split but couldn’t match Myles’ afterburner run that got him to the finish line 36 seconds up on Laundry and 1:10 up on his brother who took the bronze. Smith and Pust sped into the top 5 with Pust taking the crown for the 16-19 year olds.

Elite Age Group/U23 Sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) – Top 5 Men

  1. Myles Zagar M-ELTU23 0:53:27
  2. Jackson Laundry M-ELTU23 0:54:03
  3. Aiden Zagar M-ELTU23 0:54:37
  4. Patrick Smith M-ELTU23 0:54:57
  5. Dylan Pust M16-19 0:56:11

In the women’s drafting race Elise Bolger from Waterdown assumed the swim lead over a pack between 20-50 seconds down. Danae Morris turned in the fastest bike split with 31:14 and then backed that up with a second best run of 19:37 to outstrip her nearest competitor Cate Skain by 21 seconds. Skain ran into second and Madeline Kennedy rounded out the podium on the back of an improving time for each discipline.

Elite Age Group/U23 Sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) – Top 5 Women

  1. Danae Morris F-ELTU23 1:03:42
  2. Cate Skain F16-19 1:04:03
  3. Madeline Kennedy F16-19 1:04:14
  4. Elise Bolger F16-19 1:05:57
  5. Rachel Faulds F-ELTU23 1:06:32

The last race to start was the amateur sprint distance event. The Toronto Triathlon Festival served as the provincial sprint and Olympic distance championships and it was worth waiting for the final athletes of the day as there were still plenty of fireworks and excellent racing for everyone to watch as the morning progressed.

While 53 years young Peter Hodson blasted the swim in a lightening fast time of 10:24 in his wave, Stevie Blankenship came out early with a 10:39 and proceeded to keep the pace high. Anthony Grossi ran out of running real-estate to miss out on the gold by 6 seconds with a run split 1:18 faster than Blankenship. Jacob Campbell of St. Catherines made the final podium spot.

Sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) – Top 5 Men

  1. Stevie Blankenship M20-24 1:02:08
  2. Anthony Grossi M35-39 1:02:16
  3. Jacob Campbell M15-19 1:03:44
  4. John Pulford M25-29 1:03:51
  5. Bryan Cole M20-24 1:04:44

The women’s race was won on a consistent push through all balanced disciplines by Kelly Tessier of Toronto who showed strong form on the bike and acceleration on the run to cross the tape almost a minute ahead of seasoned competitor Kirsty Andrews. Tiffany O’Connor rounded out the top three 11 seconds down of Andrews, making her trip from Vancouver worth while.

Sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) – Top 5 Women

  1. Kelly Tessier F30-34 1:08:48
  2. Kirsty Andrews F40-44 1:09:55
  3. Tiffany O’Connor F25-29 1:10:06
  4. Kate Timms F35-39 1:10:47
  5. Sara Borrens F16-19 1:12:01

Overall, the 5th running of the Toronto Triathlon Festival was a great success with athletes of all calibers enjoying a picturesque and largely congestion free trip up and down the major core highways to offer a unique perspective on one of Canada’s great cityscapes.