Pre-race speculation was that this year’s Cayman Triathlon, sponsored by Scott’s Equipment, would be the closest ever.
Defending champion Marius Acker was not going to have things all his own way because Jasper Mikkelsen had improved significantly and Mike Ridsdale was looking good too.
The Olympic distance of swimming 1500 metres then 40 kilometres bike ride and a 10km run from Public Beach was always going to be a massive test of nerves as well as endurance on Sunday morning.
The sprint distance athletes completed half the distance. The organisers were hoping for a record turnout and sure enough they got it. Over 170 competed as individuals and teams.
As expected, Acker was out of the water first but by the end of the cycle stage, Mikkelsen was in front, followed by Acker then Ridsdale.
Acker is an outstanding runner and the two minutes gap on the Dane was never going to be a problem. He overhauled Mikkelsen quickly and cruised home in 2 hours 6 minutes and 20 seconds.
Mikkelsen has had a busy year competing in Ironmans and top level triathlons, the most recent only a couple of weeks ago and fatigue was definitely a factor.
Ridsdale finished strongly too and reined in Mikkelsen to finish second in 2:08:57. A weary Mikkelsen was next in 2:12:05. Paul Tanguy (2:18:26) was fourth then Dean Gaffigan (2:19:53). Sixth was Glen Choma (2:22:07) and Tom Stephens seventh in 2:22:47.
Anthony Smith finished eighth, Jp Henekom ninth and Paul Schreiner tenth.
First Olympic distance woman home was Julie-Anne Pearson in 12th place overall in 2:34:13. Pam Travers was the second woman to finish, in 2:38:50 and 18th place overall. Arwen Lawson was third female home in 22nd place and Gill Comins fourth woman one place behind.
There was a heart-warming story amidst all the cut and thrust of competition too. Two American racers got engaged at the finish line. Saul Zion got down on one knee at the finish line and proposed to Sharon Finkel. She said yes. Aah.
Ray Welds was the fastest sprint distance competitor in 1:11:02, followed by Marius Deysel, then Johan Bjuro and Nick Grieff.
Katie Lambert was fifth overall and first woman to finish in the short distance in 1:19:58 and Lauren Haines sixth.
The Olympic team winners were Revolutions comprising of Lara Butler (swim), Jerome Ameline (cycle) and Russell Coleman (run) who predictably stormed home in 1:55:47.
Second Olympic team were the CI Helicopters; Andrew Smilley, Jerome Begot and Chas Gilbert in 2:05:20 closely followed by Cool Runnings of Seiji Groome, Eugene Bonthuys and Beth Schreader. They were 11 seconds behind.
Fastest sprint team was Llm; Lisa, Laurent Weber and Mike McDonald.
Acker, 38, was thrilled to retain his title. Only pros have beaten him previously.
‘I knew after the first lap of the bike that I had the chance of beating Jasper because he hadn’t caught me,’ he said.
‘Jasper caught me with about 10k to go. Mike Risdale never caught me and on the run I heard what the split was and because I’m doing the Cayman Half Marathon on Sunday I just took it easy because I knew I could catch Jasper which I did after about 3k.
‘Jasper was caught by Mike just after half way on the run. This was my fourth win.
‘I think next year I’ll only do the sprint. I want to gradually get out of triathlons. I love the sport but it’s a lot of training and I want to do other things like kiteboarding, surfing and playing tennis.
‘I think Mike or Jasper will take over the mantle.’
Pearson was pleased with her performance. ‘I can’t really swim strongly so really had to hammer it on the bike to catch up the other girls.
‘I managed to do that and had to chase down Pam on the run. She’s improving and it’s getting more difficult each time.
‘This was my second Cayman Tri. I did it last year but it was really windy and I did loads of things wrong.’
Welds put a lot of hard work into winning the individual sprint. This was his first Cayman Triathlon but fourth since July.
Businessman Welds, 37, owns Aqua Beach Bar and a couple of retail stores downtown. Six months ago he weighed just over 200 pounds and has trimmed to 158 pounds.
He said: ‘I started with the sprint because I knew I could go fast and next year I want to double it up.
‘My sporting background is middle-distance track running. I started with coach Jerry Harper and competed in Cariftas.
‘But I was out of sport for about 10 years and decided to get back in shape. My competitive spirit wouldn’t allow me to do the Olympic event this year because I hadn’t really trained for it but I’ll jump into it next year.’