Brian Fleischmann and Beijing-bound Julie Ertel swept gold at Saturday's Musselman ITU Triathlon Pan American Cup – the third race in the USAT Haul to the Great Wall Elite Series.
The event served as an excellent opportunity for Ertel, Canadian Kathy Tremblay, and Jarrod Shoemaker to practice before the big races next month. The athletes heading to Beijing joined a field of nearly 50 professionals competing in Geneva, N.Y., on Saturday, July 12.
In the men's race, Shoemaker, 26, of Maynard, Mass, came in second place, bested by Brian Fleischmann, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo. Fleischmann finished the race in 1:51:35, with Shoemaker coming in just 12 seconds behind him.
A strong burst on the bike, and an alliance with another athlete, was the secret to winning, Fleischmann said.
"I knew that Jarrod's been working on his swim, and I wanted to wait the swim out, to make it hard for him," said Fleischmann. "I was able to do that. I got away right from the beginning of the bike, and just put in an attack with Cameron Dye, and we worked real well together. We had him 45 seconds into the bike."
Shoemaker agreed that the beginning of the bike was the deciding factor in the race.
"I had an awesome swim, and then we just kind of let Brian and Cameron off the front for some reason," he said. "No one would really help me try to chase them down, so we ended up with a pack that lost about 15 or 20 seconds each lap."
Fleischmann was enthusiastic about his win.
"A race like this does me justice," he said. "I'm usually in the shadows of Hunter (Kemper) and Andy (Potts), so just for me to come here and show myself how good I really can be, it's a good result for me. This is what will keep me going in the sport for the next few years."
Shoemaker's training partner and current USAT U23 National Champion Ethan Brown finished third.
In the women's race, the Olympians pulled a one-two punch: Ertel, 35, of Irvine, Calif., coming in at 2:04.52, and Tremblay, 26, of Quebec, at 2:07:02. The two left the water in a pack of five athletes, each exiting at times between 20:11 and 20:15; four of the five would remain as one on the bike, finishing within 7 seconds of each other. On the run, however, Ertel quickly pulled ahead of the pack.
"We had a group of four, actually five, of us, on the swim. We got to the bike, and we had three experienced riders and one inexperienced rider, which is good preparation, because you never know who's going to be in the group at Beijing," Ertel said.
"My focus today was just to get off the bike and run as hard as I could, to see how I would feel running hard in the Games," she said. "It worked out pretty well."
Her quickness on the run was especially surprising, since she noted that she'd discovered at the beginning of that portion of the race that she'd forgotten to remove a packet of sunscreen from her shoe. Forced with the prospect of slowing down to remove it – and risking a chance of losing – or continuing on with the offending item underfoot – merely risking some oozing – Ertel chose the latter, completing the race before extracting the packet of Bullfrog at the finish.
Canadian Alicia Kaye – wife of Jarrod Shoemaker – finished third for the women.
Ertel noted that, though she'd planned to use the Musselman as practice for the heat and humidity she expects to face in Beijing, the course was surprisingly comfortable. "It was hot and humid as planned," she said. "But there was a nice breeze off of the lake the whole time, and there was a fair amount of shade on the course."
For Ertel, the chance to race in an ITU event here in the U.S. was a positive experience with a positive outcome. "I like the whole series. I love the idea of the U.S. having a series, especially for draft-legal racing," she said. "That's definitely my preferred style of racing. I do the non-drafting just for good practice, but I love these races."
The women's champion was also excited about the crowd that came out in support of the Musselman triathletes.
"I'm so happy to be on U.S. soil and have Americans cheer me on, cheer on their hometown or home-country athletes," she said.
Hundreds of spectators turned out for the event, said media coordinator C.D. Henderson.
"This kind of event brings a real sense of excitement to the city of Geneva," he said. "The fact that we had three Olympians coming to compete this year certainly just added to the buzz." According to Henderson, a number of local teens came out just to get a glimpse of the same athletes they'll see on television next month. "These three were the talk of the town," he said, noting that race organizers counted a number of young people turning out to watch the race on bikes of their own. "Who knows how many young athletes these professional athletes may have inspired?"
One group which was clearly inspired was the Seneca County 4H Cooperative Extension. A group coordinator and several young people from the organization's Choose Health Initiative – a program designed to decrease childhood obesity through healthy choices – turned out to meet Shoemaker and Ertel at the Musselman ITU press conference, and had a request: would the two film brief public service announcements encouraging young people in Seneca County to choose health? Both did, and in doing so left what will certainly be a lasting impression on young people in the region.
Full results are available here.