Scott Molina may not have needed a home-course advantage to win Sunday's fourth annual Bud Light San Diego Triathlon in Solana Beach, but it didn't hurt.
Molina, a Del Mar resident, came out of the swim leg in 14th place, two minutes behind the leaders. Four miles into the cycling portion, he had caught them.
"I made up a lot of time on the uphills early in the cycling," said Molina, who has won all five U.S. Triathlon Series events he has entered this summer. "I'm used to the hills because I train here. I know which gears to use. Nothing's overwhelming when you've done it a hundred times."
Molina, 25, covered the triathlon course in 1:53.32. His split times were: 22 minutes 24 seconds in the 1.5-kilometer swim, 56:43 in the 36-K bike ride and 34:25 in the 10-K run.
Scott Tinley, 27, of Del Mar, finished second to Molina. Tinley, fourth after the cycling, finished the 10-K run in 33:35 to complete the overall course in 1:55.03.
Linda Buchanan, 28, of Davis, won the women's competition with a time of 2:07.15. Buchanan was sidelined for nine months recently because of leg injuries.
The competition drew 1,804 entrants, the second-largest field in USTS' four-year history.
Molina and Tinley were both coming off grueling tests the previous weekend, leading some observers to believe they might not have enough endurance left for the San Diego event.
Molina last weekend won the World's Toughest Triathlon in Lake Tahoe in cold, wet weather, setting a course record with a time of 10:28.38. Tinley, meanwhile, won the Cape Cod Ironman in Hyannis, Mass. His 8:21.34 broke the previous Ironman record by almost 18 minutes.
The San Diego triathlon wasn't nearly as taxing in distance--it is considered a short-course event--but the athletes had to swim in powerful surf and the cycling course, which headed east from Solana Beach to Rancho Santa Fe, was hilly.
Molina said he started enjoying himself once he assumed the lead.
"I prefer to be all by myself, or maybe with one or two guys for company," said Molina, who has won 19 of 20 USTA races. "The beginning of the race is a zoo. The start of the bike race is almost dangerous. There are some guys, you just don't get in their way."
And it's also nice to have some hometown fans cheering him on, he said.
"Yeah, it's great to have people yelling for you when you feel bad," he said. "How can I stop or slow down when people are yelling like that?"
While Molina has been winning triathlons steadily for several years, Linda Buchanan's career has been on hold because of stress fractures in her left leg. The sport's dominant woman in 1983, she returned to competition last July and has competed in just three events this summer.
"I'm pleased with how I did," Buchanan said, "and a little disappointed. I always expect a little too much of myself."
Finishing third in the men's competition was Dale Basescu of Encinitas (1:56.01), the leader in the USTS national rankings. Mike Riccitello of Tucson (1:56.13) was fourth, after chasing Molina doggedly from second place for much of the race.
Following Buchanan in the women's standings were Colleen Cannon of Del Mar (2:10.1), Juli Breming of Kirkland, Wash. (2:11.42), and Carolina Heins on Ontario, Canada (2:11.46).