An athlete usually will rely on strengths to offset weaknesses. That was the case for Mike Pigg Saturday at the Jeep TriPrix at the Oceanside Municipal Pier.
Pigg, the triathlon's best cyclist but not one of its better runners, used his strength to take a 1-minute 32-second lead into the run, the last of the three events, and he was able to hold off Mark Allen of Vista and the rest of a strong field to win in 1 hour 48 minutes.
Pigg earned $6,000. Allen had the day's fastest run time (27:37 for just less than 6 miles), but that just secured his second-place finish (1:48:34) and a $4,000 check.
The case wasn't the same for Joy Hanson, a former All-American runner from the University of Arizona. She couldn't get close enough to eventual winner Paula Newby-Fraser over the swim and the bike portions of the race to catch her in the run.
Newby-Fraser of Encinitas took the lead for good on her second lap of the bike leg and finished in 1:58.34 to collect $6,000. Hanson, of Jeffersonville, Pa., had a run time of 25:50 over an unexpected but official five laps, the fastest by over a minute. She won $4,000 for her second-place finish (1:59.03).
The TriPrix, the first of a four-stop tour with more than $230,000 at stake, was a short-course triathlon contested over a four-block area. It was composed of a 1.2-mile, 2-loop swim; a 24-mile, 9-loop bike ride and a nearly 6-mile, 6-loop run course. The competitors included the finest men's field assembled in California since 1982, including what is termed the "Big Four"--Scott Molina, Scott Tinley, Mark Allen and Dave Scott.
Pigg, who said he would like to see the term changed to the "Big Five," caught a wave in to conclude the second of two grueling swim laps in 65-degree rough water. It allowed him to glide past a number of competitors and emerge as the fifth man out of the water. Three laps into the bike, he passed Rob Mackle and surged to an insurmountable lead.
Pigg said before the event that he needed at least a minute lead after the bike if he was to win. He led Allen by 1:32 and the rest of the field was at least two minutes behind, the closest being Harold Robinson, 2:07 back. The question remained, could Pigg hold off Allen, an excellent runner?
Pigg has been concentrating on his running style of late with the help of Jim Hunt, former Humboldt State University coach. His improvement showed, but he knew Allen was closing in.
"I always know (someone is coming)," said Pigg, 24, from Arcata, Calif. "That's why I'm going so hard in the bike. I've been working on this for two years and things just clicked today."
Pigg, churning vigorously throughout the four-turn bike course, averaged a 12.6 second gain on each of the 9 laps.
"I can't complain," Allen said of his overall time. "The last time I raced him (Pigg), he was 6 minutes ahead. This was (34) seconds. That's pretty good."
Molina of Boulder, Colo., who wasn't among the top 10 out of the water, slowly made his way into the top five through the bike course and turned it on during the run to finish third in 1:50.35. Molina's run time of 28:28 was the second best of the day behind Allen's.
What may have been the key to Newby-Fraser's success was her ability to get through the swim in good shape. She was the fourth woman out of the water in 29:33, well ahead of Hanson and Colleen Cannon.
"I usually don't come out of the water that far ahead of Colleen and Joy," Newby-Fraser said.
She held a 1:25 lead on Cannon after the final transition area with Hanson, Janet Hatfield and Julie Olsen packed not far behind. Hanson passed Cannon on the fourth lap and was gunning for the leader.
"I heard Joy was catching Colleen," Newby-Fraser said. "I figured she would never make up a minute 10 (seconds) over three miles. In a short race like this, 30 seconds is a lead that gets you out of sight. That's what I tried to do, get out of sight."
As for the other two members of the "Big Four," Del Mar resident Scott Tinley placed seventh in 1:52:11. Dave Scott of Davis, Calif., found himself five minutes off the pace after the bike race and decided that was enough. It was only his second event of the year.