Pigg, Jones Have an Easy Time of It : Triathlon: Neither is seriously challenged as they breeze to first place in the event at Lake Mission Viejo.


They began the day at the office with unblemished records, and when their shift was over Sunday, their perfection was intact.

Early in the triathlon season, Mike Pigg and Michellie Jones were each four for four on the year, having won every triathlon they entered.

Nothing changed after they covered the 1.5-kilometer, 38K-bike and 10K-run course that made up the Mazda Orange County Performing Arts Center Triathlon at Lake Mission Viejo.

Neither was seriously challenged in the professional race as Pigg, of Arcata, Calif., tore up the men's field and Jones, of Australia, breezed through the elite women.

Pigg, who was fourth here last year, grinned from ear to ear and pumped his arms in the air as he approached the finish line, where he was clocked in one hour 46 minutes .09 seconds.

"I was at the top of my game today," Pigg said.

Irvine native Andy Carlson, now of Boulder, Colo., was second in 1:47.36, and he couldn't have agreed more.

Carlson was included in a tight pack that exited the man-made lake together. When the leaders saw that Pigg--not the strongest of swimmers--was among them, it was not a comforting sight.

"It was shocking for a lot of us to see him there," Carlson said. "If guys who are stronger on the bike see you coming out of the water, they know he'll pick up time on you."

Which is what Pigg did. The two-time American triathlete of the year extended a 20-second lead on the first of five 4.9-mile loops to 50 seconds on the fourth.

By the time they made the transition to the run, Pigg's lead was 1 minute 36 seconds. Still, he wasn't comfortable with the distance between him and Carlson.

"There was a lot on the line, I didn't want to smile too early," said Pigg, who attributed his victory to balance. "You have to prove you're good in all three. That's what it takes to win these things."

Carlson has continued to improve his showing in this event. Two years ago, he finished fourth and he was third in 1992. Sunday, he was happy to be competitive with Pigg.

"When he's at the top of his form, he's the best in the world. I'm just excited to be at his level."

Jones, the runner-up a year ago, was equally delighted as she crossed the finish line in 1:57.09 to thunderous applause. Supporters from San Diego, where Jones trains, lined the course to watch her finish.

East Coast-based Karen Smyers, who won in 1991, was within striking distance of Jones throughout the race, but couldn't close the gap to challenge her in the end.

Jones didn't arrive from Australia until Thursday, and figured jet lag might slow her down. Hardly. She was one of the first out of the water and improved her position from then on.

"I wanted to have a good swim," she said. "It went quite well on everything today."

The criterium format of this triathlon may have great spectator appeal, but it keeps the athletes on their toes, as it's hard to determine where you are in relation to your closest competitor.

Jones was unaware of her position for most of the race. It wasn't until the run, when she knew she was alone in front.

"That's when I realized where everyone was," she said.

It was a disappointing day for the defending champions. Australia's Greg Welch and Canada's Carol Montgomery Roberts, both of whom train in San Diego, weren't on top of their games Sunday.

Welch was in 10th place early in the bike segment when he was penalized a minute for drafting. He finished 12th.

"I was just a bit flat," he said.

Montgomery Roberts was in fourth place during the second cycling loop, before dropping out of the race.

Triathlon Notes

After a fifth-place finish in 1992, Brett Rose of Laguna Beach was the 20th pro finisher Sunday. But Rose, who had brain surgery in November to remove a blood clot, was lucky to be racing at all. He sustained his injuries in a cycling accident, when he wasn't wearing a helmet. Another local, Newport Beach's Darren Wood, didn't finish. . . . Winners received a 1993 Mazda Miata, one of which was parked on the running course, where competitors had to go around the car on the run. It was the second car Mike Pigg has won, but the first he's kept. In 1988, he left a Toyota he had won in the Virgin Islands. . . . The top three American finishers will represent the United States in August at the World Championships in England. Pigg, Andy Carlson and Boulder's Bill Braun qualified as did Karen Smyers, Terry Martin of Cardiff and Denver's Melissa Mantak.

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