While the new Olympic-length triathlon course at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach passed the test Saturday against some of the sport's best athletes, the competition wasn't as challenging.
Five-time world champion Simon Lessing of Britain took the lead early in the final leg, a 10-kilometer run, and went on to win the first Pacific Coast International Triathlon Union race in 1 hour 51 minutes 39 seconds.
Lessing, 32, who moved to Boulder, Colo., in September, completed the run in 32:30, the fastest time by 46 seconds. Lessing was impressed with some of the course's unique characteristics but didn't care for the conservative strategy used by some of his 42 counterparts.
Lessing said he was hoping a smaller group would break loose from the lead pack of about 11 riders during the draft-legal 40-kilometer bike leg, but everyone seemed content to stay bunched. "You can't [pull away] on your own," he said. "It was frustrating."
Australians Chris Hill and Craig Alexander, both Carlsbad residents, led heading into the run, but Lessing took the lead after approximately 1 1/2 kilometers, said Alexander, who finished second in 1:52.18.
Alexander, a two-time Australian long course champion, said the uphill transition from the 1.5-kilometer swim to the bike leg and the ensuing hilly sections made Crystal Cove one of the most challenging venues he has raced.
"This course is a true test of triathlon," said Alexander.
Hill, ranked second in the world, finished third in 1:52.52.
Australian Michellie Jones, a 2000 Olympic silver medalist, won the women's race in 2:05.17, Maxine Seear of Australia was second in 2:05.31, Becky Gibbs-Lavell of Cupertino was third in 2:06.34 and Julie Swail of Irvine was fourth in 2:07.12.