Sarah Haskins wins Chicago Triathlon
Julie Dibens had bandages on her left elbow and knee, bloody scrapes on her left shoulder blade and a bicycle with the handlebar snapped at the left-hand grip as she waited for the rest of the top professional women in Sunday’s Chicago Triathlon.
The 2004 British Olympian beat her rivals to the finish by nearly an hour because she got there in an ambulance after crashing one-fourth of the way into the 24.9-mile bike phase of the event, when she stood second to Sarah Haskins of Colorado Springs.
Haskins, a 2008 U.S. Olympian, did not know what had happened to Dibens until she won the women’s race by 35 seconds over Sarah Groff.
“Julie would have pushed me,” Haskins said. “It would have been a different race.”
Men’s winner Matt Reed of Boulder, Colo., had the same feeling after winning by 57 seconds over Matt Chrabot.
Reed expected fellow U.S. Olympian Andy Potts to be coming after him during the 6.2-mile run. But Potts was long gone, having sustained what he called “mostly superficial wounds” after crashing about eight miles into the bike leg.
In a statement, Potts said he passed out while being treated for road rash and was taken to Northwestern Hospital, where he is recovering.
In theory, cycling crashes should not be a factor among highly skilled elite riders in triathlons that, like Chicago’s, do not allow drafting — especially under dry, sunny conditions like Sunday’s, even given the notoriously bumpy road conditions in Chicago.
But add some 9,000 amateurs who make the Chicago event the world’s largest triathlon, and the mix becomes less stable than it would were the professionals allowed to race alone, as they do in many mass participation triathlons.
Dibens, 34, said she found herself among obviously novice riders while navigating the first bike turnaround. In the second it took to reach for a water bottle, she said, a couple of riders cut in front of her, leaving Dibens with the choice between crashing into a race cone or veering toward vehicle traffic in an attempt to avoid the crash.
“Being among the age-groupers is not an ideal situation,” Dibens said. “It’s still my responsibility to look where I’m going, but it would have been much better to have the road to ourselves.”
Chrabot was just to the right of Potts when that crash occurred as the pros, pushed by strong tailwinds, were moving about 35 m.p.h. Chrabot blamed race organizers for not having a lead car to warn that the elite riders were approaching.
In his statement, Potts said he collided with an age-group rider who had drifted in front of him.
The crash sent Potts skidding on the pavement and broke his bike frame and rear wheel.
Reed thought more could have been done to enforce the idea that the slower riders are supposed to stay out of the right, or fast lane.
He knew something was wrong when he didn’t see Potts at the halfway turnaround on the bike race.
“It gave me peace of mind,” he said. “I had figured as soon as I got off the bike, Andy would be coming after me, because he is a really tough competitor.”
Reed, 33, won the 2008 U.S. Olympic triathlon trials and finished 32nd in the Olympics. Haskins, 28, finished 11th in Beijing and was second in the 2008 world championships.
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