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More Than 3,000 Are Expected for the L.A. Triathlon

September 07, 2002|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jack Caress wanted to make the L.A. Triathlon the best Olympic-distance triathlon in the nation when he helped stage the inaugural event two years ago.

But the 48-year-old race director wouldn't mind if the event, which consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run, develops into the largest triathlon in the nation along the way.

The L.A. Triathlon was regarded as the third-largest in the world--in terms of entrants--after attracting 2,750 competitors last year. But it figures to move into the No. 2 spot on Sunday morning when more than 3,000 people are expected to take part in the race that begins at Venice Beach and ends at El Pueblo near Olvera Street.

About 7,400 competitors took part in the Mrs. T's Triathlon in Chicago two weeks ago.

The first competitors will plunge into the Pacific Ocean at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, with the elite men's and women's races scheduled to start at 9 and 9:05, respectively.

"We weren't really that surprised with the turnout [1,650 competitors] we had for the first race," Caress said.

"But the fact that the race grew by more than 60% last year did surprise us."

Caress credits the telecasts of the inaugural men's and women's Olympic triathlons in Sydney in 2000 for increasing the participation in the L.A. Triathlon last year. But he also says that Los Angeles is a logical place to hold a triathlon. "If you think of all the people here who run, swim or ride bikes, holding a triathlon makes perfect sense," he said.

For world-class competitors, the L.A. Triathlon has two big things going for it.

First, it awards a large amount of prize money, by triathlon standards.

The winners of the men's and women's races will each get $14,000. The second-place finishers will receive $7,000, with $3,500 going to third, $2,000 to fourth, $1,500 to fifth, $1,000 to sixth, $600 to seventh and $400 to eighth.

Second, competitors are prohibited from drafting during the cycling portion of the race.

"It does have a healthy prize purse," said Simon Lessing, who won five world titles during the 1990s and is competing in his first L.A. Triathlon. "But the non-drafting rule is very appealing. It means you're not allowed to ride in a pack, which makes for a fairer competition. It means that the winner is usually the best triathlete, not just the person who did the best job of conserving energy by riding in the pack."

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