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Misdirection Twists Results in L.A. Triathlon

Bennett takes men's race and Snowsill ends up first among women, but course confusion causes the disqualification of several competitors.

September 11, 2006|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Greg Bennett outlasted fellow Australian Craig Alexander to win the seventh Los Angeles Triathlon. That much was certain Sunday morning.

Not as clear were the results of the trailing athletes in the men's and women's pro divisions, which made up the first waves of the event. A group of competitors in the Olympic-distance race of 55.5 kilometers took a wrong turn late in the 40-kilometer bike leg, the competition's second of three disciplines.

When they reemerged on course, the women had a new leader and many of the remaining competitors had changed places.

Leanda Cave of Britain was the first woman to cross the finish line at Staples Center, but it was already determined that she had missed a turn at 6th Street and Highland Avenue near Hancock Park, causing her to skip about 3 1/2 miles of the bike course. The second woman across the finish line, Emma Snowsill, was quickly declared the winner.

"I knew there was a dogleg in the course, and I just followed that," said Snowsill, who lives in Boulder, Colo. "I just did the course that I knew."

Cave and four other women, which represented half of the women's pro field, were later disqualified for cutting the course. The men who finished eighth through 11th also were disqualified.

"It's really disappointing," Cave said. "Obviously, Emma would have won, and it's not nice to come across the finish line ahead of someone who, rightfully, was going to win."

Cave, 28, said she realized she probably went off course when she was suddenly in front of Snowsill and some top men but was told to keep competing.

"The first half of the run, I was pretty much just going easy and thinking I'm disqualified," she said. "But then the guy in the [pace] car said everyone else has done the same thing, so just race on and we'll sort it out at the end."

Race director Jack Caress said the blame needed to be shared among race officials and competitors, who are expected to scout the course beforehand.

"We have to take some of the responsibility, certainly," Caress said. "But the leaders made the turn, they knew the course."

Cave and a few of the other competitors who made the error complained that there were too few course markings to indicate the turn at 6th and Highland and that course marshals did not seem interested in providing direction.

To make matters more confusing, a group of police escorts they were following also missed the turn.

"We were asking at every intersection, 'Do we turn, do we go straight?' No one was pointing," Cave said. "I've never done this race before, so everything looked completely different to me."

One of the top Americans disqualified in the pro division, David Thompson of St. Paul, Minn., turned in his timing chip at the end of the bike leg and walked back to the finish line, where he nibbled on oatmeal cookies and waited for the winners to cross the line.

"It's a confusing course," Alexander said. "They just needed more cones, more markers, so you knew where you were going. Maybe it's something they can work on for next year."

John Kenny of Atlantic City, N.J., was the first to complete the 1.5-kilometer swim that began the day at Venice Beach. He was followed by Andreas Raelert of Germany and Stephen Hackett of Australia and another group that included Bennett.

Bennett, 34, took the lead during the bike leg as it cut through parts of Hollywood and didn't let up heading into the 10-kilometer run that started just east of Staples Center and traveled through downtown. Bennett won in 1 hour 47 minutes 12 seconds, a 74-second edge over Alexander. Bennett, who finished fourth at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said he made an attempt to pull away during the hilly second half of the bike leg.

"I knew hills were my strength, so I knew I could open a bit more of a gap," said Bennett, whose wife, Laura, is one of the top female triathletes in the world. "I guess I had just over a minute lead, and that means I can kind of run comfortably."

Snowsill, 25, finished in 1:57:23, nearly 10 minutes ahead of second-place finisher Mary Beth Ellis of Boulder. Julie Swail of Irvine, a former U.S. Olympic water polo player, finished third in 2:10.02.

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