Not even a flat tire on his bike could stop Great Britain's Philip Graves from winning the fourth edition of the Austin Triathlon on Monday.
Despite the tire mishap, which came with more than two miles to go in the 24.8-mile bike leg of the Olympic-distance race, Graves still finished first overall, 1 minute and 21 seconds ahead of Australia's Ritchie Cunningham.
The two men, who now live and train in Austin, scrambled out of Lady Bird Lake in a dead heat after completing the 1,500-meter swim in 17:56. The 21-year-old Graves pushed hard on the bike, leaving Cunningham behind as he completed the first two loops of the downtown course.
As he rode on Cesar Chavez Street, though, Graves blew out his rear tire. Realizing he had no time to perform an on-the-fly repair, Graves covered the last couple of miles on the bike's wheel rim.
" I put my bike in the biggest gear and put all my weight on the front wheel, trying to limit the damage," said the 21-year-old Graves, who last year became the youngest male winner of a major Ironman event with his victory at the Ironman UK in Bolton, England. "I just wanted to get to the run start safely and in one piece."
Not only did he arrive safely to the start of the 10-kilometer run, but Graves' time of 56:08 in the bike leg put him two minutes ahead of Cunningham.
Still, Cunningham is known as one of better runners competing in triathlons, and Graves took nothing for granted.
"He is a much stronger runner than I am so I usually try to get off the bike ahead," Graves said.
Sure enough, Cunningham cover the 10K course in 33:41, but he couldn't make up enough time to catch Graves, whose overall time was 1 hour, 52 minutes and 11 seconds..
"The way Philip hit the bike course — that was pretty impressive. I couldn't respond to that," said Cunningham, whose finishing time was 1:53:32.
A former Austinite, Michael Lavato of Boulder, Colo., placed third in 1:54:43.
In the women's Olympic-distance race, Austinites Kelly Williamson and Desiree Ficker entered the closing run neck and neck. Williamson, who was coming off a victory at the Steelhead 70.3 — a half-Ironman event — in Benton, Mich., on July 31, pulled away in the run to finish first in 2 hours and 25 seconds. Ficker, the defending women's champion, was second, 2 minutes and 9 seconds behind.
Williamson and Ficker both trailed Canada's Tenille Hoogland coming out of the water, but they passed Hoogland during the bike leg.
"Desiree caught me right at the same time we both passed Tenille," said Williamson, "but my biking has been really strong lately so I think that helped me start the run with less fatigue."
Williamson, who will be competing at the 2010 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in October, cruised through the 10K run in 34:55, steadily moving away from Ficker, who clocked a 37:06. She earned $1,200 for her victory, as did Graves.
"I felt a little rough today," said Ficker, who recently returned from a month of racing in Europe, where she won the TriStar111 Triathlon on Aug. 7 in Estonia. "I tried to hang with her as long as possible, but I could tell about a mile into the run that she was the stronger runner today."
Hoogland hung on for third place in 2:05:56 .
Mike Montoya, a middle school teacher in Las Cruces, N.M., won the sprint-distance race designed for aspiring triathletes, finishing in 1 hour, 14 minutes and 53 seconds.
Jessica Waninger, a cross country runner for the University of Texas at Tyler , was first woman to finish the sprint-distance event, posting a time of 1:23:37.