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Donner Lake triathlon draws 1,200 participants

DARIN OLDE, Sierra Sun

With roughly 3,000 people in attendance this year, the Donner Lake Multi-Event Challenge, held Sunday, July 16, is steadily gaining a reputation as one of the largest international triathlons in the lower 48 states.

“It went great, better than last year,” said Jeannine Henderson, director of marketing for A Change of Pace, the sports marketing and promotions firm that hosts the Donner Lake Challenge. “The event flowed a lot better, we had more people than last year, and no one ate it on the bike course.”

Henderson said that roughly 1,200 people registered for the event this year, and that there were a surprising number of new international team triathlon competitors.

“We had 69 teams in the international team triathlon, which may be a record,” said Henderson.

Perhaps contributing to the success of the event, temperate weather conditions early Sunday morning helped competitors keep cool. Henderson explained that she and her staff had to supply water to circumvent the ongoing water conflict at Donner Lake.

“It was fortunate that it wasn’t really hot. If it had been 80 or 90 degrees, we may have had problems keeping everyone properly hydrated. Culligan is one of our sponsors, so they helped us out by supplying a lot of water. And we were able to fill up 5-gallon containers at Northstar, which was also one of our sponsors.”

The bike course, which began at Donner Lake and climbed Old Highway 40 over the summit to Kingvale and back, is currently undergoing road construction, and added a new twist to the 19th annual triathlon.

Truckee Fire Protection District Captain Gary Botto said that his staff didn’t treat any attendees for dehydration.

“We had an ambulance with a paramedic and an EMT, but there were no transports. I don’t think there were many medical problems at all,” Botto said.

The Results

The course may have changed slightly this year, but in the winner’s circle the song remained the same.

Scott Young, from Reno, finished first overall in the international triathlon with a time of two hours, nine minutes, and 22 seconds. According to Henderson, Young has finished first for the last three consecutive years, and five times overall.

Young was trailed by Brian Lavelle from San Jose by four seconds.

Darrin Rohr from Alamo finished third overall with a time of 2:10:11.

In the women’s overall division Holly Nybo from Portola Valley finished in two hours, 26 minutes, and 51 seconds. Not far behind was Maria Monica from Concord with a time of 2:26:57 and Alison Zamanian from Berkeley at 2:30:27.

In ninth place overall in the women’s division was Truckee local and Tahoe native Shannon Rahlves with a time of 2:39:12. Shannon was the only finisher in the top ten overall who lives in the Tahoe-Truckee area.

Another Truckee local, Richard Clark, age 62, finished first in the international triathlon in the men’s age 60-64 division with a time of 2:50:06. Clark finished just six minutes ahead of second place finisher Jack Wilson, who is also from Truckee.

“There were a couple of good competitors in my age group,” Clark said. “Jack Wilson, who is here December through May, has been a very competitive athlete for six years now. He came in six minutes behind me, and there was another fella just behind him.”

Clark finished the swim after Wilson, but managed to pull ahead during the 40K bike race, despite technical problems.

“I had a few problems with my handlebars; they started moving. And when you’re moving at 40-50 miles per hour downhill that can be very alarming,” Clark said.

Clark mentioned that there were a lot of road patches on the back side of Highway 40, making the course rough, and exacerbating the handlebar dilemma.

“Fortunately, [the handlebars] were fixable on the fly, so it didn’t hurt anything,” he concluded.

In the sprint triathlon, Mark Welsh from San Francisco secured the top spot with a time of 42:48. He beat Scott Witthoff, also from San Francisco, who finished with a time of 43:41 and Don Fonseca from Sacramento who crossed the line with a time of 45:20.

In the women’s sprint triathlon Michelle Deasy, from San Francisco, Erika Leetmae, also from San Francisco, and Cherry Rensch from Reno held down the podium with times of 44:54, 49:06, and 52:35 respectively.

The winners of the international triathlon relay and mixed team relay, along with complete listing of all the competitions, are available from A Change of Pace via their web site at http://www.achangeofpace.com, or by calling 530-757-2021.


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