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Bike Crashes Upset Chicago Triathlon

By Camela Furry in News on Aug 31, 2009 4:20PM

2009_08_31_tri.jpgA pair of Coloradans - Sarah Haskins of Colorado Springs and Mike Reed of Boulder - took the titles at yesterday's 27th annual Chicago Triathlon. Haskins won the women's title by 35 seconds over Sarah Groff and Reed won the men's race by 57 seconds ahead of Matt Chrabot. But despite excellent weather yesterday, the triathlon was marred by crashes in the 24.9 mile cycling phase that cost lead contenders Julie Dibens, a 2004 British Olympian, and U.S. Olympian Andy Potts a shot at winning.

According to the Trib's report, one-fourth of the way through the cycling phase, Dibens was cut off by a couple of amateur riders and subsequently crashed, meaning she arrived at the finish line in an unexpected way: by ambulance. In the crash that cost Potts the men's title, an amateur rider drifted in front of him causing a collision that threw Potts off his bike and skidding onto the pavement. The crash broke Pott's bike frame and rear wheel and he was taken to Northwestern Hospital after passing out while being treated for road rash.

Cycling crashes among elite riders isn't normally an issue, according to the Tribune:

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.

The controversy over inclusion of amateurs in an endurance event has also been brought up before in regards to the Chicago Marathon, particularly in 2007 when hotter-than-usual conditions left inexperienced and veteran runners alike swooning.