Wildflower Triathlon returns for 35th year

BRADLEY — On the weekend of May 4-6, Wildflower Experience, one of the most historic triathlons in the sport, will return for its 35th year to host several world-class triathletes competing for the championship against one another and the merciless elements surrounding Lake San Antonio.

Racing the original Wildflower Long Course, former mens and womens Wildflower Champions will attempt to conquer one of the toughest courses in triathlon.

For the past six races, professional triathlete, Jesse Thomas of Bend, Ore., has dominated the men’s field and now holds the record for the most Wildflower wins. Thomas will race again on Saturday, May 5, with his eye on an unprecedented seventh championship.  

Thomas will contend with an impressive pro field, which includes Ben Hoffman, who began racing triathlon 12 years ago while living out of his car in the Pacific Northwest. Many other of the elite challengers at Wildflower recently raced against each other in Southern California. Thomas, along with Sean Daugherty, Scott DeFilippis, Robbie Wade, Jim Lubinski, Kennett Peterson and Jesse Vondracek all placed in the top 20. Adding to the men’s powerful lineup is Italy’s Davide Giardini, who clocked the fastest swim and bike split in 2016 promising a hotly contested men’s Elite race at Wildflower.  

These athletes will surely be chased by Nathan Killam, who was 6th at Wildflower in 2016.

“The course is hard and unforgiving, throwing hills and difficult terrain at you when you’re hurting,” said Killam.

The Wildflower Triathlons’ long course race includes a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike leg, and a 13.1-mile run. In 2015 and 2016, the course featured a 1.2-mile swim, a 2.2-mile run, a 56-mile bike leg, and a 10.9-mile paved run in order to adapt to lower water levels in the lake. This year, with water levels high enough to exit the lake at the boat ramp, the 2.2-mile run mid-race will be eliminated, which could perhaps affect strong runners like Thomas, who took advantage of an extra run segment to get the edge on the competition.

The women’s elite field will welcome back Wildflower’s three-time Champion, Heather Jackson who, like Thomas, lives and trains in Bend, Ore. Jackson’s third-place finish in 2016 and fourth-place finish in 2017 marked her as the top American at the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

Jackson will have to contend with a large field of female elites, including Jennifer Spieldenner who finished seventh to Jackson’s fourth in the women’s pro field at the Oceanside 70.3 on April 7. There, Spieldenner bested Jackson by more than three minutes in the 1.2-mile swim leg. Spieldenner is also a strong runner and finished tenth among the elites at last year’s ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championship in Penticton.

Another tough elite who will be gunning for the podium is Australia’s Carrie Lester, who was fourth at Wildflower in 2015 and seventh this year at World Championships. Robin Pomeroy, who was fourth at Wildflower in 2016, is an excellent swimmer and runner who started cycling as a way to cross-trail while suffering femoral stress fractures. These top female triathletes will be joined by Kelly O’Mara, who will be racing in her first Wildflower as an elite, Madi Serpico, who was eighth at Wildflower in 2016, and Amy VanTassel, who was a Wildflower long course age group champ and is a strong ultrarunner.  

“We’re thrilled with the elite competitors joining us this year, and most of them are no strangers to the Wildflower Triathlons — one of the toughest and most beautiful long courses in the world,” said Colleen Bousman, Race Director. “We are confident our amateur competitors will be excited about the prospect of competing on the same course with some of the world’s best triathletes and Wildflower legends. Due to the volume of water in the lake, we’re able to return to our original long course, and that may suit some racers better than previous years’ modified course.”

Many of the elite athletes, like Thomas and Jackson, return because of the unique challenge, but also because of the tradition and close-knit camaraderie of the Wildflower Experience.

Alongside Wildflower’s challenging Long Course triathlon, new partner Motiv Sports hosts a weekend festival of entertainment and celebration for both spectators and athletes. The Wildflower Triathlon is one of the largest racing events in the world that has attracted up to 7,500 athletes and 30,000 spectators.

"When you look at the history of Wildflower, so many of the legends of our sport have raced and won there over the years," says Ironman and USA Triathlon Hall of Fame inductee Bob Babbitt. "Wildflower has a little bit of everything. It's hilly, it's windy, the scenery is amazing, it can be hot, the trails are challenging and the field is always talented and deep. It's so great to have Wildflower back!”

In addition to the Wildflower’s classic Long Course, the three-day triathlon festival also includes an Olympic distance, an Off-road and On-road Sprint Distance triathlon, 5k/10K, trail run, and Stand Up Paddleboard races. In addition to the one of a kind races, the weekend will have something for everyone with yoga, Wildflower Wellness Center, Wine tasting and Firestone Walker Brewery along with a full expo of the latest product trends.

To learn more about these triathlons and festival, visit https://www.wildflowerexperience.com/

2018 Wildflower MEN’S Elite List:

Christopher Bagg

Chris Berg  

Derreck Bernard

Scott Bradley

Fraser Cartmell

Daniel Clarke

James Cook

Sean Daugherty

Scott DeFilippis

Nathan Dressel

Tyler Ems

Davide Giardini

Sean Harrington

Ben Hoffman

James Hotson

Nathan Killam

Stephen Kilshaw

Andrew Langfield

Jose Lomeli

Jim Lubinski

Jesse Moore

Deepak Nagendra

Kennett Peterson

Tim Russell

Kyle Simmons

Paul Stevenson

Jesse Thomas

Rodolphe Vonberg

Jesse Vondracek

Robbie Wade

2018 Wildflower WOMEN’S Elite List:

Anna Buster

Cecelia Davis-Hayes

Laurence Delisle

Nicole Falcaro

Alyssa Godesky

Hannah Grubbs

Heather Jackson

Carly Johann

Kinsey Laine

Carrie Lester

Mackenzie Madison

Leslie Miller

Brittney Oliver

Kelly O’Mara

Kelly O’Neil

Adelaide Perr

Robin Pomeroy

Madi Serpico

Jennifer Spieldenner

Amy VanTassel


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