Great Floridian event beats Wilma

Published October 26, 2005

Clermont race director Fred Sommer says he feels fortunate Saturday's triathlon weekend was completed before Hurricane Wilma arrived.

"Last week, I noticed online that there were these cute photos of the Wilma Flintstone character with a line drawn across her face, like no Wilma was allowed to spoil the Great Floridian," said Sommer, who had 1,200 anxious competitors for an Ironman distance triathlon, a half Ironman and sprint distance event.

Some athletes were worried enough to cancel their flights to Orlando. Those who decided to come to Clermont were rewarded with mild conditions and an overcast sky.

There was another reason to go: the Great Floridian Triathlon had just received USA Triathlon designation as the National Championship in the ultra distance.

"Oh, yea, I'm sure glad my wife, Sue, and I decided to drive here at the last minute," said Naples' Joe Bonness, 50, who won in 9 hours, 56 minutes, 43 seconds.

"We knew the weather was a question, but we came mainly to support this event," Bonness said after winning for a third time. He captured the 2001 and '03 titles. "It's a fun race." On Oct. 15 at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Bonness raced to second place in the 50-54 division. He expects to compete in Ford Ironman Florida on Nov. 5 in Panama City Beach. The women's winner in Clermont was Lisa Purul, 32. Purul, who relocated to Safety Harbor from Santa Rosa Beach, turned in an 11:02:23 performance.

FLORIDA CHALLENGE: The 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run in Clermont was won by Viktor Zyemtsev, 32, of Ukraine in a performance of 4 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. Zyemtsev took the Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene Triathlon crown in June, and he's planning to compete in the Ford Ironman Florida.

The Russian interpreters at the finish line of the Florida Challenge quickly switched to German after top women's finisher Ute Mueckel hit the tape in 4:57:00. The 32-year-old professional has a handful of Ironman wins - including last year's Ford Wisconsin Triathlon, in which her 10:11:22 is the fifth fastest women's time on the course.

Clermont's Kim Grogan, 26, was the second woman in the Florida Challenge with a 4:58:11 showing. Defending champion Christina Noordstar (Team Her Sports) of Tierra Verde placed third (5:05:49). Noordstar, 29, rode through the field chasing Mueckel. "I passed lots of girls on that bike course," Noordstar said. "I think I got off the bike in fourth place, but all of a sudden there was nobody to chase." The area winners were Roberta Klar, 44, Palm Harbor, top Master in 5:23:08; Jennifer Harasz, 35, Tampa, 5:27:38; and Val Tavanese, 40, Belleair, top Athena 40-plus in 8:08:12.

NATIONAL CHAMP: Largo bicycle racer and triathlete Anders Heidemann (Team Outspokin) captured a national title with an 11:28:09 victory in the 45-49 age division. Heidemann, 45, looked fresh at the finish line after becoming the only area athlete to top a division. "It was tough, but it was a good race," said Heidemann, who just returned from training in Maui, Hawaii. FLORIDIAN SUPER SPRINT: The following were among the age-division winners in the inaugural .25-mile swim, 8-mile bike ride and 2-mile run in Clermont:

Allison Schneider, 44, Tampa, 48 minutes, 23 seconds; Patty Allison, 47, Brooksville, 54:35; Eric Leon, 27, Clearwater, 43:38; Bo Webster, 61, Lutz, 48:03; Larry Yost, 75, Treasure Island, 58:18; and Jackie Yost, 77, Treasure Island, 1:17:18. DIABETES CHALLENGE: Suncoast Cycling Club members will play host to the ninth annual ride Nov. 13 at Dunedin Community Center. Proceeds benefit the American Diabetes Association. The event has rides of 33 miles, 62 and a shorter family fun route. Helmets are required, and mountain bikes, hybrids or road cycles may be used. To register, contact 727 781-2925 or www.suncoastcycling.com

SUNCOAST TRIATHLON: Race director Joe Fernandez of Tampa said there are some remaining spots for Saturday's 7:30 a.m. triathlon at Fort DeSoto Park. Volunteers are needed. The competition will consist of a .33-mile swim, 11-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run. Awards will be five-deep in most divisions, including relays. For information, call (813) 847-7223.