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Montgomery finish shocks herself

The Canadian winner's final leg is so impressive, only 14 men had better running times.

By JOHN SCHWARB

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- According to Carol Montgomery, the key to moving up on the final leg of a triathlon is not to target the leader, but instead to pick off other runners one at a time.

Saturday at St. Anthony's Triathlon, the Montgomery clinic was in session as the Canadian weaved through half the field of 25 elite triathletes over the last 6.2 miles, claiming victory in the prestigious International Triathlon Union World Cup women's race with an overall time of 2 hours, 1 minute, 57 seconds.

Montgomery, 34, completed the running stage in 34:02, beating the next-best time by more than 2 1/2 minutes.

"I saw Carol running like a demon with flames off the bottom of her feet. Amazing," said second-place finisher Joanna Zeiger of San Diego, who led with a little more than 1 1/2 miles remaining. "When she came by (the fans) were like, "you can get her' and I was like, "no, I can't.' "

Having qualified for the 2000 Olympics in the 10,000 meters in addition to the triathlon, Montgomery knew she had the engine to catch at least a few of the competitors in front of her after the bicycle stage despite being 3:02 behind.

With more than 1 1/2 miles left she reached Zeiger, ran with her for a while and then picked up her near-sprint pace again.

"She said to me, "you're awesome girl,' and I thought, "oh, man, that's so nice to hear,' " Montgomery said. "Here I am, beating her. I put a little surge on her and looked back and saw she wasn't going with me, and just came in."

Montgomery reached the finish line 20 seconds in front, slowed to the tape and nonchalantly brushed it aside before going down to her knees and waiting for medical help.

"I started to see stars and stuff at the end," she said. "I was pretty wasted."

Through the first two stages, Zeiger appeared poised for a shot at repeating as champion. She completed the .9-mile swim just five seconds after leader Laura Reback, and throughout the 24.8-mile bicycle run drafted with a pack that included Reback, Sharon Donnelly and Becky Gibbs.

Donnelly dropped back first in the run, briefly leaving the other three -- all Americans -- to hold the top spots. But Montgomery was well on her way toward the front, as was five-time winner Michellie Jones.

"I worked the entire time on the bike, basically," said Jones, who drafted in a seven-woman group behind the four bike leaders. "(On the run) Carol was just flying, she looked stunning out there."

When Montgomery found Jones running ahead of her she knew a high finish was coming, and she caught Jones at the same time the Australian caught Reback and Gibbs.

"So there I was, 21/2 K left and I had 23 seconds to catch Joanna," said Montgomery, whose running time was better than all but 14 in the men's race. "I figured I could get her because I was catching 45 seconds a lap, so I said, "just keep the same pace, don't look at her anymore and you'll get her."'

Montgomery earned $7,500 for the victory, her third in ITU World Cup events the past two years.

Jones, a silver medalist in Sydney, finished third (2:02.59). Gibbs finished fourth (2:03.45), Christiane Pilz of Germany was fifth (2:04.00) and Reback of North Palm Beach was sixth (2:04.08).

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