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Triathlon spawns a friendship that will extend to Australia


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 28, 2000

Paxson Communications account executive Denise Wagner stepped up to the plate last April, volunteering to host professional triathlete Joanna Zieger, who flew in from Maryland to compete in St. Anthony's Triathlon.

"The Mad Dogs were looking for families to open their homes to traveling pro triathletes just before St. Anthony's," Wagner said. "We decided to go ahead, and the experience was wonderful. I learned so much about my bike from her. Now I'm going to race in Clermont for Sprint No. 2 on July 16, and I'll e-mail my results to Joanna. She has been so encouraging."

Zieger's own form is right on target this season. After her win at St. Anthony's, she won the St. Croix Triathlon, placed second in the Olympic Trials Triathlon in Dallas (making the U.S. Olympic team), and beat a strong field at the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon in Lubbock, Texas, last Sunday.

"I was so excited when Joanna made the Olympic team," Wagner said. "And I was very proud that PAX TV aired the women's Olympic Trials Triathlon on June 3. I got to watch her qualify for the very first Olympic triathlon."

Wagner just bought plane tickets to go to Sydney, Australia, where she and boyfriend Bruce Dutton will cheer for their new friend in triathlon's Olympic debut at Sydney Harbor on Sept. 17.

"Ticket sales went wild; I'm not sure if any Americans got good seats," Wagner said. "Joanna told us to grab any seats for the Olympics and to arrive early enough to get a good view of the race."

Zieger joins Americans Jennifer Guiterrez and Maddy Taormina in the chase for Olympic medals.

ARMSTRONG RETURNS: Stock up on blank tapes and get ready to set your VCR. American Lance Armstrong of the U.S. Postal Service team is returning to defend his victory in the Tour de France. This year's edition will have no pre-race prologue stage but will include a team time trial.

Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service teammates will include fellow Americans Frankie Andrea, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Kevin Livingston and Christian VandeVelde. Other U.S. riders in the tour will be Bobbie Julich and Jonathan Vaughters of Credit Agricole, and Chann McRae and Fred Rodriguez of Mapei.

Armstrong will wear the leader's yellow jersey when Le Tour begins Saturday. The race winds through the mountains in later stages, ending in Paris on July 23.

"Some people thought I would retire after winning the '99 Tour," Armstrong told reporters earlier this month, "but I need to prove that I can win again. A comeback is one thing, repeat is another thing."

Armstrong plans to recover in July and August, getting some speed back in his legs to ride both the Olympic road race and the individual time trial in Sydney at the end of September. International cycling fans are betting on Armstrong, who won professional cycling's most presigious race after beating cancer.

SPBC MEETING: The St. Petersburg Bicycle Club will hold a special meeting on Saturday, July 8, to discuss volunteering, new board members and special events. It will be at the new location for Revolution Bicycles, 3125 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg. Call Bill for details at (727) 822-2453.

SWIM/RUN: Looking for some triathlon cross-training? Is your bike in the shop? Want to try swimming with a group in open water? Join West Florida Y masters swim coach Tim O'Keefe for a free swim/run workout at 6 p.m. Wednesdays on Redington Beach.

O'Keefe coaches masters swimming at the Southwest Complex in Largo each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5-6:30 a.m., and each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday evening swims are free.

For more information, call O'Keefe at (727) 517-9104 or (727) 596-WFLA.

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