September 8 – 9, 2012 – Palomar Mountain and San Diego, California
The 3rd Annual ElliptiGO World Championships of Elliptical Cycling once again brought out an elite field of athletes determined to test themselves on Palomar Mountain. Last year’s winner, Paul Thomas, came back to defend his title, but it was elite masters runner Rusty Snow from Santa Barbara, California who would take the crown, breaking Thomas’ record by nearly 6 minutes. In the women’s race, it was two-time adventure racing world champion, Robyn Benincasa, who held her lead over Olympic runner, Mary Decker Slaney, to claim victory at the top. In the team competition, Olympian Adam Goucher, Thomas, and Brian Pilcher led Team USA to the title, edging out Team Canada by just over two minutes.
The 2012 event drew competitors from across the US, Canada and the UK. The men’s hill climb event was a real battle with a lead pack of 10 riders setting a blistering pace from the start. After the first few miles, former duathlete of the year and the 2011 hill climb winner Paul Thomas broke away from the pack alongside Snow and elite Canadian runner Matt Leduc. In the chase group, Team Canada, comprised of Canadian marathon champions Bruce Raymer and Mike Dyon and three-time Olympian Steve Cyr were keeping pace with Olympian Adam Goucher and elite runners Simon Gutierrez and Brian Pilcher.
By the time they reached the turn from Highway 76 onto South Grade Road, Snow and Leduc had separated themselves from the rest and would continue their battle for first place over the last six miles. In a final push to the top, Snow created a 20-second lead on Leduc and finished with a new record time of 1:10:49. Leduc crossed in second with a 1:11:10, followed by Thomas in 1:15:59.
‘It was a really tough climb,’ stated Leduc at the finish. ‘At the start we tried to hold back a bit but at the end I just tried to hang on and eventually I couldn’t.’ Snow agreed with him. ‘It was very painful, but it was just fantastic to be out there with all these people on ElliptiGOs. To have Adam Goucher and Mary Decker Slaney out there alongside everyone else was incredible and really, really inspiring.’
Across the field, the competition was much tougher this year, resulting in faster times despite temperatures that climbed past 90’F by the end of the race. In the women’s division, professional cyclist Tammy Wildgoose returned to defend her 2011 titles, but after the first mile it was clear she would be unable to replicate her winning performance this year because of a recent surgery. That left the women’s race wide open. Adventure racing world champion Robyn Benincasa seized the day and charged up Palomar Mountain in first place. Olympian Mary Decker Slaney, returning to competition for the first time since 1996, passed several other women in the last few miles to deliver a strong second place finish. Last year’s third place finisher, Erin Whiting, who was the first woman to complete a century on an ElliptiGO back in 2009, outsprinted Jill Suarez to claim third again this year.
Decker Slaney was elated to be competing again. ‘My favorite part of the race was the starting line because it was the first time since 1996 that I had the opportunity to start in an event of any kind. I hope this sport takes off big time because it’s so fun and it gives people with injuries like myself the opportunity to pursue another sport and be competitive again. Now I know what to train for and I’m excited to compete next year.’
The next day, most of the competitors came out for the second act of the weekend’s competition, a flat, 8.1-mile time trial event on Fiesta Island. This time, it was Thomas and Decker Slaney who broke records en route to winning their respective divisions. ‘Yesterday we raced up Palomar Mountain and there was some strategy involved,’ stated Thomas. ‘Today we raced on the flats by ourselves, man versus machine, testing our individual speed. The lighter guys do better in the hills and they crushed it yesterday. I prefer the flats and I loved this time trial today.’ Goucher took second in his debut time trial event, followed by Leduc.
We’d like to congratulate our champions as well as everyone who came out to conquer Palomar and test themselves on Fiesta Island. They were very dynamic races this year and a lot of fun for everyone involved. Each year the bar keeps going up, the caliber of athletes keeps increasing, and the winning time keeps dropping. We’re thrilled that this has become an event to look forward to every year and we’re excited to continue the development of this new sport. See you in 2013!
Below are the race results and a few photos.