Joanna Brown kept her eyes focused on the asphalt straightaway as she covered the final few steps in a hard-fought battle with two-time Olympian Sarah True.
The 24-year-old Canadian won the Elite Women’s race at the Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon, edging True, who competed in the Rio and London Games, by 22 seconds.
True was making her first appearance at Nathan Benderson Park, but Brown, who trains in Guelph, Ontario, is a familiar face at the facility off Cattleman Road. Saturday’s CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon Championship event was Brown’s fifth at the facility over the past five years. Those trips have allowed her to watch the facility rise and see it transform into a top destination for triathletes.
“The venue has changed so much over time, but I really like how the track is contained in a small area for fans to see everything,” Brown said. “A lot of times, there are loops where you can only see a racer every four or five minutes.”
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The sprint triathlon course used for the Elite Men’s and Elite Women’s races on Saturday, which were conducted by Boston-based Streamline Events, consisted of a 750-meter swim route, an 18.3-kilometer bike loop and 5-kilometer run. Brown completed it in 55 minutes, 16 seconds.
Benderson’s circuit provides fans a panoramic view of the entire race while seated in the bleachers or standing behind a barricade. This is different from many International Triathlon Union-sanctioned courses. For example, the route used by the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge, which takes place east of Orlando in Clermont, features limited visibility for spectators because of a series of turns in the bike track.
Streamline Events, which stages triathlons across New England and Florida, began its relationship with the Benderson facility early.
“We started this event in Sarasota when they were just putting the palm trees in, and it’s constantly changing and getting bigger,” said Bill Burnett, who founded Streamline Events in 2006. “(Over the) next year there’s only going to be one World Cup in America and we’re it.”
Benderson is scheduled to play host to an International Triathlon Union World Cup event Oct. 7-8 this year, one week after it plays host to the World Rowing Championships. An ITU Paratriathlon World Cup is scheduled to be held concurrently.
True noted that the course, combined with the fall date, will be ideal for athletes, and she shared Burnett’s positive view of Benderson’s future as a triathlon site.
“The pavement is absolutely fantastic here, no boat traffic on the water and the climate is perfect,” True said. “From what I understand, the course gets better ever year, and I’m really excited to see it become a World Cup destination.”
True finished the Elite Women’s race in second with an overall time of 55:38, with American Taylor Knibb crossing at 56:07.
In the Elite Men’s race, Mexico’s Rodrigo Gonzalez won in 51:10. American Eli Hemming finished second in 51:12. Canada’s Matthew Sharpe, who started the pre-race standings at No. 1, finished third in the three-person lead pack in 51:14
In Saturday morning’s Junior Women’s (for competitors age 16-19) race, Hey Rim Jeong of South Korea won in 59:09. Canadians Hannah Henry and Kyla Roy finished second and third in 59:13 and 59:29, respectively. Emily Landeryou, in seventh, was the top American. In the Junior Men, American Darr Smith won in 53:28. Mexicans Abraham Rodriguez Moreno and Daniel Moron Rodriguez finished second and third in 54:02 and 54:11, respectively.
Sarasota Bradenton Triathlon
What: Day 2 of competition
Where: Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota
Schedule: CAMTRI Youth Elite Cup Women, 8:15 a.m.
CAMTRI Youth Elite Cup Men, 9 a.m.
Pan American Championships mixed team relay, 10:15 a.m.
Age Group Non-Draft Race, 12:15 p.m.