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Van Akkeren, Jerdonek Take Talent ID Titles

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LUBBOCK, Texas (April 18, 2009) — A shorter swim and warmer afternoon temperatures gave the athletes racing in the USA Triathlon Twenty-12 Talent ID Invitational a break from the colder conditions athletes raced through earlier on Saturday.

But they couldn’t escape the West Texas winds.

The Twenty-12 Talent ID Invitational is designed to give young age groupers and new elites an opportunity to race the draft-legal format and is held in conjunction with the USAT Collegiate National Championship. The sprint-distance, multiple-loop course consisted of a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run in and around Buffalo Springs Lake in Lubbock, Texas.

“It was a tough course,” said men’s winner Mark Van Akkeren of Boulder, Colo. “The hills were easy because you had a tailwind. Once you hit the backstretch on top of the bluff, it was brutal. You just had to tuck and go.”

While Van Akkeren had to go it alone as he led the entire race, women’s winner Lindsey Jerdonek of Silver Spring, Md., had a bit of help thanks to the benefits of the race’s draft-legal format. The 25-year-old Jerdonek came out of the water with 23-year-old Chris Tommerdahl of Chapel Hill, N.C., and the two worked together on the three-loop bike course to try to put space between them and the 12 women in pursuit.

“It was my first experience doing draft-legal,” said Jerdonek, who plans to get her elite license soon to race on the professional level. “The dynamics were quite different. You have to keep on your toes, particularly on the bike. We were taking turns on the pulls and encouraging each other.”

Meanwhile, riding by herself in third, Kathy Rakel of Goodfellow, Texas, made up ground and caught the two leaders by the start of the third lap and went on to a second-place finish.

“I definitely worked from behind on the bike, coming off the swim,” said the 25-year-old Rakel. “I finally caught the two girls ahead of me on the first hill of the third lap and we were able to work together on the backstretch fighting a brutal headwind. The last downhill, I got ahead a bit into the transition and then just put my head down on the run. I’m happy with a finish of second. The race was well organized. I enjoyed it through and through.”

Tommerdahl finished third, with Any Dannwolf, 25, of Golden Colo., and Elizabeth Ott, 31, of Naperville, Ill., taking fourth and fifth, respectively.

In the men’s race, Van Akkeren pulled ahead of the other 54 competitors early in the swim, went out on the bike alone – stretching his lead to as much as two-and-a-half minutes – and then held off a fierce challenge by fellow Boulder, Colo., resident Daniel McIntosh on the run.

Gaining the advantage early was Van Akkeren’s plan heading into the race.

“I knew if I had any opportunity to win, I’d have to do it from the start,” he said. “When you see the start list you try to understand the strengths of your opponents: who’s a good swimmer, who’s a good biker, who’s a runner. Just knowing the run is my weakness… that was the only way I was going to be able to do it today. Take the swim, take the bike. The run I felt bad, but I knew I gave it [all I had] on the bike. I knew it was going to go that way.”

Justin Harris, 25, of New Paltz, N.Y., finished third, with Connor Hammond, 19, of London, Ontario, Canada, and Matt Vierula, 19, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Talent ID race was initiated in 2008 to help USAT find athletes who have elite potential and could become a part of the National Teams program.

“It gives us the opportunity to meld the collegiate experience with the draft-legal experience and expose that age group of 18 to 24 year olds to the draft-legal format,” said USAT Athlete Development Coordinator Steve Kelley. “They are looking forward to potential Olympic or elite competition in the years ahead.

“Draft-legal racing is definitely a unique style of racing and requires a different training style and format. It gives the athletes an opportunity to experience it and maybe adjust their training as they look ahead at their careers ahead as triathletes. Some may decide it’s not for them, while others may discover a talent that they didn’t know was there. That’s why we call it a talent identification race, because it gives us a chance to identify them and if they fit into our National Team programs and allows them to discover if they have talent they didn’t think they had.”

Twenty-12 Talent ID Invitational Results

750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run

Women
1. Lindsey Jerdonek (Silver Spring, Md.) 1:09:31
2. Kathy Rakel (Goodfellow, Texas) 1:10:11
3. Chris Tommerdahl (Chapel Hill, N.C.) 1:11:43

Men
1. Mark Van Akkeren (Boulder, Colo.) 1:00:41
2. Daniel McIntosh (Boulder, Colo.) 1:01:22
3. Justin Harris (New Paltz, N.Y.) 1:01:57

Complete results can be found here.

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