Submitted by Craig Dean –
The featured event in the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival enjoyed near perfect conditions and stellar competition. Returning 3-time champion, Kevin Everett travelled in from Boise, Idaho and jammed this race into his already hectic schedule of nationwide competitions. Local favorite and previous long course champion in ’05, ’07 and ’08, Matt Lieto; threw his hat in the ring in what looked to be a showdown for the first 4-time champion. There were a few other notable pros wading in the shallows of the Wickiup Reservoir. Missoula, Montana’s Andrew Drobeck joined the contenders and would be considered a possible favorite after his sub 9-hour Kona finish in 2013. Andrew and Matt’s coach, Elliot Bassett, also travelled in from Missoula and joined Microsoft drop out and recently turned pro triathlete, Graeme Roche out of Seattle, Washington.
The women’s race headlined 4-time champion Mackenzie Madison and Bend, Oregon’s Jennifer Luebke alongside a long list of amateur elite’s from the northwest circuit. The favorites in both the men’s and the women’s race made an immediate impact in the water as Everett was trailed closely by Lieto and Madison trailed closely behind Luebke just a few minutes behind the men. Everett’s 24:22 split was the top for the day and placed him on his pedals nearly a minute clear of Lieto. Luebke executed an efficient transition which grew her gap on Madison to just over a minute. While the leaders found their tempo on the ride, the transition area swelled with the rest of the elite wave hitting the racks roughly 5-minutes later.
The Pac Crest bike course is graced with newly paved roads, majestic views and a long climb that summits at Mount Bachelor’s Sunrise Lodge. Top bikers are tested first on their tempo riding, next on their mountain climbing and finally on their descending skills. The 58 mile distance is slightly longer than the traditional long course distance of 56 miles to facilitate a low traffic entrance into transition. Lieto, a premier biker in any field, took the lead early on the ride and paced himself to a 25.28mph split. Everett held himself in contention with a 24mph split and entered transition roughly 6-minutes behind the leader. Drobeck, who entered transition with Everett, used the top bike split on the day (2:17:35) to rally from 34th position out of the water to a virtual tie with Everett for 2nd.
On the women’s side, Luebke continued to press her lead on Madison with a solid ride that added another minute to her lead. They entered transition as the only two contenders for the overall win and nearly 3-minutes apart from one other. Luebke had added time on Madison during the swim, ride and both transitions. The race was down to a 13.1 mile run that would prove pivotal. Madison has had to gut through tough runs on the Pac Crest course in years past to continue her long string of victories. 2014 would be no different.
The run course offers the shade and support of the populated Sunriver resort pathways for the opening 8 miles. Racers then turn towards the horse stables and unprotected exposure to the midday sun. The final 5 miles present the moment of truth for anybody caught in a tight foot race. Lieto clung to his lead through the horse stables and into the twists and turns of the golf course, but Drobeck was closing fast. Inspired by his shot at the overall victory, Drobeck maintained and aggressive cadence while word got back to him that he was 90 seconds down with a couple of miles to race. He dug deep into his suitcase of courage and found a new PR and top run split of the day (1:14:07), but it was 27 seconds shy of the win. Lieto held strong to the line and added 2014 to his record 4 Pacific Crest Long Course titles and a new course record 4:05:39. Everett’s rally also fell short as he pulled to the line 2-minutes back of Drobeck for 3rd place. The finishing area stood quiet for 18-minutes before a flood of rookie pros and amateur elites contested tightly for the remaining top 10 results. John Craft cruised to the Master’s title with his 6th place overall finish (4:30:21) and young upstart, Keet Dailey (19) tied for 9th position (4:36:32) in his inaugural completion of the Northwest’s crown jewel long course race.
A few minutes later, Mackenzie Madison rounded home after a fantastic run that saw her bridge the 3-minute gap on the race leader midway on the run before building upon her lead during the more grueling second half. Madison’s completed her 5th consecutive Pac Crest Long Course win with another come from behind run and a 4:42:48 overall time. Luebke ran with resolve through the tape to finish in 4:46:46 and 26-minutes ahead of the next nearest lady. Lieto shared in Luebke’s pain as they both hail from Bend, OR and were looking for a “locals only” sweep of the titles.
In all, 307 long course triathlete’s completed the race and thousands more challenged themselves to events ranging from a 5k walk to a 50-mile touring ride over the three days of events in Sunriver. On Sunday, Daniel Hough won the Olympic Course triathlon in what I believe is his biggest victory to date. Congrats to Daniel and all that competed over the weekend and enjoyed the support of the AA Sports crew, sponsoring vendors and supportive community. It’s no wonder many that compete during the weekend come back year-over-year.