Saturday, May 30, 2009


(Photo of Cathy Yndestad courtesy of YndeCam. Cathy should pick up career win #33 on June 7.)

On June 7, Duluth's Brian Bich, the 2008 USAT Master of the Year, will be racing for his 8th consecutive, and 9th career amateur win, at the Pigman Sprint Triathlon. Not since Tony Schiller's amazing double-digit victory totals at Heart of the Lakes and Lake Waconia has a Minnesotan enjoyed such an successful winning streak.

Will the streak continue? Will the 43-year-old Bich, who owns Pigman's masters CR--1:03:22 in 2007--and the 3rd fastest amateur time (his 1:02:46 is 21 seconds off the mark set by Kevin O'Connor in '95, who then duplicated that clocking in '97) become the event's first 10-time champ?

Brian faces several obstacles, none of which are insurmountable. Interestingly, age is not one of them. Since turning 40, Brian's times have gotten faster, not slower.

What then, could stand in his way? Mechanical issues? Well, there's always that. Or the fact that he has yet to race this year, while others, like multiple Pigman winner/CR holder Kevin O'Connor and rising star from Des Moines, Nathan White, have a couple of sterling performances under their belts already this season?

A glance at his resume shows that Brian, unlike most triathletes, does not seem to require "tune up" races; he has an impressive history of winning his first race of the season, which is typically Pigman Sprint.

Kevin and Nathan are the real obstacles. O'Connor is fit and fast right now. He's also very aggressive and will go for the jugular if Brian isn't on his game. Kevin has beaten Brian on this course, though that was back in 2001.

Nathan White, 26, who finished 18 seconds behind Bich at last year's Pigman, poses the greatest threat. If this young man races up to his potential he should earn a US Athlete of the Year nomination at season's end. Certainly his '08 performances at Lifetime Fitness Elite (2nd), Hy-Vee Elite (2nd) and USAT Nationals (3rd overall), in addition to a preponderance of regional victories, support this prediction. White has youth and growing talent on his side. Bich has history, intelligence and muscle memory. It should be an epic battle and when the dust clears, Bich will have his 9th Pigman W, or O'Connor his 7th, or White his 1st. And these guys will be pulled and pushed to fast times, probably under the course best, weather permitting, by elite Minnesota challengers Curt Wood, who placed 2nd behind Brian in '06, Devon Palmer and Dennis Dane, and Iowa's emerging Jason Maurice. Could one of these guys break through and win the race? Sure, but none of them has arrived at that place in their careers where they not only win with regularity, a la Bich, White and O'Connor, but more importantly, expect to win with regularity. 

As for the women's race, Apple Valley's Cathy Yndestad is clearly in a class by herself. The three-time US Athlete of the Year Honorable Mention should pick up  her 3rd consecutive Pig Sprint win. 

The junior competition should be exciting.  It will feature the participation of two-time Minnesota Junior of the Year nominee Sarah Daniels, as well as Abby Tracy, Brandon Onopa and several others.

This year's Pig Sprint has attracted 796 registrants.