Sunday, May 3, 2009


"I would have been here a lot sooner but I obeyed all the speed limit signs," Tom Couillard announced through a wry grin when he arrived in T2. His tone was one of feigned disgust, as if accusing all who outrode him at the 2nd annual Cinco de Mayo Duathlon of blatantly violating traffic laws.

There was one man in the field who rode significantly faster than everyone else, albeit within the posted speed limits. He appeared impervious to the diabolical wind, which gusted to 25 mph at times and always seemed to be in the rider's face; and the hills, which one participant later referred to as the "Alpe d'Wheeze." His name-the fast cyclist's, not the complainer's- is Rick Christenson, and he out-split the next fastest rider by 2:35 over the 20 mile route.

One minute and fifty-six seconds after Christenson, 51, of Roseville, had embarked on the final 5K run, Oakdale's Robbie Halvorson, 44, entered transition, where he would spend an inordinant 52 seconds. During this stretch, pre-race favorite Dereck Podratz, 34, of Lino Lakes, arrived in T2. The seven second lead that Halvorson had on Podratz when he (Halvorson) exited transition dissolved quickly as Dereck charged off in pursuit of the leader.

In the end, Podratz was able to not only close the 2:55 gap that separated him and Christenson after the first two segments, but arrive at the line 1:04 ahead of his rival. Eddie Kaiser, 28, of Minneapolis, managed to slip past Halvorson to finish third.

As the starting time approached and it became clear that women's pre-race favorite Marlo McGaver was going to be a no-show, the ephemeral scent of victory caused Diane Hankee's nostrils to flare slightly. The 31-year-old Canadian transplant knew that she needed but a solid effort, not a supreme one, to secure the win. She didn't dog it, though. She pushed hard, especially on the bike, and ultimately finished in 8th place overall, her margin of victory over runner-up Marlene Yaeger, 27, of Mounds View, was 5:36. Former UM runner Brittany Laughlin, 23, of Makato, placed third, less than a minute behind Yaeger.

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the event's namesake, participants feasted voraciously on tacos after the race. Through a mouthful of tortilla and black beans, one of the entrants, perhaps Mr. Couillard, noted that the race was contested on the 2nd of May, not the fifth. "Shouldn't it have been called the Dos de Mayo Duathlon?" he wondered aloud?

2nd annual Cinco de Mayo Duathlon (5K - 20 miles - 5K): Men- 1. Dereck Podratz (1:34:46), 2. Rick Christenson (1:35:50), 3. Eddie Kaiser (1:39:09). 4. Robbie Halvorson (1:39:28), 5. Nolan Barrios (1:40:26). Women - 1. Diane Hankee (1:42:08), 2. Marlene Yaeger (1:47:46), 3. Brittany Laughlin (1:48:42), 4. Becka Swanson (1:54:57), 5. Sara Sneer (1:57:06).

(Photo of Diane Hankee provided by Erik Hull)