Over the weekend I made my third trip to the New Orleans 70.3. The event is such a great one that I’ve come back each year to do it again. How come? Well, I love to go fast—and the flat and furious race course provides just the opportunity. I’m also a fan of Southern Hospitality, Cajun cooking, racing in the heat, and great post-race parties. Plus, the finish in the famous Jackson Sqaure is unparalleled. 

Chris and I arrived in New Orleans on Friday. The race organizers did a great job treating the professionals right and provided us with accommodation near the Mississippi River (thanks, Ochsner!). This was a great opportunity to catch up with the competition, share some meals, squeeze in some last bits of training, and get ready for the day. With the new points system and a large prize purse on the line, Sunday’s race was going to be a stacked one. At the pro meeting on Saturday they mentioned the possibility of the race being a duathlon due to the windy conditions.

Compression and spandex took over Bourbon Street and the French Quarter

Race morning came quickly and sure enough, our swim would be cancelled due to strong winds on Lake Ponchartrain. There was some hemming and hawing about whether it would be a TT start, 2 seconds part, a minute gap, or 30 seconds. Then the great idea came about to have all 80 of us line up at one of the arches and race a 100-yard dash to our bikes and start all at once. Ummmmm, no thanks! That got us all to quiet up fast and get ready to roll. The verdict was in: we’d start 30 seconds apart in a time trial format. 

The men started first with Terenzo Bozzone leading the way. Terenzo would stay there through the end of the bike. The tricky thing was, with all of us starting 30 seconds apart, there was no way to tell (unless you were a statistics major) where you were placed overall. Coming in a few minutes behind Terenzo were some movers and shakers including riding phenom Sebastian Kienle, Tim O’Donnell, and Paul Amey. When I asked Luke McKenzie after the race what he thought of the format, he felt the organizers did the best they could given the circumstances. The 30 second send-off lended itself to an extremely fair race, although different for all of us.

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When in NOLA, do as the locals do

The women followed the men. With strong bikers in the field like Heather Jackson, Julie Dibens, and Yvonne Van Vlerken, the day was sure to be a barn burner. Away we went into a stiff head wind with defending champ Sam Warriner leading the charge. Sam put on an impressive performance holding off Julie (starting one minute back) until mile 30. Heather and Yvonne chased strong coming off the bike in third and fourth and I followed in fifth. A highlight of the ride was seeing the ATV’s keeping the crocodiles at bay in the swamp at mile 40. 

Onto the run and the men were sorting themselves out. Paul Amey was first to cross the line in Jackson Square, but due to the time trial start—the clear winner (by five minutes) was Sebastian. Paul Matthews used a strong run to come from behind and claim the third spot on the podium. Sebastian had a lower start number and started further back in the men’s race. He claimed after the race that every time he passed a competitor, it was like eating chocolate from a box, and it made him push on faster and faster. Gotta love the Germans! 

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The author with a smile on the bike

In the women’s race Sam regained the lead (but was still in second place with overall time). Julie Dibens showed us all why she is boss, re-passing Sam and crossing the line in first as the true winner. Sam followed, I crossed third (but was bumped to fourth), and Yvonne was hot on my heels. Julie was a great champ and a crowd favorite being an LSU alumn.

All in all it was a solid day at the office. While canceling the swim was less than ideal, I congratulate everyone who stepped up to the plate and let the show roll on. Part of this sport is handling adversity, and Sunday proved no less. Post-race was a sight to be seen as compression and spandex took over Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. I’m sure I wasn’t alone engaging in all the great Southern hospitality that New Orleans has to offer: Pat O’Briens hurricanes, Po’ Boys, Jambalaya, and fancy beaded necklaces. Laissez les bons temps roulez, let the good times roll! 

NOLA drink

Post-race celebration of the best kind

Top 10 Pro Men

1. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:18:08
2. Paul Amey (GBR) 3:23:08
3. Paul Matthews (AUS) 3:25:24
4. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 3:25:54
5. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 3:26:16
6. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 3:26:22
7. Axel Zeebroek (BEL) 3:27:15
8. Matthew Russell ( ) 3:27:24
9. Trevor Wurtele (CAN) 3:28:01
10. Kyle Leto (USA) 3:28:11

Top 10 Pro Women

1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 3:40:15
2. Samantha Warriner (NZL) 3:41:31
3. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 3:44:30
4. Linsey Corbin (USA) 3:46:19
5. Tine Deckers (BEL) 3:46:23
6. Heather Jackson (USA) 3:48:32
7. Uli Bromme (USA) 3:48:56
8. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 3:50:00
9. Sofie Goos (BEL) 3:52:11
10. Amy Kloner (USA) 3:53:09