Andy Potts returned to familiar ground Sunday as he reclaimed a spot atop the winner’s podium at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.
Trimming two minutes off his time from last year’s third-place finish, Potts beat the two-hour mark and captured his fourth Escape victory in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 45 seconds.
The women’s race was won by a new face: 28-year-old New Zealander Nicky Samuels.
In Santa Cruz for a two-week training camp, Samuels surveyed the course by car Saturday night, her first visit to San Francisco.
“I didn’t know the course, I didn’t know the competition, I didn’t have anything to lose,” Samuels said after decisively beating second-place finisher and three-time Escape champion Leanda Cave by more than four minutes.
After acclimating to what she termed the “freezing” San Francisco Bay waters, Samuels completed the 1½-mile swim from the Rock to Marina Green Beach in 25:22, 1:30 behind Sara McLarty, the first woman out of the water.
On the men’s side, McLarty’s brother, Dustin, was the first to reach the beach after a 22:29 swim, two seconds ahead of Potts.
The 33-year-old Coloradoan Potts overtook McLarty in the ½-mile barefoot run to the bikes, creating a two-minute gap between himself and his competitors after the 18-mile bike ride, and held off second-place finisher Bevan Docherty in the 8-mile run to the end.
Rather than the traditional lunge across the finish line, Potts accepted the banner from eight-time Escape women’s champion Michellie Jones.
“She carries the crown not only for this race but for the sport of triathlon,” said Potts, who won the Escape from 2007-09.
A smile never left his face as the crowd favorite signed autographs for fans, posed for photos with his family and exchanged postrace stories with fellow athletes.
“I’m thrilled and happy; due to the weather everyone showed up,” Potts said, referring to the clear skies after Saturday’s rainstorm. “My No. 1 goal was to push to the finish and welcome the crowd.”
With two victories in two weekends — Potts won last weekend’s Capital of Texas Triathlon — he is in excellent position leading up to the ½-Iron Man Championships in Las Vegas and the Ironman Hawaii Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, later this year.
He might then consider a possible return to the Olympic stage after making the 2004 U.S. team.
“Once Kona is over, I’m going to shift gears, pun intended, and look at the Olympics and see if it’s still viable,” Potts said.
1. Andy Potts 1:59:45
2. Bevan Docherty 2:00:19
3. Matt Chrabot 2:00:25
4. Jesse Thomas 2:03:34
5. Brian Fleischmann 2:06:12
1. Nicky Samuels 2:13:13
2. Leanda Cave 2:17:34
3. Becky Lavelle 2:19:21
4. Lindsey Jerdonek 2:22:20
5. Jenna Parker 2:25:39