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Rev It Up, The 1996 Season Begins!

As most of North America succumbed to a deep freeze during the first week of February, things were heating up in Santos, Brazil. The $50,000 Bliss /Timex Triathlon, richest in South America, is the first race on the 1996 Triathlon Professional Tour. Athletes from all over the World arrived in hopes of capturing the $10,000 first place prize.

Nine countries were represented with a strong women’s field of Michelle Jones (Australia), Sue Latshaw and Lauren Alexander (US), Suzzane Nielson (Denmark), Ute Schaffer (Germany) and Fernanda Keller (Brazil).

The men’s field included a strong US contingent as the top 5 Americans on the Inside Triathlon All-American list, Mike Pigg, Mark Allen, Wes Hobson, Jimmy Riccitello and the defending Santos champion Ken Glah were present. Also racing was Russian and future American Alec Rukoseuv, German Lothar Leder, Argentinean Oscar Galindez, the current World Duathlon Champion. Brazil was well represented with top pros Leandro Macedo, Alexander Manzan, Marcus Onellas and Armando Barcellos.

Rukoseuv, Leder and Hobson arrived in Brazil Wednesday to get acclimated to the climate, but their bags and bikes decided to takes detours. As race day approached, the three decided to have their own race on Sunday with a 1.5k swim and a 50k run as the loser buys the beer. With the help of Nubio de Almeidia and his organization, the three received their luggage from the airlines on Saturday with Hobson getting his at 11:30 PM.

Brazilians have embraced the sport of triathlon and the national and international media present created a high profile race atmosphere. The question to the athletes was who was in the best shape this early in the season. Most of the athletes had only been training 4-6 weeks after taking a month or two off in November and December. Jones was confident with a solid month of training in San Diego. Latshaw had been snow shoeing and skate skiing in Boulder. Schaffer and Nielson were braving the chill in Europe. Wanklyn and her husband Glah have been training for the New Zealand Ironman.

For the men, Riccitello felt confident, eyeing this race and training well for two months. Leder moved in with Rukoseuv January 1, in Florida. They both questioned their fitness, but a 5k run race the previous week of 15:21 and 15:15 respectively indicated they were by no means unfit. Pigg had been training by himself at his home in Arcata. Hobson moved to Tucson January 10 to get some consistent weather. Galindez had been racing and winning in Argentina December and January, but he realizes the competition in Santos is much tougher. Macedo, after competing with an injury at Santos last year and finishing seventh, wanted to redeem himself in front of his countrymen. Allen was probably the most prepared and focused for the race. Since competing in Thailand at the end of October, he has swum three times in a pool, biked once a week during the previous five weeks and run three times a week of no more than five miles. His goal was “to beat all of the women.”

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