Cortez may have been one of the few spots in Colorado to traditionally celebrate the Fourth of July watching a blazing fireworks display at dusk.
But the holiday festivities burst bright and early Wednesday morning at 7.
The third annual Cortez Burst Triathlon welcomed competitors from near and far, young and old, and of every shape and size.
Bill Brant traveled roughly eight hours from health-nut Boulder to swim, bike and run in Southwest Colorado. Its the 55-year-olds second year as a triathlete after a long history of endurance bike racing.
I had a couple crashes in 09, so I switched to triathlons, Brant said. Last year, I did about 10. This is my number five or six this year.
After a slow start swimming 500 meters in the Cortez Outdoor Municipal Pool, Brant took advantage of the 16-mile bike course in a time of 41:33.376. Brants bike time was the fastest in the competition and gave him a much needed cushion to cross the finish line first off of North Park Street. He ran three miles in 24:29.715 to win the Cortez Burst Triathlon open mens division, holding off Graham Robinson, 19, of Mancos (1:20:18).
Its a very nice course, said Brant, whose time was the fastest overall. Having a 50-meter pool is a nice change from a 25-meter pool. The course was well marked. It was fun.
Brant feels winning the third edition of the Cortez Burst Triathlon is good preparation for doing the Boulder Peak Triathlon on Sunday. Its an international competition that consists of a 1.5K swim, 42K bike and 10K run.
Its a good warm-up to do this today, and get a little downtime and do the Peak on Sunday, he said. Having something like this on the Fourth is nice. Its a nice break.
In the open womens class, Julie Thibodeau repeated as champion. Despite the course increasing in length this year, the Durango native had no problem.
Last year, this was my fifth triathlon (ever). I did pretty well, said Thibodeau, who clocked in a 1:29:55. I primarily do long running races. I started doing sprint triathlons a couple years ago and I love it! I love this one. Its fun to do on Fourth of July.
Thibodeau, 39, still competes as a long distance marathon runner. Her second Cortez Burst Triathlon win is great, but its also training. Thibodeau will run the Durango Marathon in October, which is part of the Animas Surgical Hospital Durango Double.
Overall, I think the course was way better this year than it was last year, said Thibodeau, who says her 5-year-old daughter, MacCartney, wants to compete next year. This year, the run was great, that it was just one big loop.
A man who knows triathlons is Steve Stovall, 71. The Hesperus resident has triumphed triathlons for 21 years. As the oldest person in the Cortez Burst Triathlon for the second straight time, Stovall is happily looking forward to be the oldest contestant in 2013 as well.
They do a great job here. This is only the third year, and they just dont make any mistakes, he said. As long as Im capable, I will be coming back. At my age, just being able to say Im a triathlete, is the best.
Stovall is a New Jersey native and ran long distance events for 41 years.
Now, if you go back to sea level, you kick some serious butt, said Stovall of adjusting to competing at Colorados high altitude.
It was Stovalls wife, Denise, who bought him a Fat Tire bicycle more then two decades ago. Stovall tried a triathlon and hasnt stopped, although he admits swimming is not his strong suit.
I hate swimming, said Stovall, vehemently. Im a long distance runner disguised as a triathlete.
Stovall and many others will be back next year.
However, Rayna Hale, who competed on a open team, would like to see the holiday sports event keep getting bigger.
We were happy that more than half of our racers were from out of town, said Hale, board president of Cortez Friends of Recreation, a nonprofit organization that co-sponsors the triathlon with the Cortez Recreation Center. The course was tougher, people liked it. This was a lot more challenging. It seemed like a real triathlon.
With a bigger course this year, more sponsors, and the most competitors and spectators ever, the Independence Day triathlon should continue to burst for many summers to come.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com.