Triathletes fly through Catamount course | SteamboatToday.com

Triathletes fly through Catamount course

Steamboat Springs triathlete John Holland nears the end of the bike stage of Sunday's ninth annual Steamboat Springs Triathlon at Lake Catamount.

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Results from the Steamboat Triathlon can be found here.

— The calendar dates that linger in the front of Leroy Atencio's brain help tell the story of the man.

The wheelchair-bound triathlete flew through Sunday's Steamboat Springs Triathlon at Lake Catamount, joining 310 other individual finishers in the ninth annual event.

The event was a training exercise for him — a successful one. He chose Steamboat because the entire 10-kilometer running course was paved. It was ideal for his wheelchair, and the course proved adaptive-athlete friendly as he'd hoped.

"It was fun," the Pueblo West man said.

He took up the sport three years ago, and the Steamboat Springs Triathlon was his first Olympic distance event.

Still, it's is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal looms nearly a year out.

"Ironman Boulder, Aug. 3, 2014," he said, simply. "Next is a half-Ironman, then it's the Ironman in Boulder."

Atencio said his disability has never drawn a rude comment from a fellow racer and that he enjoys triathlons in part because of the overwhelming encouragement on the course, both directed at him and directed at the other racers.

"I've never seen an unhappy triathlete," he said.

And he realizes he may be an inspiration to others.

"I've been told that," he said. "It does inspire a lot of people, I've been told, but that's not why I'm out here."

He was injured in a noncombat military injury Aug. 19, 1990. But one day short of the 23rd anniversary, he wasn't in Steamboat to prove he could overcome that injury on that date.

He was there to race, looking ahead to Aug. 3, 2014, not back at Aug. 19, 1990.

"I come out here to have fun," he said. "If I do inspire other people, that's another great part of it."

Sunday was a day for the racers as elite athletes from all corners of the globe broke from the ranks to record blazing times on the course.

Mauro Cavanha, a Brazilian racing out of Los Angeles, won the men's race, finishing in 1 hour, 56 minutes and 4 seconds. He was just ahead of Boulder's Karol Kristov, in at 1:57:35, and Denver's Matt Smith, third in 1:58:09.

Michelle Vesterby, a Dane racing out of Boulder, won the women's race by more than five minutes, finishing in 2:04:10.

Kasia Rasker, of Boulder, was second in 2:09:40 and Steamboat's Heather Gollnick was third, in 2:11:01.

"It was a fantastic day," said Vesterby, based in Colorado as she trains aiming at a top 10 finish for the Ironman in Hawaii.

"I was told Steamboat was so beautiful," she said, considering what drew her up from the Front Range, "and I was promised a trip to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

"It was a tough one because there were rolling hills, but I was happy with my time. It was a great course and a well organized race."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com