By John ElliottMarch 21, 2008
KNEBIS, Germany (Army News Service, March 21, 2008) -- Sounds of the rocket's red glare were heard as Staff Sgt. Lori Nix scrambled through the snow into the finishing chute Feb. 24 to become the first American to win a Winter Triathlon World Championship in the Black Forest of Germany.
The race director had linked the electronic timing chips worn by each triathlete into the computerized sound system so national anthems would be played as winners of the five age groups came across the finish line.
The Star spangled Banner played as U.S. Army Europe's Band and Chorus led the way for Team USA in the age-group race. Staff Sgt. Benjamin Martinelli, a clarinet player, was the first Soldier across the line. He was followed by his Soldier-musician teammates Staff Sgt. Todd Stubbs, a trombone musician, and Staff Sgt. Kevin Pick, tuba; and Nix, bassoon.
Winter triathlon typically consists of run, mountain bike, and cross country ski segments with transitions between each segment. Age groupers compete over shorter race course distances than the elite triathletes. All segments are on snow when available.
Snow had melted on the run and bike courses the week of Feb. 24, so race organizers emptied out the Black Forest to haul two hundred truckloads to Knebis by a battalion of volunteers to prep the cross country ski course in the village because of the unseasonably warm weather.
Staff Sgt. Ben Martinelli orchestrated the USAREUR winter triathlon team and used his experience competing as a member of the All-Army Triathlete Team with Lt. Col. Heidi Grimm to advantage. Grimm is a well-known military champion and member of the All-Army Triathlete Team.
It was the first winter triathlon for the four soldier-musicians. They put together an ensemble of Olympic and sprint distance triathlons, endurance running, road and mountain bike races to train. And much like their musical performances at the 60th Anniversary of Russian VE Day in Moscow and counterpart events in Normandy, they were not even breathing hard when they finished.
They had limited time to get the skate ski technique down, so they emphasized taking it out hard on the run and bike, then hanging in there on the ski segment. Their plan worked.
Here's a thumbnail on how their races went down:
- Martinelli came out fast on the run with a shocking 7th overall and stayed competitive on the bike in 20th place before finishing up with a gutsy ski to be inside the top 50 as first Army soldier.
- Stubbs pushed the run hard to finish 61st and lost little time on the bike and finished in the top 100 after a tough ski.
- Pick stayed in the fight with solid times in each three segments to finish at 123rd.
- Nix stayed in mode and never wavered to ski to a first-place gold in her age group.
Stupendous performances were served up by elite teams competing from 25 nations.
Sigrid Mutscheller of Germany won her sixth world championship and became the only athlete in International Triathlon Union history to win six elite world championships.
Arne Post of Norway was a repeat world champion for the men's elite.
Knebis also produced best-ever results for the American triathletes. Rebecca Dussault, a former Olympian, finished 6th overall for the US elite women. Elite triathlete relay teams have three members each competing in the same three events on a shortened course.
Mike Kloser, former World Mountain Bike Champion, and fastest skier on the U.S. team, closed out the team relay with 6th overall -- also the best-ever finish at world's for an American men's elite triathlete team.
Plans are being made now for a training camp in Germany for American athletes to prepare for next year's Winter Triathlon.
(John Elliot is a writer-competitor who covered the event for Triathlete magazine as well as ARNEWS. He served many years in Army Special Forces and at HQ USAREUR between Vietnam tours in the 60's.)