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The 2013 ITU USA draft-legal race season starts this weekend in Florida

Posted Mar 07 2013 12:21pm

1223 COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Nine London 2012 Olympians, including American standout Sarah Groff, highlight the start list for Saturday's Clermont (Fla.) ITU Sprint Triathlon Pan American Cup at Lake Louisa State Park.

Held in conjunction with the Draft Legal Challenge at Clermont, the event features a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run for the approximately 80 top international athletes slated to compete. The women's elite race is scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern, followed by the men at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. 

On the women's side, Groff (Hanover, N.H.), who has been training locally in Clermont, headlines the U.S. contingent. In addition to her fourth-place finish in London last summer, she finished as the top American (seventh) for the second year in a row in the ITU World Triathlon Series rankings. She placed second at the March 3 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

Other U.S. women to watch include two-time USA Triathlon Under-23 Athlete of the Year Kaitlin Donner (Gainesville, Fla.) and 2012 collegiate national champion Marissa Ferrante (Palo Alto, Calif.). Clermont residents Lauren Goss, Alicia Kaye and Sara McLarty may enjoy a home course advantage.

In addition to Groff, four other women slated to race in Clermont competed at the 2012 Olympic Games: Paula Findlay (CAN), Helle Frederiksen (DEN), Vendula Frintova (CZE) and Radka Vodickova (CZE). Visit triathlon.org for a complete women's start list.

The men's event in Clermont marks the return of Lukas Verzbicas (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who is slated to compete for the first time since a serious bike accident ended his rookie season in July 2012. He was named 2012 USA Triathlon Rookie of the Year after earning ITU victories in Dallas and Banyoles, Spain, a year ago. 

Clermont resident and Beijing Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker will look for a second straight win in the event after topping the podium in Clermont in 2012 and placing second in 2011. Tommy Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) returns after placing third a year ago, while Kaleb VanOrt (Mishawaka, Ind.) is back in Clermont after taking sixth in 2012 and third in 2011. Joe Maloy (Wildwood Crest, N.J.) earned a pair of ITU Pan American Cup podium finishes in 2012 and was third at USA Triathlon Elite Nationals. 

A quartet of 2012 Olympians are on the men's start list, including Kyle Jones (CAN), Mario Mola (ESP), Richard Murray (RSA) and Bruno Pais (POR). Visit triathlon.org for a complete men's start list. 

The Draft Legal Challenge at Clermont race weekend also features a USA Triathlon Under-25 Elite Development Race on Saturday, as well as an age-group event and a Youth F1 race on Sunday. Visit draftlegalchallenge.com for full event details.

Photo: Olympian Sarah Groff headlines the women's start list for the Clermont ITU Sprint Pan American Cup. (Janos Schmidt/ITU)

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