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Newcomers top podium at Granite Man

Chris Meddings jumped off his mountain bike in the transition area of the Granite Man triathlon Saturday and spotted a familiar black-and-white jersey just leaving. The jersey belonged to Grant Hayball, a fellow rider for the Rolf Prima Factory team who he had just met at the starting line.

He knew Hayball was the man to beat.

On the ensuing five-mile trail run, said Meddings, a Eugene resident, "I saw him on a couple of turns and tried to dig deep in that pain cave. I basically ran in the red zone the last mile."

Though Meddings made up most 30 seconds on the run leg, he still finished 23 seconds behind Hayball at the finish line at the Hart-tish campground at Applegate Lake. Hayball's winning time was 1 hour, 56 minutes and 13 seconds.

The Granite Man triathlon consists of a three-quarter-mile swim in the lake, followed by a 13-mile mountain bike ride and 5-mile trail run, both around the lake.

For winner and first-time Granite Man competitor Hayball, this race represented a comeback. He is just returning to racing after a two-year layoff due to a bulged disc in his back.

"It was a difficult race — I struggled, I hurt the whole time," said Hayball, who lives in Grants Pass.

A former college swimmer, Hayball comes to triathlons from a road bicycle racing background.

"My main goal was to get a lead on the swim," Hayball said of his race strategy. "I was third out of the water"¦ on the technical section I got caught by a couple of relay guys but I'm a strong hill climber so at mile-11 I re-caught those guys and we rolled into T2 [the bike-run transition area] together."

Because of the regional drought this spring, the trail was drier, making the decomposed granite surface much slicker. Applegate Lake is also lower than it has been for past Granite Man competitions. The water temperature was warmer than usual, making the cold less of a factor in the opening swim leg.

This suited Solana Kline just fine. Swimming, says the women's triathlon winner, is not her strongest sport.

"Swimming was a bit overwhelming, when you can't see what's ahead of you," said Kline, a mountain biker from Bend and Granite Man rookie whose winning time of 2:06:41 was a commanding 21:05 ahead of runner-up Lyndsey Price of Portland. "I figured there were three-to-four women in front of me (coming out of the swim), but all the bikes were there in my rack, and that's always a good sign."

Though this bicycle course does not have many long steep downhills, it has other risks.

"In Bend we don't have any exposure on the trails but here it was on the edge of the lake the whole time," said Kline.

The exposure caught up to Kline on the bike leg.

"I hit that tree and kind of fell down the side of the hill and my chain got stuck between the chain ring and my bike frame, so I had to yank it out of there and put it back on," she explained.

The accident and accompanying adrenaline boost made Kline try harder.

"I passed three to four women on the bike and two to three on the run," said Kline, who didn't know until she finished that she had won. "You just have to run as if there was someone really fast behind or ahead of you."

In addition to the triathlon, the two-day Granite Man event includes a bike-run duathlon — using the same course as the triathlon but without the swim leg — and a relay team category for both triathlon and duathlon. Both the tri and du also featured a competition for kids.

Granite Man finishes today with a bicycle race around Applegate Lake, a five-mile Poker Run, and the 10-mile Mountain Run, one that features a climb up nearby Collings Mountain.

In the duathlon, Bend athlete and physical therapist Jason Gulley claimed victory in a time of 1:27:24, finishing 6:54 ahead of defending champion Doug Striley of Jacksonville.

Gulley is a trail runner who has recently expanded into mountain bike racing. His victory, he says, is icing on the cake — the wedding cake. He and his wife are in Southern Oregon celebrating their wedding anniversary.

Women's duathlon winner Devin Steinmetz is a former professional bicyclist who rode for Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles. She decided to switch to triathlons, she said, "Because I made too many trips to the emergency room."

Her victory in a time of 2:00:47 came at a cost, one she knows only too well. She crossed the finish line bloodied after falling on both the bike and run legs. Steinmetz is a temporary Ashland resident who will soon return home to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Participation is down more than 25 percent this year, according to race officials, especially in the relay team division, where they face competition for athletes. To avoid a conflict with the Wild Rogue Relay, scheduled for next weekend, the Granite Man moved its schedule up by a week.

The Granite Man races serve as a fundraiser for Rogue Valley Farm to School. For full results, visit www.granite-man.com.

Men's Triathlon

1, Grant Hayball, 34, Grants Pass, 1:56:13.

2, Chris Meddings, 32, Eugene, 1:56:36.

3, Benjamin Grable, 35, Central Point, 2:00:19.

4, Adam Chizek, 38, Medford, 2:01:25.

5, Clayton Mattson, 30, Medford, 2:02:01.

Women's Triathlon

1, Solana Kline, 31, Bend, 2:06:41.

2, Lyndsey Price, 38, Portland, 2:27:46.

3, Linda Tesman, 44, Klamath Falls, 2:29:52.

4, Suzanne Meddings, 33, Eugene, 2:31:32.

5, Javonna Marroquin, 36, Grants Pass, 2:39:18.

Men's Duathlon

1, Jason Gulley, 34, Bend, 1:27:24.

2, Doug Striley, 44, Jacksonville, 1:34:18.

3, Austin Morgan, 19, Jacksonville, 1:46:23.

4, Frank Gray, 51, Medford, 1:46:28.

5, Greg Silver, 44, Central Point, 1:49:28.

Women's Duathlon

1, Neven Steinmetz, 37, Ashland, 2:00:47.

2, Lynn Longan, 41, Medford, 2:04:27.

3, Rachael Richmond, 47, Ashland, 2:13:56.

4, Shannon Crosier, 43, Rogue River, 2:24:12.

Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Email him at dnewberry@jeffnet.org

Grant Hayball make the final turn en route to winning the triathlon event at the Granite Man race on Saturday at Applegate Lake.