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Alicia Kaye, Greg Bennett win Chicago Triathlon

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A reconfigured bike portion shifted the focus on the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon, but the top finishers Sunday looked as familiar as old video.

Alicia Kaye easily repeated as the women’s champion in 2 hours, 1 minute, 50 seconds. The next closest woman was Czech Radka Vodickova (2:04:30).

The men’s race was tighter, with Greg Bennett winning his second Chicago event in 1:49:02, holding off defending champion Hunter Kemper (1:49.11) by about 100 yards.

Kaye briefly looked over her shoulder, unnecessarily, before crossing the tape. She rode to the lead a couple of miles into the bike portion and never was challenged seriously thereafter.

She wasn’t a fan of the new bike route, which looped once on Lake Shore Drive before finishing the 40-kilometer ride on Wacker Drive and McCormick busway instead of double-looping Lake Shore Drive.

“I liked the old route,” she said. “It is challenging to go into the darkness [of Wacker]. It felt like going into a video game. You have to adjust to that aspect.”

The other two adjustments came in the 1.5-kilometer swim in Monroe Harbor and the humidity. A stiff east wind slapped a cross chop on the swimmers but also brought in warm water (73.7 degrees).

“The hardest part and the part I like the most is the challenging swim,” Kaye said. “It was like a washing machine. It was a good, honest swim. I definitely have a bit of Lake Michigan in my stomach.”

Bennett ran to the lead in the 10-kilometer run portion, which ended on Columbus Drive.

“I ran with Cameron Dye until 3½ miles into the run, then I put on some acceleration,” Bennett said.

Dye led after the swim and bike portions. Even at the end, Bennett looked over his shoulder.

“I never take a win until I cross the finish,” he said. “These are the best guys in the world. Hunter Kemper and I have been going at each other for 20 years.”

Bennett, a regular in Chicago since 1995, seemed to savor the victory more at 42. He also won in 2007 and has four second-place finishes in Chicago.

While the overcast skies kept temperatures in the 70s, the humidity was 95 percent at the start.

“If you get hot, you can never cool down,” Bennett said.

By the time the sprint triathletes entered the water mid-morning, the race caution level was elevated to yellow.

Chicagoan Ben Collins, who has won two triathlons this summer, finished third (1:50:15).

The new bike route allowed the pros and longer distances to go earlier. The pros went off at 6 a.m.

In the predawn by Monroe Harbor, family and friends waved signs, yelled encouragement and rang cowbells by the thousands. Triathletes slugged water from plastic gallon jugs and chewed bananas and bagels. “Go JRW!” was in lights on a downtown building.

Some 9,000 participants from 18 countries and 44 states participated.

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