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On top of the world

Bob Tebo brings home 70.3 age group world championship

September 15, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

TUPPER LAKE - Last week's trip to Tennessee to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships was full of surprises for Bob Tebo.

And the most unexpected thing of all that happened to the Tupper Lake resident couldn't have been more wonderful. The 70-year-old who didn't even take up the sport of triathlon until he retired a little more than nine years ago, wound up leaving the city of Chattanooga with the title of world champion.

On a difficult course, Tebo topped a field of 32 finishers in his age group to take first place in the 70- to 74-year-old division.

Article Photos

Bob Tebo finishes off his swim leg in his hometown during the 2016 Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon. A week ago, Tebo took first place in his age group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
(News file photo — Lou Reuter)

The Ironman 70.3 World Championships took place last weekend over two days and featured a field of approximately 4,500 men and women triathletes from more than 90 countries. The competition kicked off Saturday with the women's half-Ironman and ended Sunday with the men taking on the three-leg race.

Tebo said 37 rivals in his age group started out Sunday morning, 32 completed the race, and he was the fastest of them all, finishing in 5 hours, 50 minutes and 39 seconds. He crossed the line more than 10 minutes ahead of his nearest rival, Australian Ian de Kam. Tebo was second out of the water after the 1.2-mile swim, maintained that position on the 56-mile bike ride and then took over and held the lead on the half-marathon run.

"I never expected this," Tebo said. "Some people are really surprised when they hear I've only been doing this for nine years. Usually, I'm talking to people who have been racing triathlon for 25, 30 years. Winning was kind of a shock. It was really great. Being a world champion, that's pretty amazing."

Tebo said he was especially pleased with his run time of 1:58:43, an effort that ultimately landed him at the top of his age group.

"I was very happy with the run," Tebo said. "Any time under 2 hours after getting off my bike is a really, really good run. I've really been working on my running, and I've improved my pace by more than a minute. Aren't you supposed to get slower as you get older?"

Tebo said he caught up to one rival who was leading the race late on the bike leg, only to fall back and have to make up time on the 13.1-mile run. And once he had the lead, he stayed on top the rest of the way.

"I caught the leader 3 miles into the run and never saw him again," Tebo said.

In addition to his victory, Tebo was also surprised at how challenging the course was in Chattanooga. He tested out the swim course in the Tennessee River and rode on the bike course prior to race day and described both as tough. He added that the run wasn't easy either, which in the end, may have made his victory even sweeter.

"I thought the course was extremely challenging," Tebo said. "They had a qualifier here in May, and the swim was all downstream. Being the world championships, I think they wanted to make it a little harder. You had to do two 300-yard swims across the river, and there was an 800-meter swim upstream. It was tough.

"There was 3,400 feet of climb on the course," he continued. "There was a lot of up and down, and there was a 3-mile climb on the bike course that was just slow. It was much hillier than I anticipated."

Tebo said initially he probably would have been happy with a top-five finish, and thrilled with a podium finish in the top three. But Saturday just happened to be the type of race where everything fell into place in a race where he really didn't know much about his competition.

"I was kind of hoping - not knowing what was going on with the other guys - that I could be in the top five," he said. "But I've had some good races recently, and if everything goes really well, a top-three wasn't out of the question.

"It was a perfect day. The temperature for the swim was in the 60s, and in the 70s by the middle of the run. It was just a really good day."

The age group win was the third of the year for Tebo. He took first place in April in Haines City, Florida at the Ironman 70.3 Florida to qualify for the world championships, and triumphed again in July by winning his age group at the full-distance Ironman Lake Placid triathlon.

Although Tebo entertained the thought of retiring from competition in full Ironman triathlons prior to July's race close to home, the victory there now has Tebo eyeing at least one more crack at the very demanding 140.6-mile distances. After earning a qualifying time two months ago in Lake Placid, Tebo will be making his second appearance in Kona, Hawaii next month at the Ironman World Championships.

Tebo said it's a much different ball game than racing 70.3 miles, and isn't sure how well he'll fare, but then again, competing last Saturday was in a way like stepping into the unknown. Tebo does, however, know what it takes to win as a triathlete.

"If you're going to win, you really have to have everything go your way," he explained. "You can't have any mechanical problems on your bike, you have to feel good and your nutrition has to go right. In these races, anything can happen. I'm hoping for another good day."



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