Unique stand-up paddleboard leg attracts flock of Coloradans to Frisco Triathlon

2021 Frisco Triathlon team winners The Dutch Rudders stand atop the podium flanked by Team Sweet Vans (right) and Team Cronut Friday at the Frisco Bay Marina in Frisco. The Dutch Rudders consisted of Mike Rutter and Heather Prentice of Lyons.
Photo from Heather Prentice

More than 150 people paddled away from the Frisco Marina boat ramp Friday morning, July 9, in what many people regard as one of the most unique summer triathlon events in the state: the Frisco Triathlon.

“The volunteers were awesome, and for such a small little spot, the marina, for them to pull this race off is pretty impressive,” said men’s individual race winner Victor Ruggiero, 48, of Durango. “And there’s just a great overall vibe afterward.”

The massive field consisted of racers from all across the state, including Ruggiero and women’s individual race winner Christine Carlson, 34, of Frisco.

Ruggiero took the overall win in his third Frisco Triathlon. At his first Frisco Triathlon in 2016, Ruggiero raced for the first time on a stand-up paddleboard, the atypical opening leg of the triathlon. Ruggiero said he struggled on the mountain bike that year. In 2019, struggling on the paddleboard portion, he managed a top-20 finish.

On Friday, Ruggiero was in fifth after the paddle and fourth after the 11.2-kilometer mountain bike before picking off the three competitors ahead of him every half mile-or-so on the 5-kilometer run.

Ruggiero crossed the finish line in 1:23:31, 29 seconds ahead of runner-up Dalton McBride, 26, of Breckenridge and more than a minute ahead of third-place finisher Blake Crossland, 26, of Fraser.

It was a dream realized for Ruggiero.

“In past years I looked at those guys on the podium and thought, ‘man, that’s so freaking cool,'” Ruggiero said. “These are, literally, my three favorite activities in the summer and to be able to race a mountain bike on a cross-country course, and to work at that all summer long, and to have the pay off today was just momentous.”

Friday’s women’s podium was rounded out by Anne Magill-Collins, 39, of Bozeman, Montana (1:37:59) and Stacy Montgomery, 49, of Frisco (1:45:15).

2021 Frisco Triathlon men's winner Victor Ruggiero of Durango stands atop the podium flanked by runner-up Dalton McBride of Breckenridge (right) and third-place finisher Blake Crossland of Fraser on Friday, July 9, at the Frisco Bay Marina.
Photo from Victor Ruggiero

Mike Rutter and Heather Prentice of Lyons, dubbed “The Dutch Rudders,” took home the team title with a time of 1:29:39. Both Rutter and Prentice said it’s the unique stand-up paddleboard opening leg of the triathlon that attracts them to the race.

The duo teamed up after they each, initially, were signed up for the race as individuals. But Rutter cracked his femur three weeks ago and was instructed not to undertake any mountain bike riding or trail running. Prentice offered to do the two legs that succeeded Rutter’s race in the water. The front of the paddleboard pack was led by fourth-place overall finisher and 55-year-old Brian Hunter (1:27:31) of Boulder.

In the opening leg, Rutter raced a long and light hard board that’s built for speed — but not as stable — as standard boards.

When Prentice began the mountain bike portion, she maintained the team lead on a tight, curvy Peninsula recreation area replete with new trails not seen at the most recent Frisco Triathlon in 2019.

2021 Frisco Triathlon

“The singletrack and the obstacles and the features were so great,” Prentice said. “This year was a lot more singletrack than the road, which is awesome — that’s where we excelled. I look forward to this event every year. It’s one of my favorite races. The atmosphere is great, and the race is great.”

Rutter and Prentice said the stand-up paddleboard leg of the triathlon makes the race more accessible for people who may be intimidated by a long swim.

Ruggiero counts himself as one of them.

“I think that’s why they get such big numbers,” Rutter said.

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