By Dan Guttenplan
---- — AMESBURY — The Dam Triathlon took a step back this year in terms of top-end talent and participation numbers, and another miscommunication between the race’s volunteers and elite racers does not bode well for growth in the race in future years.
South Berwick, Maine’s Kyle Burnell won the men’s race in 1:06.16 — the slowest winning time in the four years since the race became known as the Dam Sprint Triathlon. His time was more than nine minutes slower than that of last year’s champion. Ethan Brown of Lowell, who won in 56:54.
The reason for the discrepancy in the winning time was two-fold. First, Brown is one of the top elite triathletes in all of New England, and likely would have won this year’s race going away had he entered. Next, for the second time in three years, elite riders rode off the course during the bike section, impacting the final result.
Burnell, who competes for FitWerx in Peabody, posted a bike split of 32:19, a time 33 seconds slower than his split last year. His overall time was more than four minutes slower than last year, when he placed second in 1:02.17.
Burnell was not available for an interview after the race.
Beverly’s Scott Carrier finished second in 1:09.40. Gloucester’s Paul Simon finished third in 1:10.19. By comparison, the third-place finisher in last year’s race crossed the line in 1:05.17. Eighteen athletes finished last year before Simon’s third-place time this year.
Marblehead’s Kristen Lamb won the women’s race in 1:11.25. She beat last year’s champion, Amesbury’s Shaina Damm, by 18 seconds. Damm finished 2 minutes and 50 seconds slower than last year.
“A lot of the elite riders rode off the course,” Lamb said. “I think that could have been part of the reason I won. A lot of the elite men had problems, and a few of the women did as well.”
In 2011, Manchester, N.H., resident Peter Mallet posted the fastest time in the men’s race, before being assessed a 2-minute penalty for veering off the course. He ended up placing fourth overall. He claimed that a volunteer steered him in the wrong direction.
In addition to the confusion at the front of the pack this year, there were fewer racers in general. Last year’s race had 66 more finishers — 413 compared to 347 this year — despite the fact that Saturday morning offered near-perfect conditions for racing, 70 degrees and cloudy.
Lamb caught the triathlon bug five years ago after racing in a sprint triathlon in Gloucester. She competed in the National Triathlon Championships in Burlington, Vt., in 2011, and earned an invitation to the 2012 World Triathlon Championships in New Zealand. This September, she will compete in the World Championships again, this time in London.
“It’s a passion and something I enjoy doing,” Lamb said. “I have two boys, and I’m hoping to set a good example for them by staying active and being healthy. I do triathlons because it’s a lot of fun. It’s positive, and there are a lot of happy people who do it. I’ve met so many awesome people along the way. This was my first time at the Dam, and I’d heard great things. The atmosphere was happy and positive, and it’s contagious.”
Lamb, like Damm, races with FitWerks out of Peabody. She was proud that such a large contingent of FitWerks racers earned spots on the podium.
“Shaina has won it in years past, and she’s an amazing triathlete,” Lamb said. “She does Ironmans, so I got lucky and squeaked it out at this distance. She had a great race as well. Tons of FitWerks people had great performances. I feel fortunate to wear the FitWerks kit.”