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Grosse Ile Duathlon Returns!
By Tom Demerly



The Grosse Ile Island Duathlon returned in 2008 with a new, expanded course and a unique venue using the Grosse Isle Naval Air Station as the transition area, start and finish. The new event enjoyed an unprecedented level of local support. Island resident, local politician and endurance athlete Peter Kantz headed a race committee that organized the best ever edition of the Grosse Isle Island Duathlon. An honor guard presents the colors at the opening of the race.


Using the airplane hanger for a dry place during registration. Rainy conditions are uncharacteristic for this time of year. Unusual weather systems from hurricanes to the far south brought persistent rain. Despite the gray conditions the new race venue worked perfectly with wide open spaces for transition and a very unusual, closed course for much of the race.


Local musician, athlete and cancer survivor Dave Donigian limbers up before racing in the hurricane produced rain. Access to the enormous airplane hangers not only added to the unique setting but made for a comfortable shelter on the uncharacteristically drizzly day.


Ironman veteran and Taylor Police Officer Meggan Kantz (left) stands next to multi-time Ironman Eric Nguyen and Ted Varkas as an honor guard presents the colors and listens to the national anthem. Local volunteer organizations were coordinated by Peter Kantz and assisted in the production of the event.


Lining up for the start with our camera helicopter going aloft. The honor guard braved blustery conditions to fly the flag and lend a sense of reverence for the historical setting to the event.


Start of the first 4 mile run up the runway. Eventual race winner Matt West (far left, black tri suit) begins an impressive and commanding performance by leading the race literally from wire-to-wire.


Matt West (left) pulls away from the lead group led by Eric Nguyen as the cream rise during the opening 4 mile run. The wide open setting for much of the run course makes for exciting competition. The very impressive Paul Deladurante (neon green cap) joins the overall lead group as he storms the 60+ age category.


You're cleared onto runway 27. Athletes cross an active (closed for the race) taxiway that has hosted WWII bombers and is now used by private and executive aircraft. The well marked course crossed onto a grass section adjacent to the llama farm.

Curious llamas watch competitors during the first run as they make their way toward the nature trail section of the course. The llama farm raises the friendly animals for their thick wool.


Matt West opens his lead as he runs out of the nature preserve and back onto the runway. this portion of the course crosses next to an abandoned seaplane port used from WWII to the 1950's.


Age category winner Paul Deladurante (left) passes a younger competitor. Deladurante's winning time in the 60-65 age category would have won the 25-29 age category too.

Deladurante continues with another competitor back onto the tarmac section as he extends his lead and commanding victory in his age category. Deladurante is a national caliber duathlete and island local.


The transition area as seen from our camera helicopter. The wide open spaces of the Naval Air Station make the event easy to expand as more participants discover the unique and novel course.


Constant hurricane driven rain made for uncharacteristically tough conditions. The bike course left the airport for a 15 mile loop of the island.


Leaving the airport for a lap of Grosse Isle along island mansions belonging to the rich and famous. Most of the bike course is along the river with nice views of both Canada and the U.S. along the Detroit river.


Athletes enjoyed the unique venue despite the weather. Aircraft hangers in the background house light aircraft owned by island residents.


Top age grouper Ted Varkas of Brownstown leaving the tarmac to begin his 15 mile circumnavigation of the island.

Despite uncharacteristically damp conditions athletes posted impressive times on bike and run. This course will be extremely fast in the normal dry conditions.

It doesn't get flatter or faster than this. Taking the racing line across the taxiway and onto the road section of the bike course.


Island strongman J.R., a Grosse Ile local, hammers the bike for his relay team. J.R. is one of the top local cyclists with a strong reputation for leading group rides on Grosse Ile and Dearborn. His participation lends credibility to the event as one of the area's top cyclists.


Taylor Police Officer Megan Kantz begins the bike ride in a downpour. Kantz completed Ironman Wisconsin in 2007 despite a crash in the race that resulted in a broken clavicle. Her gutsy performance inspired her father, Peter Kantz, to begin racing multisport events and to revive the Grosse Ile Island Duathlon as its new race director.


Back at T2 to start the second 4 mile run. The wide open venue eliminated congestion and created a great canvas for race directors to plan the course. It's hard to imagine a better setting for a multisport race.


Monica West on the way to a top finish after singing our national anthem. Monica joined brother Matt as part of the West family multisport dynasty at Grosse Ile.


Water sprayed from riders' wheels didn't dampen spirits.

Rain varied throughout the event from a light drizzle to a downpour. Athletes did an impressive job of adapting to the demanding conditions. Here a cyclist leaves the airport tarmac to begin the 15 mile island loop in the heaviest rain of the day.


Matt West touches down on the runway for T2 with an enormous lead. West lead the race from start to finish with impressive splits in all three events. He went on to represent Michigan in an invitation only triathlon in Arizona in October.


West transitioning to the 2nd run. He had a multi-minute lead going into the second run and only increased his lead, a truly commanding victory from a class athlete.


Crossing the expanse of the blimp roundabout, an unusual historical landmark used by military blimps in WWII and more recently by the Goodyear Blimp.


View of the transition area from the cockpit of our camera helicopter as we hover over competitors.


Our kind and capable camera pilot and his trusty Robinson R22 helicopter.

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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