CHERNG TALAY: Marc Lees broke away from the pack and held on to capture the men’s pro division title in today’s Thai Airways Laguna Phuket Triathlon. Lees, who had been off the race circuit since tearing hamstring muscles in May, finished in 2:29, nearly five minutes ahead of fellow Australian Greg Welch. “I wanted to be the dark horse,” Lees told the Gazette after tackling the 1.8-kilometer swim, 55-kilometer bike ride and 12-kilometer run. “I didn’t know how fit the others were so I just did my own race.” The 26-year-old Lees, competing in his first Laguna Phuket Triathlon, led after the swim segment and never surrendered the lead. Lees spent just five seconds to complete the swim to bike transition and opened up a commanding three-minute lead at the 40-kilometer mark on the bike course. “A thousand things were going through my head,” Lees recalled. “I just tried to stay focused.” Welch, who took last year’s men’s title, beat out American Mike Pigg for second place. In the ladies division, defending champion Jackie Gallagher passed up Sian Welch during the final leg of the triathlon to retain her crown. Gallagher finished ninth overall. Welch had held the lead after the biking segment, but was overtaken as the field strode the final 12 kilometers through the Laguna Phuket complex. Robyn Roocke finished third in the division. A total of 422 athletes participated in this year’s event, cheered on by throngs of enthusiastic spectators along the course.
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