Tim Steiskal may know better than most how difficult it is to win a triathlon race. He certainly has won enough of them.
By his estimate, the 25-year-old Brookhaven man has finished first in close to 20 triathlons. Anyone who has won just one can testify to how much of an achievement that is.
“It’s basically a math equation,” Steiskal said. “Everything has to be right at the right moment to get a win. If one thing’s a little bit off, it’s not going to add up. So that’s how winning is. It’s so hard, it’s so rare. The fact that I’ve been able to win so much around here is an honor. It’s a good honor. It’s hard to keep that up.”
“Everything has to be perfect, down to the transitions,” he continued. “Where some people are looking at minutes, I’m looking at seconds. Every second matters in these races.”
For the first time in the four-year history of the Riverhead Rocks Olympic Distance Triathlon, not enough of those seconds went Steiskal’s way on Sunday morning. With Steiskal having won the first three Riverhead triathlons, someone joked that perhaps some thought should be given to naming the race after him, and he smiled.
That was after Steiskal’s reign as the race champion was finally brought to an end. Anthony Chan of Flushing took the top honor in 2 hours 5 minutes 48 seconds. Steiskal had to be content with fourth place.
“I knew it would be tough,” he said of a fourpeat.
“The guy who won is one of the best pros around the area,” Steiskal said. He continued: “He competes in some major races and he does well. I knew I had my hands full with this one. I had a great swim, the first one out of the water. On my bike I just fell apart a little on the bike.”
Steiskal had shown remarkable consistency in the first three Riverhead triathlons. Starting in 2012, his times were 2:04:03, 2:07:36 and 2:07:00. On Sunday he was a little slower, coming in at 2:12:42.
Steiskal earned the Steve Tarpinian Swim Award for the fastest time in the one-and-a-half-kilometer swim: 22:17. His time of 1:08:44 during the 40-kilometer bike ride ranked 11th and his 10-kilometer run of 40:28 was the fifth-fastest of the day.
“Tim’s a great guy,” Chan said. “I’ve seen him around at a lot of races and he’s really strong. It was nice to pass him on the bike because he’s strong all around. I didn’t know if I was going to catch up to him today but I’m glad I did.”
Shawn Faurot of New York City, who was second in 2:09:10, had a wise strategy of trying to keep close to Steiskal. The third-place finisher, Tim Walton of Noyac, had a similar idea. Walton, who was timed in 2:12:01, said he felt good when he saw Steiskal’s helmet as he closed in on him before passing him during the biking phase. “I knew I was pretty near the front if I caught this guy,” Walton said, “and then it was a question of just holding on, which almost worked.”
Aside from being close to home, the Riverhead triathlon, which concludes in the heart of downtown Riverhead, is close to Steiskal’s heart.
“This is my favorite race of the season,” said Steiskal, who was cheered on by his family. “I love it. I love the course. I think the downtown finish is incredible. I think the energy of this race is unmatched.”
Speaking of Steiskal’s three-year run as champion, the race director, Victoria Ventura, said: “It’s very impressive. Not easy at all. Not many people can say they won a race three years in a row.”
Four in a row would have been nice, Steiskal recognized, but he seemed to take it all in stride.
“It’s a little bit disappointing, but you know what? That’s what racing is,” he said. “You can’t win them all. You win some, you lose some. You come back next year harder and stronger.”
Photo Caption: Tim Steiskal of Brookhaven fell short of winning the Riverhead Rocks Olympic Distance Triathlon for a fourth straight year on Sunday. He finished fourth. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)