VALPARAISO | Robert Fozkos suffered a brutal misfortune for the second straight year at the 11th annual Valparaiso Triathlon on Saturday morning.
Fozkos led the first wave of participants into the final stretch of the 3.2-mile road course before he was slowed by hamstring and calf tightness. His legs were fine Saturday, but a damaged bike chain derailed Fozkos’ chances at another top-three finish at Rogers-Lakewood Park.
“The front chain came off the bike and sort of pretzel wrapped itself around,” Fozkos said. “Taking the back tire off a bike during a race is never a good sign. I’d never seen anything like that before.”
Fozkos was the first participant out of the water and the Chesterton native recovered to post one of the top running times of the day, but he spent more than 45 minutes on the bike. Fozkos finished in 55th place with a time of 1:12:10.
“All problems aside, no one was catching Jordan Bailey today,” Fozkos said. “This race is wonderful and it’s such a great accomplishment to see people finishing. That’s something I’ve lost sight of until today. It was a blessing to be able to finish. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the volunteer who helped me with my bike. Just great people all over the course.”
Passing the Torch: Age inevitably hit Tom Mangel square in the face on Saturday morning as his 18-year-old son Kevin finally crossed the finish line ahead of him in a major race.
The Valparaiso senior finished in third place overall (1:01:20) and was first in the 15-19 age division while Tom managed a respectable ninth place overall finish and first in the 45-49 age division. The pair have been staples of the Valparaiso running community over the years and the eldest Mangel was proud to pass the torch to his son.
“He’s earned this without question,” Tom said. “Kevin has put in the work and I wasn’t surprised he got me.”
Kevin was still beaming nearly a half hour after the race.
“This was a great day to race,” Kevin said. “It means a lot to beat my Dad. I’ve got him twice now, but this was the first major time it’s happened.”
Relief: The award ceremony was nearly underway and the participant medals were being packed up when Paul Wagner crossed the finish line to one of the loudest ovations of the day.
The Hebron resident has lost 230 pounds and completed the first of his four scheduled triathlons this summer on Saturday. When Wagner crossed the finish line he didn’t care that he was one of the last to finish the race. He was just happy to have finished.
“Relief,” Wagner said. “I just wanted to do this race and I got it done.”
Wagner was emotional as he sat in the shade and rehydrated.
“It feels really good because you do something, you cross the finish line and you’ve got the endorphins going,” Wagner said. “The body hurts really bad, but you’ve made it. Now I’ve got another one next week.”