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Stamford Triathlete Rolls Toward Greenwich, China

STAMFORD, Conn. – John Cook got a flat tire in his first triathlon, the Greenwich Cup Sprint back in the early 1990s. “It was at the bottom of Palmer Hill Road,’’ said the Stamford resident, who, at 76, is now one of the top age-group athletes in the world. “I was so frustrated I rode to the top of the hill before I changed it.”

The flat did not deter Cook from future triathlons. Instead, it only fueled his resolve. He’ll be back at the Greenwich Cup Triathlon on Sunday beginning at 6:30 a.m. at Tod’s Point in Old Greenwich. It will also be his final race before heading to the International Triathlon Union World Championships next month in Beijing.

“Greenwich is one of my favorite ones,’’ Cook said. “It’s hometown, and you know just about everybody there.”

The Greenwich Cup event is a half-mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and three-mile run. Cook was the only contestant in his age group last year. Earlier this year, Cook competed in the Mossman Sprint Triathlon in Norwalk and the Kids In Crisis Triathlon in Stamford. In both races, he was the only one in his age group. He said he expects at least one competitor at Sunday’s race.

The Greenwich Cup will be a final tune-up for his race in Beijing. That event will be an Olympic distance event, with a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run. Cook was invited to the race because of rankings from races last year. One of Cook’s primary competitors in Beijing will be Dieter Heycke, of Honolulu. Heycke is also Cook’s roommate in China.

One concern Cook has he prepares for the race in Beijing is the air quality, he said. “It will be better in late September and early October,’’ Cook said. “The other thing is the water will be warm and I won’t be able to wear a wetsuit. I swim much better with a wetsuit.”

The objective at Sunday’s race in Greenwich is to stay healthy. The last thing he needs before his signature race of the year is an injury or equipment breakdown, he said. “I think I’m where I want to be in my training,’’ Cook said. “I’ll be really conservative on Sunday.”

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