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Defending champion considers houseguest favorite to win triathlon

Five-time defending Brewhouse Triathlon long-course champion Brian Bich of Duluth says he's the second-best athlete at his house this weekend. And who is No. 1 at the Bich house? David Thompson of St. Paul, who is an overnight guest. "I'd rate hi...

Five-time defending Brewhouse Triathlon long-course champion Brian Bich of Duluth says he's the second-best athlete at his house this weekend.

And who is No. 1 at the Bich house?

David Thompson of St. Paul, who is an overnight guest.

"I'd rate him as the most versatile triathlete in the United States,'' Bich said. "He's a great cyclist and very good runner and swimmer.''

A full field of 600 competitors, along with race spectators, will see Thompson's Duluth debut in Sunday's 21st Brewhouse Triathlon at the Pike Lake Auto Club.

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The fourth-year professional won 14 of 25 races in 2006 and was named Minnesota's Multisports Athlete of the Year by Midwest Events magazine. He's won nine of 15 races in 2007, including duathlons. Two victories, worth $10,000 each, came in a new triathlon series for 101-mile events. Thompson, 29, who is 6-foot-1 and165 pounds, was sixth overall and the No. 2 American in the Life Time Fitness Triathlon on July 14 in Minneapolis to earn $4,000.

That's impressive for a guy who earned a nuclear engineering graduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002.

"After graduate school, new hirings in my field were almost nonexistent. I was going to take a year off and then Gear West [a running and Nordic skiing equipment store in Long Lake, Minn.] threw out the idea of a work-sponsorship arrangement,'' said Thompson, who grew up in Appleton, Minn., and was a multisport athlete at Lac qui Parle Valley High School. "I've always been competitive and driven, and I like the variety of triathlons.''

Thompson coaches himself and says he hopes to race at an elite level at least until age 35. His most significant pro performance came in winning the 2006 Spirit of Racine (Wis.) Half-Ironman in a course-record 3 hours, 51 minutes, 21 seconds, the fastest of the year in North America. He broke that mark in a repeat win in 3:50:56 on July 22 by averaging nearly 27 mph for 56 miles in the bike portion, running 1:16:53 for a half-marathon and swimming 1.2 miles in 26:14.

Bich, 41, who also competes for Gear West, has had his own notable success. He's won the masters title (those 40 and older) in the last two USA Triathlon Age-Group Championships, including a seventh overall finish June 30 in Portland, Ore., placing ahead of the 35-39 age-group winner. Also in 2007, he has outright victories at the Lake Waconia (Minn.) Triathlon and the Heart of the Lakes Triathlon in Annandale, Minn.

Bich, a Lake Superior College biology instructor, was named Minnesota's 2006 amateur Triathlete of the Year and Master of the Year by Midwest Events.

"I've felt particularly good about my last three races, but I'll be happy to be within three or four minutes of David,'' said Bich of Sunday's race. His Brewhouse course record for a .8-mile swim, 20.6-mile bike and 5-mile run is 1:38:08 set in 2003.

Also entered is defending women's champion Marlo Crosby McGaver of Duluth, who set the women's long-course record last year in 1:51:11 and went on to be named Minnesota's amateur women's Triathlete of the Year, Duathlete of the Year and Most Improved in 2006.

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Among her races in 2007, McGaver, 37, has won Minnesota duathlons in Duluth, Orono and Sartell, setting course records in two of the three, and led the women's field in the Liberty Triathlon in Maple Plain, Minn. Also competing is former two-time champion Becky Youngberg of Eden Prairie, Minn.

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