20 years of ITU World Cups: Q&A with Mike Pigg

20 years of ITU World Cups: Q&A with Mike Pigg

By Merryn Sherwood on 04/05/11 at 11:43 am

Mike Pigg raced into ITU history in St Croix 20 years ago when he became the first men’s ITU World Cup winner. In a thrilling race, Pigg narrowly out sprinted the first two ITU World Champions, Australian Greg Welch who had won the world title in 1990, and American Mark Allen, who had won the ITU worlds in 1989. Pigg just slipped past Welch on the line in a time of 2 hours 31 minutes and 5 seconds on the 2km swim, 50km bike and 12km run course in the US Virgin Islands. Looking back on that race and where triathlon has come since then, Pigg told us that race is still one of his fondest career memories.

What are some of your memories about the first ITU World Cup in St Croix? The finish line with 400 yards to go, the hot corner in the bike and the beast. Oh yeah, the beast the steepest paved road, that made grown men cry.  The people of St. Croix made it happen for that race. Thanks.

What did it mean to you to win that first World Cup then, and now? It was a big deal. Not so much because of the first World Cup but because of how much prize money there was to be had, because of the new location of St. Croix and all of the professional triathletes that gathered at one place.

Did it feel like the start of something big? It was hard to say because so many races came and went. It was just nice to have some prize money to go after. I don’t think at the time athletes would realise that was a true starting point for something big. It wasn’t an easy path but something big came out of it.

What do you think of triathlon today, and how it has changed since 1991? Well the first thing that comes to mind is that triathlons for Olympic distance allowed drafting.  Also, was the huge battle over sponsorship and what the heck goes on the jersey and who has the power. I have been out for ten years now so I am losing touch of the triathlon world.  My world now is family, work and staying fit.

How do you think you would do if you were competing at the Olympic distance triathlon today? If you allow drafting then I would get my butt kicked, I would lose each race by one to one and a half minutes. I could bike but I struggled in the run, if no drafting was the rule, I would do just fine.

Who in your opinion are some of the world’s greatest triathletes over the past 20 years? Mark Allen because he could do both short and long, very smart and very talented. Enough wins in both to choke a horse. Dave Scott because of focus, drive and owning Ironman.  Scott Molina, this guy knew how to hurt and win.  He just did a little bit too much training which finally took a toll before his time. Scott Tinley, the Ironhorse of the sport and a great spokesperson for the sport.  The only person in the world who trained and raced more the Scott Molina.  Kenny Souza for dominating duathlons he was a true thoroughbred for biking and running.  Just don’t add water. Simon Lessing, probably the most talented short course athlete that I ever got to race against. Don’t forget Greg Welch and Brad Beven. There are too many to mention. There are a lot of great athletes willing to put in the time and effort to be a professional athlete.

What are some of your favorite memories in your triathlon career, great wins, great races, great times…can you describe some? Winning St. Croix was one of my biggest highs in the sport.  Big money, car, TV, and the best athletes in the world to go against.  Knocking off the big four one at a time, with Mark Allen being the last, at USA Pro Nationals in Hilton Head 1987. It was one of my biggest grunts ever holding him off at the finish line. To be honest with you, my whole career is something I will never forget and feel very fortunate to have been able to compete for 17 years.  The people involved with the sport were awesome from the spectators, athletes; pro and amateur, sponsors and the people who made the races happen. Thank you for the memories.

Are you still involved in triathlon, if so, how, and what else do you do? I still swim, bike and run for fitness, two to three times on each event a week. I don’t do too many triathlons. I look for events that are different then the norm and still help me see the world. Last year I ran across the Grand Canyon, spent the night and ran back the next day, Death Valley Marathon, Boston Marathon and a few adventure races.  This year the Leadville 100 mile Mountain Bike race in August. I get to race Paul Huddle one more time in that race, I think he is overweight though. I coach cross-country and track and field, class K through to 8th. I sell real estate with Coldwell Banker Cutten Realty in Eureka/Arcata area and a little coaching on the side. Oh yeah! My big thrill is kite boarding in the Pacific Ocean at Clam Beach and working out with my kids.

On May 5th, it’ll be exactly 20 years since your win in the first ITU World Cup in St. Croix, what will you be doing? May 5th, I’ll will be driving my daughter who is in the seventh grade to University of Oregon to compete in an open mile between 6th, 7th and 8th grade girls at their twilight race. Her goal and mine is to break a five minute mile on May 6th.  Her idol is Steve Prefontaine, a legend there at University of Oregon, and that is is what motivates her. Like my dream of racing with the Big Four, I am helping my daughter chase her dream.

Thanks Mike!

Photo courtesy of Rich Cruse

Elite Men

1. Mike Pigg USA US 02:31:05
2. Greg Welch AUS AU 02:31:06
3. Mark Allen USA US 02:34:21

Find more details about this event - 1991 St. Croix ITU Triathlon World Cup

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