Morgan Hill Triathlon – Photographing Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack

The Sponsors

Sunday morning it was pitch dark when I grabbed my cameras and set out for a 5:30 am rendezvous with Specialized's Bobby Behan at the Uvas Reservoir. Bobby is Global Sports Marketing Director for Specialized and an accomplished triathlete, DS and coach. At an athletic 6'5" the affable Irishman now living outside Capetown, SA is hard to miss.

I was there to shoot Chris 'Macca' McCormack, Specialized Sponsored athlete and triathlon legend along with his S-Works Transition participating in the 2009 Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon (much to the surprise and delight of the event's organizers). Bobby was going to ensure I had access to Chris for the assignment. As it turned out, "security" was the eight-year old son of an organizer guarding a 10' section of railing designated "for professionals only" The little guy only had to mention the word professional and anyone thinking about setting their bike down in that hallowed ground was backing up, bowing and apologizing profusely. Such is the power of the word PRO.

Back from a quick bike test spin, shoes clipped in ready to roll after the swim McCormack stays in contact without drafting

Shortly after 5:30 am Chris arrived, graciously said hello to anyone who wanted a word, and then set about getting his gear ready to race. While his principle competition on the day, Chris Lieto, set up shop immediately to his left, Macca hung his gleaming white/blue/black S-Works Transition running SRAM Red on the rail to organize his matching aero helmet, sunglasses and BG shoes for the bike portion of the event. For the record I don't have any ambitions to own a TT bike, but there's no denying the Transition is one sleek looking bicycle... make that missile.

Designated as a Sprint, the course consisted of a 3/4-mile swim, 16-mile bike and 5-mile run. The bike course was the very same loop that the Specialized lunchtime hammerfest used to put the screws to me.

Before long the pro field was in the water and underway. I shot the first few strokes and then walked back to the transition area to shoot a few more statics of the bike and to wait exactly 38:54.4 for Chris to get round the island and out the water. Amazing to watch them get out of their wetsuits, don helmets and glasses in 20 seconds, all without a trace of panic. In bare feet they jog out to the designated point where they can mount their bikes and ride. With shoes already clipped into pedals they push off and get up to speed before wiggling into the shoes. Lieto and McCormack made this look effortless.

Bobby and I then quick marched in the opposite direction down Uvas Road to where I'd parked my car. A certified car nut Bobby got behind the wheel of the S4 grinning and set off backwards down the course to a spot where we'd pick Chris up so I could shoot out the sunroof. Flashers on, photo banner in the windshield we waved to CHIPS officers watching the course. We didn't have to wait long. Lieto and Macca appeared, separated so as not to contravene the no-drafting rules of triathlon, but for all intents neck-and-neck. Bobby punched it and we pulled 25 metres ahead so I could shoot backwards. Watsonville Road yielded a handful of good shots but Uvas proved near impossible as the twisting, undulating, surface had me bouncing around in the turret. In contrast the guys on the bikes stayed smooth and tucked in their aero positions throughout.

A few more shots and we disengaged to blast ahead to the transition. While I jumped out Bobby talked his way through a road block and parked the car. The two Chris's had finished their bike circuit before many of the staggered divisions had even started theirs. Since the run was a simple out and back, all we had to do was wait to see who appeared first. Meanwhile the riders continued to stream out on to the road course.

Lieto and Macca shoulder to shoulder Their feet don't touch the ground

Twenty-eight minutes later the two runners appeared matching each other stride for stride, Macca just off Lieto's left shoulder poised for his strong finishing kick. It didn't come, instead Macca anticipated the sharp turn into the finish a little better and leapt on to the ditch-crossing ramp first. We didn't see it but they finished McCormack 1st, Lieto 2nd. Given the state of my crawl, I might still have been in the water at that point.

Bobby and Chris at the finish

Post race I couldn't have been more impressed with how Macca handled himself, congratulating competitors, chatting with fans and eventually walking round the lake so his Clif sponsors could film an interview in peace. He speaks so well and all his answers were tempered with typical Aussie humor and that 1000-watt smile. An example that every professional athlete could learn something from.

An ever-present smile seems to define Chris McCormack

Postscript: Nice to run into Tim's wife Marcella (L) and Friend Robin (R) about to do the event, and at the finish turned around to see Nicolas Sallembien relaxing after his race. Nicolas joined us for last year's Cliff House Ride.

Marcella and Robin

7 Responses to Morgan Hill Triathlon – Photographing Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack

  1. tomj says:

    Michael – nice to see you hitting the triathlon circuit. Hope you enjoyed the experience. Don’t count out a TT bike yet. A few more events like this and you’ll start to get that same lust you have for road bikes. Besides, you need something new to spend your $$ on, right?

  2. jim says:

    look who made the background in this shot over on…



  3. Kurt says:

    I think it’s time to trade the SLC-SL in for a P4. Personally, I think the Enigma trumps the SLC-SL. One must have a well rounded stable.

    Black with white graphics.. all you need is a pink logo and your in.

  4. I agree the Enigma gets the all-round road bike thumbs up. I like the looks of the Specialized Transition and the Trek TTX Lieto was riding more than the p4 I think.

    Regarding my bikes. I had the shop put my singlespeed Trek back together as a stock 7.9fx hybrid. I’m going to sell it to help pay for a Canon 200mm f2 (back and forth between bike and camera gear)

  5. chris tree says:

    ^^^^^ the P4 is an ugly bike, a step back from the P3, I feel. But I agree on the Transition.

    ‘Macca’ is a great ambassador for triathlon. He is a great and committed athlete who is outspoken in a sport where athletes often play it safe. And that is refreshing, but often makes no friends.

    The ‘security’ I understand and Triathlon despite it’s huge growth in popularity has enjoyed a period of ‘dunkirk-spirit’ but there are always people who spoil things. Macca had his bike stolen from T1 the night before Half-Ironman UK a few years back. One of the Expo exhibitors stepped in and provided a bike for him to race on, the morning of the race. The consummate professional, he could have let it get him down, or even pulled out. But no, he raced as usual and kicked everyone’s A. I came in 2.5 hours later…

    Thanks for the pics and the narrative.