Last fall Montemagni, 73, earned the right to represent the United States in the International Triathlon Union’s Triathlon World Championships, scheduled to be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in September. This will be the 10th time Montemagni has qualified in his age group for the international meet and the ninth time he will compete. He missed competing the first time he was selected because his mother was ill. Since then, he has participated in competitions around the globe including Australia, China, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, England, Hungary, and the United States.
Montemagni has been swimming, biking, and running in triathlons for 25 years, since participating in one here in southern Vermont.
“I did the first one at Mount Snow in 1992,” he said. “I borrowed a bike from Paul Mello and did that race and fell in love with the sport.”
That was part of the Bud Light triathlon series. It included a swim in the West River at the Retreat Meadows in Brattleboro, a bike ride from Brattleboro to Mount Snow through South Newfane and East Dover, and finished with a run around the streets of West Dover. The short-lived event, only held in 1991 and 1992, became notorious for its grueling bicycle climb from East Dover village to the Dover School. That vertical ascent came to be known as “the beast of the East” and was considered too extreme for many triathletes.
While the local event came and went, Montemagni stayed with the sport and continued to compete in triathlons around the region, eventually working his way to the national and international circuits. He currently competes in the 70-74 age group in the full Olympic division. That includes a 1.5 kilometer swim, a 40K bike ride, and a 10K run.
According to Montemagni, the world championships are held over several days with multiple events including disabled triathletes, a sprint championship, an Olympic distance championship, and several triathlon variations such as the “run, swim, run” and the “run, bike, run.” The highlight is the final race pitting the best professional Olympic-caliber athletes against each other in the event that decides who are the professional champions. As many as 3,000 men and women will compete. The US team is one of the largest at the international events, with upward of 200 athletes. Ages range from under 23 for top young athletes to senior competitors in their 80s.
“When you’re at the events, you bump into athletes from all around the world,” said Montemagni. He noted that competitors are given a certain piece of equipment to help identify them. “It’s kind of like a day-glow visor. It makes it easy to spot people around the town, and easy to strike up a conversation.”
As for results, Montemagni’s best finishes include seventh at Beijing in 2011, eighth at Edmonton in 2014, and 15th at Budapest in 2010. It was the race in Beijing that gave him one of his most enduring memories from all of the places he’s been.
“I remember watching the Beijing Olympics, and they had one turn with all these beautiful flowers set out for the games. I remember being in Beijing and I came around this one turn and there it was, and I thought ‘Oh my gosh, we’re in the same venue as the Olympics.’”
Montemagni credits his decade-long run to a passion for the sport and a little bit of luck. “One year I had been injured,” he said. “Barb Levan (a local physical therapist) worked on me right before I ran. I did the sprint (shorter distances) and I made the team in that event.” That was 2013 in London, the only time he didn’t compete in the full Olympic distances.
As for continuing to compete, that shouldn’t be a problem. “It’s easy to do,” said Montemagni. “It’s such a thrill to be there and represent your country.”