But when the favorites faded, two new Ironman stars emerged, now that the 2000 Ironman cycle ended with the October 14 Ironman, and everyone is looking toward the 2001 Kona race which this was a qualifier for.
Cleveland wasn't in Kona because his two attempts last year to qualify for it at both Ironman New Zealand (two flat tires) and Ironman Canada (a bad day) ended in DNFs. So winning in Florida, in 8:37:58, was a sweet feeling.
"It's just an awesome feeling," he said. "It just goes to show how important patience is in Ironman."
Cleveland won by nine minutes over Orlando's own Alec Rukosuev (8:46:14) and the little-known Kirill Litovtchenko (8:52:05) of Estonia. Meanwhile, DNFs were recorded for a handful of heavyweights: Denmark's Torbjorn Sindalle, who had taken a five-minute lead in the run, only to collapse in the heat at 12 miles; Bernhard, who also withdrew on the run; and Czech Republic's Petr Vabrousek.
Marshall, who first came to Ironman prominence in July by winning Ironman Switzerland, posted a winning time here of 9:33:49. Runner-up Andrea Fisher finishedin 9:38:24, and third-place Jan Wanklyn recorded a 9:41:40.
And, like the men, two women who were looking to rebound from poor Hawaii performances, finished further back than anyone could have guessed: Juliana Nievergelt, perhaps the most veteran Ironwoman in the field, finished seventh in 10:01:11. And Canada's Spooner, who had DNFed in Hawaii, was perhaps determined to finish this one. That she did in 12:04:35, including a 5:50 marathon.
Early in the race, Andrea Fisher looked like she would have to lose the race for anyone else to win. A ex-NCAA All American swimmer for University of Texas, Fisher transformed her lead out of the water (54:14) into an eight-minute lead off the bike. But Marshall chipped away, in the end posting both the fastest female bike split (5:03:30) and run split (3:20:32).
Siri Lindley didn't make it to the Olympics in 2000, but she sure ended her season on a high note anyway.
By winning the ITU World Cup-Cancun on Sunday, the last of the year's ITU races, Lindley extended her hot streak to five straight races since August, in which she finished on the podium every time.
Argentina's Oscar Galindez was the men's winner, 40 seconds ahead of New Zealand's Matthew Reed. It was, for Galindez, only his second ITU World Cup appearance in a season when he focused on Olympic preparation: He was 19th in the opener in Brazil back in March. (And in the Olympics, he was 28th).
For Lindley, it was her second World Cup win this season. She was also first in Lausanne in August and, one week before that, second in Tiszaujvaros. Since then, she was third in the Mrs. T's Triathlon in Chicago and second in the ITU World Duathlon Championships a month ago -- in only her first duathlon ever.
In Cancun, the women's field was hardly the heated pre-Olympic race that Lausanne had been. Here, she won by 43 seconds over a Spanish trio that went 2-3-4. The runner-up was Ana Burgos, Spain's new national champion who is as fresh on the international scene as Pilar Hidalgo, the third finisher on Sunday.