Standing on the grass along the finish line waiting for the conclusion of Saturday's Action Sports Bakersfield Triathlon, Luke Roberts' wife Nicole held up a homemade sign that read, "Luke Roberts is # 1."
Moments later Roberts proved his spouse prophetic when he completed the Olympic Course race at Lake Ming with a winning time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 10.8 seconds.
Afterward, the 30-year old veteran Kern County firefighter received congratulatory hugs from a large contingent of family members at the event, including Nicole and the couple's two young daughters Ruby and Stella.
"She's definitely my rock and my supporter," Roberts said of his wife, a history teacher at Frontier High School.
Roberts, a former swimmer at Centennial High and Cal Baptist, led the race coming out of the water at the end of the 1.5-kilometer swim.
Michael Toland, the eventual runner-up, passed him for the lead halfway through the 40K bike portion of the race. But Roberts regained the front position for good about 100 feet outside of the transition area, powering by the 57-year old Toland at the beginning of the race's final leg, a 10K run.
Elizabeth Granquist of San Diego was the women's Olympic Course winner.
The Sprint Course overall winners were Bree Tape and Brad Hubbard.
Overall, 155 athletes registered to compete Sunday.
Race Director Kerry Ryan said he was happy with that turnout for the annual event, which began in 1981.
"It's up from last year," Ryan said. "The economy hasn't been great. A lot of triathlons have been high and lows. So certainly triathlons are really declining. In our case it's nice that we're going up. We had a great weather pattern today. The water temperature was good. We had a lot of great out-of-town competitors. Overall, I'm really happy."
Granquist, who had never previously competed in the Bakersfield Triathlon, signed up for the event after her husband Gunnar Granquist decided to compete in the Sprint Course race.
He finished second overall and won his (male 45-49) age division.
She completed the longer Olympic Course in 2:56:00.0, more than 13 minutes ahead of her nearest challenger, Lisa Roche. "I think it's awesome and I really like this course a lot," the 47-year-old Elizabeth Granquist said. "We kind of spur-of-the-moment picked this race. We're from San Diego and I think it's a great course. I'm going to recommend it to all my friends."
Granquist, a veteran triathlete, had the fastest splits among women for all three racing disciplines.
While the race was the first on the Lake Ming long-course for Granquist, it was the fifth for Roberts. Sunday's win was his third straight Bakersfield Triathlon Olympic Course win.
He took eighth place in 2008, didn't finish a year later because of two flat tires to his bike, and then had to miss the 2010 race because he was fighting fires.
His time on Sunday was a career-best for the event.
"Each time when you do a triathlon a million things can go wrong," Roberts said. "Cramping, flat tires, a crash, get kicked in the swim ... and to be able and put full race together is a blessing."
Roberts said the most difficult part of him being a triathlete is the time aspect of it.
"Balancing being a dad, a career and this; it's a lot, but it's fun," Roberts said. "It's challenge. Anytime you can pick up a challenge like that and you can do it, it's great.
Hubbard, competing in just his second triathlon and first sprint triathlon, went out hard from the start and never slowed down, knowing that he had "only" an hour of racing until the end.
"It felt great," said Hubbard, who grew up in Bakersfield but lives in the Newport Beach area now. "Beautiful day. Great race thanks to Kerry (Ryan), being the organizer, continuing the tradition. It was a great race. The run was tough as it started to heat up out there."
Tape, the Stockdale High girls cross country coach, was the seventh woman to complete the sprint course's half-mile swim.
But she caught most of the women ahead of her on the 20k bike portion of the race before using her running prowess to take over the lead and win the event for a second straight year.
"I run all the time with my cross country girls so that probably helps," Tape said. "... I passed two girls probably the last half-mile of the run."
Tape wasn't the only local high school coach to compete in the event. Ridgeview cross country coach Adam Setser was 25th among men in the Olympic Course race.