The business end of the international season is upon us after a busy few months of racing. The first of WTC’s Championships is set to go this weekend at the 2013 Hy-Vee 5150 US Championship, where we’ll see one of the best fields in the world assembled for a share in the $500,000USD pie. No less than eleven Australian professional athletes will be racking their bikes in Des Moines, Iowa for shot at the title, many of whom are in preparation for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas.
Eight Australian men will contest the Championship, lead by stalwart Greg Bennett, who finished third here last year after tearing the bike leg to pieces. Joining him will be Josh Amberger who lead a lot of the swim last year, taking with him a few primes, and finished a very handy 7th against a truly stacked field. Amberger backed that up with another 7th placing in Vegas last year and has, this year, been building towards a busy end-of-season racing block, ensuring he will be one to watch.
Paul Matthews, Sam Betten, Joey Lampe, Jimmy Seear and Luke McKenzie will also make their presence felt amongst the star-studded field. Matthews will be hoping to get amongst the money again this year after taking 10th in 2012, and Seear will be looking to improve on his 20th placing after being in contention for most of the race last year.
The guys won’t have it easy, though, with a number of non-drafting specialists like Ben Collins -who tore off the front on the bike last year before having a mechanical problem-, Cam Dye, and Matty Reed, as well as some 2012 Olympians who are mixing it up (and dominating) such as newly crowned Ironman New Zealand Champ Bevan Docherty and Hunter Kemper, who just won his third Chicago Triathlon.
Like the men, the women’s race will see a number of Olympians taking on long-distance Champions, making it a very interesting race indeed. Olympian Emma Moffatt, former 70.3 World Champion Melissa Hauschildt, and Sarah Crowley will be flying the flag for Australia at the highest-paying Olympic distance event on the calender.
Hauschildt has been on fire over the 70.3 distance this year, taking a number of titles and putting everyone on notice that she’s looking to get the World Title back in Vegas. It will be interesting, then, to see how her form stacks up against current Ironman 70.3 World Champ Leanda Cave, who over the last few years has had really outstanding form late in the season. Hauschildt finished fifth here last year and will use her outstanding bike-run form to push for a podium ahead of Vegas.
Moffatt has been mixing it up this year, successfully trying her hand at some long-distance racing whilst continuing to race on the cut-throat ITU World Series circuit which has netted her a few podiums.
Former ITU athlete and 2012 Ironman 70.3 Cairns winner Sarah Crowley, from Brisbane, is looking forward to the Championship races after taking fourth in the Samoa Half-Ironman recently.
The girls will have their work cut out for them with the likes of Liz Blatchford, Laura Bennett, Alicia Kaye and Angela Naeth all on song this year and gunning for big titles. Lisa Norden of Sweden will perhaps pose the biggest threat this year. The defending champ has been working hard on her time-trialing with coach Craig Alexander in the post-Olympic year, and is looking to win the Ironman 70.3 World Championships to add to her Sprint and Olympic distance World Titles.
Despite halving the prize purse this year, the HyVee US Championship hasn’t failed to attract a deep, talented and diverse field making it one of the most interesting races of the year.