The 2013 Hy-Vee 5150 US Championship Triathlon is set to take place this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa. This is the seventh running of the race, which has gone through a number of changes since it’s inception back in 2006, including a change of ownership. In 2011 Hy-Vee partnered with World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) to make Hy-Vee the Championship event of the 5150 Series of non-drafting, Olympic distance races. This added a third Championship event to WTC’s annual racing calendar, whilst at the same time opening up the opportunity for ITU and long course athletes to come together.
For those not aware to race professionally on the ITU circuit requires a different license and qualification system than that of long course racing. Although WTC’s 5150 series of Olympic distance races is held with a non-drafting format, much the same as half and iron distance events.
Qualification for the Hy-Vee Championship is calculated from points gained in both 5150 (Olympic distance) and a selection of Ironman 70.3 races.
This results in a dynamic mix of athletes, from both short and long course racing backgrounds, qualifying for the Championship race. Perhaps one reason behind the trend of ITU athletes beginning to race over the 70.3 distance more regularly.
The prize purse on offer of $500,000 received strong criticism earlier this year, having been scaled down from a previous purse of over $1.1 million in 2012. For years the Hy-Vee triathlon boasted the richest prize purse in the sport of triathlon, with both the male and female champions taking home $151,500. Generous primes were also paid across swim, bike and run, although have been scrapped in 2013. This year see’s the champions take home a reduced $100,000, with 30th place now having to settle for $500, previously $3,000. Despite this the race remains the richest prize purse in Olympic distance racing.
Another interesting aspect of this race is the timing, held just one week ahead of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas the following weekend. Some see it as the perfect hit out race ahead of the longer 70.3 distance, others decide to focus on the one event and thus will sit out this weekend. Debate within the professional circuit is the question asking can one athlete take a clean sweep of WTC Championship events in one year, being Hy-Vee, Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championship. Leanda Cave showed it’s possible to win two last year, and interestingly enough we see her name on the start list this weekend.
Despite the prize purse cut and proximity to the 70.3 Worlds in Vegas, a talented and diverse field will be assembling.
Headlining the field are a number of Olympians including 2012 Hy-Vee Champion Lisa Nordon (SWE), Daniela Ryf (SUI), Emma Moffatt (AUS), Laura Bennett (USA) and Barbara Riveros (CHL).
In addition the current Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Champion Leanda Cave will be racing, along with former Ironman 70.3 World Champion Melissa Hauschildt.
Norden has returned to defend her title, with plans to back up and take the victory in Las Vegas next weekend also. This same goal is shared by Australian Hauschildt, who along with Cave is possibly the biggest threat to challenging Norden for both crowns. Post Olympics Norden made some changes and is now coached by former Ironman Champion Craig Alexander, so we can expect to see her already strong time trialing perhaps a little stronger.
Hauschildt finished fifth last year and has been notching up a number of titles over the 70.3 distance this year, most recently at Ironman 70.3 Timberman. The Aussie has been putting a lot of effort into her swim, which has previously proved to limit her ability in the shorter distance races. Angela Naeth (CAN) finished 4th in 2012, one up on Hauschildt, and the two will likely finish the swim within close proximity. With both being amongst the sports strongest cyclists, this may make for a good pairing to work off each other early in the bike.
Australian Liz Blatchford finished 8th in both 2011 and 2012. Having stepped up to long course racing this season, Blatchford is sure to have improved her time trialling. Another athlete with previous success is the USA’s Laura Bennett, having finished 5th in 2011 and 7th in 2012. Additionally we see a number of women with proven results over the non-drafting Olympic distance format, including Lauren Goss (USA), Radka Vodickova (CZE), Alicia Kaye (USA) and Nicky Samuels (NZL). We haven’t seen a lot of Anna Cleaver (NZL) recently, so it will be interesting to see where the Kiwi’s form is at. Expect to see Cleaver amongst the first out of the water, a position she is quite used to being in.
Kelly Williamson (USA) finished 6th in 2012 and has enough speed on the run to take on perhaps anyone on this start list. Williamson can hold her own with the best in the water, so it will be a question of how much she can hurt herself on the 40km bike. Multiple Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Champion Meredith Kessler (USA) will be racing Hy-Vee for the very first time. Kessler doesn’t typically compete over the shorter distance, but demonstrated she has the speed having finished 2nd at the Columbia 5150 race earlier this season.
The course see’s some changes this year, with organisers having strived to make the course more spectator friendly. The race will start and finish at Gray’s Lake Park in the heart of Des Moines, differing from last years different start and finish locations (in 2012 the race finished at the capitol building in downtown Iowa, causing logistical problems for the many spectators that attend the event).
With possibly the most diverse and talented field assembled this weekend’s Hy-Vee Championship is sure to be one cracker of a race!
|Pro Women’s start list: