Spain’s Javier Gomez won his second straight Hy-Vee Triathlon on Sunday, edging American Hunter Kemper and Australian native Greg Bennett in a finish that mirrored last year’s Elite Cup event.
The race was delayed 45 minutes when torrential rain and high winds rolled through central Iowa, but athletes finished amid blue skies and cool temperatures at Gray’s Lake in Des Moines.
Aussie Emma Moffatt dominated the women’s Elite Cup field to take her second Hy-Vee title. She won her first crown in 2009. Runner-up was countrywoman Melissa Hauschildt. Third place went to Germany's Svenja Bazlen.
Gomez and Moffatt took home $100,000 each in what is the richest Olympic-distance event in the sport.
Gomez, the silver medalist from the 2012 London Olympic Games, was first out of the water Sunday but found himself shuffled back in the field during the bike segment and fell more than a minute behind the leaders. Former University of Iowa swimmer Cameron Dye scorched the bike leg to grab the lead, but he quickly gave way to Kemper and Bennett on the run course. The two veterans battled shoulder-to-shoulder for the first mile before Kemper opened up a slight advantage. Gomez kept the leaders in his sights, however, and eventually gobbled up Kemper to win going away in an unofficial time of 1:45.56. Kemper was about 12 seconds back.
Gomez, who calls Kemper a champion competitor in his own right, said the new course, which moved the finish line from the hill of Iowa’s state Capitol to the park at Gray’s Lake, “This course was better for the stronger cyclists,” he said. “I didn’t have a great day on the bike, but I only managed to lose one minute.”
Kemper said he hoped a strong bike leg would finally put him in the Hy-Vee winner’s circle. Sunday was his third consecutive runner-up effort.
“I tried to stay with him but he ran really, really well,” Kemper said. “I tried to out-bike him, that was my goal today. It was always going to be tough to beat Javier Gomez, he’s the best in the world and today I tried.”
Texan Lauren Brandon was the surprise leader of the women’s race heading into the bike leg, but Moffatt grabbed the lead and was first out of the chute for the 10k run. She opened up a sizable lead and breezed home a full 90 seconds ahead of Hauschildt, who finished fifth in 2012 and has campaigned mostly in Ironman events this year.
Two-time women’s winner and defending champion Lisa Norden of Sweden pulled out of the race shortly after it was announced that inclement weather would delay the start by 45 minutes.
“Unfortunately, I’m not able to able to race … sadly, my body is not strong enough to handle the challenge,” she tweeted.
Reigning Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion Leanda Cave of Great Britain had pulled out late last week, paving the way for Moffatt’s return to the top spot on the podium.
Like Gomez, Moffett used a strong run leg clinch her victory.
“Coming on to the run I was with that lead group, so I knew I just had to pace myself once we started running,” she said.
Hauschildt said a slow swim was her undoing.
“I just lost too much time,” she said. “I was reeling them in on the bike, and then on the run I was getting stronger and getting stronger but I just needed a few more kilometers. Emma was too strong,” she said. “I’m stoked about the second place finish.”
More than 2,500 men and women of all different ages and triathlon experience participated in this year’s Hy-Vee Triathlon. The race, in its seventh year, capped a weekend of swimming biking and running at Gray’s Lake following the Hy-Vee IronKids U.S. Championships the day before, which crowned 20 age group national champions out of more than 1,500 participants.