Adam Webber says he’d never crashed his bike in a race before.
His first mishap proved costly.
The defending Hy-Vee 5150 Triathlon elite amateur champion took a nasty spill while holding a nearly 1-minute lead Saturday. That was enough for Dan Hedgcock of Minneapolis, who was keeping pace thanks to one of his best swims ever, to make up precious seconds and eventually catch Weber to win a new Mini Cooper and take the 5150 title.
“Today was unbelievable for me,” Hedgecock, 25, said. “It was the best race I ever ran. I’ve never won a race this important in my entire life.”
For the 31-year-old Webber, of Denver, PA, it was a disappointing finish to a day that began with a promising swim leg and continued through the early stages of the bike.
The crash came on a tight turn coming out of Waterworks Park.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I’ve crashed in training, but never in a race. You have to race aggressively to beat a field like this, and when you take risks, anything can happen.”
Webber, who said he suffered scrapes, cuts and bruises but no broken bones, admitted that he had his eye on a second Mini Cooper.
“There’s always room for another car,” he said.
For Hedgecock, who also wanted the car, because he said there is no way his Jetta could survive another Minnesota winter, it was a perfect cap to one of his best races in his career.
“I’m not a swimmer by any means. I’ve spent a lot of hours in the pool and I finally got everything to click.”
When he exited the water less than three minutes behind Webber, he said, he had a feeling it would be a great day.
In the women’s race, 37-year old Michelle LeBlanc of Woodlands, TX overcame a slow swim to overtake the field and cruise to victory over Christina Jackson of Oceanside, CA.
It was LeBlanc’s first trip to Des Moines. She said she was taken aback when she turned at the Iowa Capitol for the finishing blue carpet sprint.
“I felt like a rock star,” she said.
LeBlanc has been hampered the past three years, she said, by a chronic Achilles tendon injury. She has only been able to race comfortably for the past 18 months.
“There were a lot of strong, young women out there,” she said. ‘When I lined up, I felt like a mom.”
The former Rice University runner chipped away at the leaders after coming out of the water in 15th place. She overtook the leaders, including Jackson on the bike and held the lead for victory.
Jackson said it took all she had to keep pace with the 37-year-old winner.
“Within the first ten miles of the bike Michelle went flying by me,” she said. “I did all I could to keep up after that.”
“She really made me work,” said LeBlanc, who coaches professional Sarah Gray. Gray was scheduled to compete in the Hy-Vee 5150 Elite Cup event later in the day.
“That’s really why I came to Des Moines,” she said. “My next race was going to be Kona (the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii the fall).”
In addition to the new car, today’s winners received $6,000 in prizes and they automatically qualify for next year’s Hy-Vee 5150 championship.