The men’s Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship Elite Cup race will feature the gold and silver medalist from the Summer Olympic Games, the past two defending Hy-Vee champions, and a bevy of global talent that arguably comprises the most formidable field in the event’s history.
In addition to qualifiers from the 5150 Triathlon Series, organizers extended special invitations to the top three finishers in London. Olympic king Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain and runner-up Javier Gomez of Spain agreed to stage their rematch in Des Moines.
Hy-Vee, which will be Brownlee’s first race since the Summer Games, is a “non-drafting” event. That means competitors will not be allowed to bunch up and ride as a pack on the bike stage. Drafting tends to put a greater emphasis on the run leg of the race.
"I've not raced much in the States, and the non-drafting format is something new for me, but the distances are the same and there will be a lot of familiar faces on the start line,” Brownlee told runnersweb.com. “Everything this year was about the Olympics, and I hadn't really planned what I'd do afterwards, so when I got the invite to go to Des Moines, I thought it would be something good to do.”
Last year’s Hy-Vee king, Greg Bennett, will be back to defend his crown. He’ll be joined by 2010 Hy-Vee winner Tim Don of Great Britain. Crowd favorite Hunter Kemper, runner-up in 2011, is also in the field, which includes the third- and fourth-place finishers from a year ago, Brit Stuart Hayes and Australian Paul Matthews.
JJ Bailey, former International Triathlon Union amateur age-group world champion, says even though the Hy-Vee field looks tough from top to bottom, “it really is Alistair’s race to lose.”
“There might be some dark horses out there, but I don’t think any of them will have the speed to match Brownlee or Gomez,” says Bailey, a professional endurance coach in Des Moines.
Bailey thinks Bennett might challenge for a spot on the podium. So could Kemper — he’s coming off a big win at the life Time Fitness Toyota Cup Challenge in Chicago — or veteran Filip Ospaly of the Czech Republic. But none will have enough in the tank to pull an upset, he says.
Athletes in the 5150 series started qualifying in August in South Africa. The series hit full stride in April with the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, FL, won for the second consecutive year by Ospaly, who was seventh in Des Moines in 2011.
Competitors continued to earn points over the spring and summer at 5150 events in New Orleans, Kansas City, New York City and elsewhere. The Giant Eagle Triathlon, July 29 in Columbus, OH, was the final chance for short-course pros to earn a slot in the Hy-Vee field. David Thompson won the event to get a shot at the $151,500 winners’ purses. In all, $1.1 million will be awarded in what continues to be triathlon’s richest race.
Ten to watch:
Alistair Brownlee — Lead briefly at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but finished 12th. Has since dominated the sport at the Olympic distance. Suffered an Achilles tendon injury in February but bounced back to win the gold medal in London.
Javier Gomez — World overall champion in 2008 and 2010. He was fourth in Beijing but lost to Brownlee in the 2009 and 2010 Grand Finals. Lost to Brownlee in London by 11 seconds. Finished second on Aug. 25 to Brownlee’s brother and Olympic bronze medalist Jonathan at the International Triathlon Union Sprint World Championships in Stockholm.
Greg Bennett — The 40-year-old Australian has competed since age 15. Winner of six World Cup titles. Finished fourth at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. Won 11 of 15 starts between 2006 and 2008. Defending Hy-Vee champion.
Tim Don — The 2010 Hy-Vee winner was ranked in the top 20 in the world each year from 2003 to 2008. Tenth in 2000 Summer Games in Sydney; 18th four years later in Athens. Did not finish the race at Beijing Games.
Hunter Kemper — Lower back problems, sports hernia, broken collarbone and five operations from a 2011 bike crash that left the 36-year-old with a shattered elbow, 13 screws and a dangerous infection. Kemper, a four-time Olympian, keeps bouncing back. Second at Hy-Vee last year; 14th in London.
Stuart Hayes — Won the London Youth Games at 17 and has competed at the top levels of the sport since. The 33-year-old was third at Hy-Vee in 2011. Led during the bike stage in London but faded to 37th.
Chris McCormack — The 39-year-old Australian won consecutive Ironman Australia titles from 2002 to 2006. “Macca” took the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in 2007 and again in 2010. Tenth at Hy-Vee in 2011.
Joshua Amberger — The 23-year-old Australian should be the first man out of the water, but will likely struggle to maintain an advantage on land. Second to Bennett at
Ironman Muncie in July; finished 24th at last year’s Hy-Vee.
Paul Matthews — Began competing in triathlons as an 11-year-old and won age group world title as a teen. Fourth last year at Hy-Vee.
Filip Ospaly — Nearly two decades of competition have produced a number of big efforts. Finished second at 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Seventh last year at Hy-Vee.
2012 Hy-Vee Elite Cup starters
Filip Ospaly, Czech Republic
Tim O'Donnell, U.S.
Greg Bennett, Australia
Matt Reed, U.S.
Jordan Jones, U.S.
David Thompson, U.S.
Clark Ellice, New Zealand
James Seear, Australia
Paul Matthews, Australia
Joshua Amberger, Australia
Benjamin Collins, U.S.
Chris Foster, U.S.
Cameron Dye, U.S.
Stuart Hayes, U.K.
Travis Johnston, South Africa
Mark Threlfall, U.K.
Ruedi Wild, Switzerland
Tim Reed, Australia
Csaba Kuttor, Hungary
Kaleb Vanort, U.S.
Michael Fox, Australia
Kris Gemmell, New Zealand
Ivan Kalashnikov, Russia
Dylan McNeice, New Zealand
Damian Hill, U.S.
Chris McCormack, Australia
Hunter Kemper, U.S.
Tim Don, U.K.
Alistair Brownlee, U.K.
Javier Gomez, Spain
2011 Hy-Vee Elite Cup top 10
- Greg Bennett, 1:49:42
- Hunter Kemper, 1:50:12
- Stuart Hayes, 1:50:30
- Paul Matthews, 1:50:51
- Rasmus Henning, 1:51:16
- Kris Gemmell, 1:52:00
- Filip Ospaly, 1:52:13
- David Thompson, 1:52:20
- Matt Reed, 1:52:32
- Chris McCormack, 1:52:39
2012 Summer Olympic Games top 10
- Alistair Brownlee, Great Britain, 1:46:25
- Javier Gomez, Spain, 1:46:36
- Jonthan Brownlee, Great Britain, 1:46:56
- David Hauss, France, 1:47:14
- Lauren Vidal, France, 1:47:21
- Jan Frodeno, Germany, 1:47:26
- Alexander Bryukhankov, Russia, 1:47:35
- Sven Riederer, Switzerland, 1:47:46+
- Joao Silva, Portugal, 1:47:51
- Alessandro Fabian, Italy, 1:48:03