Gomez Avenges Olympic Loss to Win Hy-Vee Elite Cup, Norden Takes Gold for a Second Straight Year
Olympic silver medalist Javier Gomez of Spain fought off oppressive heat and a spirited effort by crowd favorite Hunter Kemper today to win the 2012 Hy-Vee Triathlon 5150 Elite Cup and take home $171,000 in prize money.
"It was a really hard race. It was more about fighting the sun and high temperatures and trying to maintain a good pace," said Gomez, who outdistanced the man who defeated him at the Summer Games in London, Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee, with a strong run leg that saw him grab the lead from 2011 Hy-Vee champ Greg Bennett of Australia on the second lap and hold off Kemper by 22 seconds. Bennett finished third.
"It's a strong man's course," an obviously drained Kemper said after the race. "The whole day was hard."
With temperatures approaching 90 degrees and very little breeze, the 31-man field hit the water at Gray's Lake and immediately set a furious pace. Aussie Josh Amberger was the first man out of the water on lap one, with former University of Iowa swimmer Cameron Dye and Gomez in hot pursuit. Gomez swallowed up Amberger's lead on lap two and led the leaders into the first transition.
That's where American Ben Collins took over. Just like he did in 2011, Collins took the lead on the bike and was gobbling up real estate when - just like last year - misfortune hit. A broken wheel knocked Colin off the lead lap. In 2011, it was a broken foot that sidelined him on the second lap on the run.
Australian Paul Mathews took the lead, but Bennett quickly chased down his countryman and led the field into the 10-kilometer run. Kemper, who battled back from a series of injuries to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic Team (he finished 14th in London) made his customary charge, but he could not catch Gomez, the world overall champion in 2008 and 2010.
Brownlee who has dominated the sport at the Olympic distance the past three years, got off to a slow start, briefly threatened on the bike leg, but finished 14th.
"This race was completely different than the Olympics because of the heat," Gomez said while sitting in a tub of ice after his victory. "But I pushed hard the whole time. It was a good race and a good win."
Lisa Norden (SWE) overcame jetlag, loose handlebars and an extra motivated Sarah Haskins to win the 2012 Women's Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship Elite Cup race for the second year in a row.
Today's win was a perfect end to a nearly perfect month of racing for the 28-year-old world champion and London Olympic silver medalist, who missed out on a gold medal in an historic photo finish. But she bounced back quickly, first snagging a win this past weekend in her hometown race, ITU Stockholm, then taking care of business at Hy-Vee.
"I don't think these last five weeks could have been any better despite the .09 seconds or whatever in London. But today definitely makes up for it," Norden said.
Defending her Hy-Vee title was anything but easy.
From the beginning Sarah Haskins (USA) swam her way to a commanding lead. She came out of the water first on both swim laps and her strong showing continued on the bike course as she collected the first six lap premiums, worth $5,150 each, but Norden began gaining ground.
Haskins said she was bothered by the heat on the bike leg on a 90 degree day in Des Moines.
"It was brutally hot, and the helmet made it feel like a sauna," she said. "I knew she was right behind me because I started the run conservatively. This course was hard."
The hard course helped Norden stay close despite her handle bars coming loose.
"I was so stupid there," Norden said. "We made a thousand adjustments but the bars came loose and I lost 40 seconds there. I had to start over chasing her down."
Norden eventually caught Haskins on the first lap of the run, and from there the rest was history.
With today's win Norden joined Rasmus Henning (DEN) as the only other back-to-back Hy-Vee champion.
"Rasmus is a bit of an idol for me," Norden said. "I've always been able to call him for advice and he's always been a great role model. Winning double Hy-Vee's is incredible."
Joining Norden and Haskins on the podium was Jodie Stimpson of Great Britain.