Olympic silver medalist Javier Gomez of Spain fought off oppressive heat and a spirited effort by crowd favorite Hunter Kemper 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 Olympics, 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°C 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 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 10km run. Kemper, who battled back from a series of injuries to earn a place on the US 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, who clocked 1:51:21 to win by 38secs.
“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.”
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 in 1:58:05.
Brownlee was racing for the first time since winning gold on 7 August. The 24-year-old star said a hectic three and a half weeks since the Games caught up with him.
“I just felt really tired from the start. I think it’s been a long few weeks,” Brownlee said. “It was always going to be a hit or miss racing here. I thought I might get away with it and be okay, but I wasn’t today. I just felt terrible.
“I achieved what I wanted to achieve this season, so anything more would have been a bonus.”
Another big name who took to the infamous non-drafting course was two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack, who finished 18th in 1:59:47. Despite incurring a 90sec penalty for dismounting too late into T2, McCormack remained upbeat.
“Another wonderful event here in Des Moines,” said Macca on his Twitter feed. “I had absolutely nothing but happy for the hit out!”
Images: Paul Phillips