Now that we’ve counted down the top 10 male triathletes of 2014, it’s time to turn our attention to the women…
10. Lauren Steadman
Best result: ITU Paratriathlon world champion
With targeted funding and high level coaching, Britain’s elite paratriathlon success mirrors that of the able-bodied programme, and no more so than in the women’s PT4 division, mainly contested by those with upper limb disabilities. Here Steadman is currently leading the charge.
The psychology graduate from Portsmouth, who turns 22 on 18 December, took the world title from four-time champion Faye McClelland in Edmonton, with Clare Cunningham completing a sweep of the podium for Team GB. It followed European success for Steadman in Kitzbühel and a high profile win in London in May before she finished her paratri season with another victory in Madrid. With McClelland the runner-up on each occasion, it’s a rivalry that’s set to run through to triathlon’s Paralympic debut in Rio in 2016.
9. Sarah Groff
Best result: Winner, ITU World Series Stockholm
Groff swapped one multi-national squad under the guidance of Darren Smith for another with Joel Filliol, with the key benefits being less travelling and a more balanced lifestyle. It’s paid dividends. Despite tearing a foot tendon, only once did the gritty American finish outside the top five in six World Series appearances, that consistency placing her overall runner-up behind Gwen Jorgensen as the USA secured a one-two in the standings.
While Jorgensen flows through a triathlon, Groff is a grafter, but the persistence was rewarded with a first World Series win in Stockholm, a runner-up berth in London and fourth in the season finale in Edmonton. Groff, 33, has been competing on the ITU circuit since 2005, finished third overall in 2011 and fourth in the Olympic Games the following summer, but 2014 was her best year to date.
8. Vicky Holland
Best result: Bronze medal, Commonwealth Games
A return to form for Olympian Holland, whose bronze in the Commonwealth Games was a triumph against a wealth of competition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Holland had been required to play the domestique role in London 2012 for Helen Jenkins in an ill-fated race that saw her crash on the bike and eventually finish 26th. But she relished the chance to strike out on her own in Glasgow before delivered a more-than-competent super-sprint leg as England won gold in the mixed relay.
Unfortunately for Holland, Strathclyde was her last meaningful action of the season. Having run into the best form of her career, she picked up a plantar facia tear and it was season over and feet up in an air-cast boot.
7. Rachel Joyce
Best result: Runner-up, Challenge Bahrain
Joyce might reflect on Kona 2014 as the one that got away. Now 36, the Boulder-based Brit is one of the most consistent Ironman racers of the past five years and her progression in Hawaii suggested this could be the year she finally picked up the biggest umeke. She eventually finished third having tracked Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf and seen Australian Mirinda Carfrae blast by with her trademark run.
It was still impressive, but the 3:06hr marathon may have left her – and certainly coach Dave Scott – thinking the title was there for the taking. Joyce had cemented qualification for Hawaii in December last year by winning Ironman Cozumel, which allowed her the opportunity to follow Carfrae to Roth, where she was again caught on the run and came second. There may have been no big victories but a tax-free cheque of $50,000 for another runner-up spot at Challenge Bahrain did deliver a nice pre-Christmas bonus.
6. Jodie Swallow
Best result: Fourth, Ironman World Championships
The archetypal front-runner ended last season being waterlogged with a banging headache on the side of the road in Kona. How times change. If there was a non-drafting podium worth being on in 2014 then Swallow was contesting it, quashing any doubts that she might not have the endurance to compete at the full iron distance with the most impressively consistent year of her career. A 2004 Olympian, Swallow showed she still has speed over the standard distance with third against strong competition in the Hy-Vee 5150 USA Championship Elite Cup in Iowa, and kept the run of form going with second in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships the following weekend.
Fourth in Hawaii was another step forward, proving she could handle the heat and humidity, while the hotly disputed penalty she picked up on the bike in Kona fired the motivation for a tilt at Challenge Bahrain and another podium finish in third. There won’t be much of an off-season break for the Essex-born multisporter. With a second home in South Africa she’s likely to be back in 70.3 action by next month.
5. Helle Frederiksen
Best result: Winner, Challenge Bahrain
If there was one triathlete who was bang on the money this season, it was Frederiksen. The Uplace-BMC 10-strong professional team could hardly have wished for a better opening season and the Danish star has been their shining light. Frederiksen’s two big successes came in the non-drafting, standard-distance Hy-Vee 5150 race and Challenge Bahrain earlier this month.
Those two victories won her a combined $200,000 and having stepped up in distance after finishing 27th in the London Olympics, Frederiksen has also had wins at 70.3 races in Monterrey and Lanzarote. A slight figure like so many of the others on this list, as long as she’s in contention to unleash her exceptional run the 33-year-old is always a contender.
4. Daniela Ryf
Best result: Ironman 70.3 world champion
Perhaps the perfect triathlete would have the speed of an Olympic gold medal winner, the staying power of an Ironman champion and the coach of both. In Daniela Ryf, Sutton has honed a hybrid of Nicola Spirig and Chrissie Wellington and unleashed her on to the world stage with devastating effect this summer. Like Spirig, Ryf hails from Switzerland and from 27 July to 7 September went from Ironman Switzerland to the European 70.3 Champs in Wiesbaden, to Ironman Copenhagen to the World 70.3s in Mont-Tremblant, Canada… and promptly won the lot.
She arrived in Kona with no fear before posting the best female professional bike split (4:54hr) and holding the lead until three miles from the marathon finish. Ryf’s impact on long-course racing felt Welly-like, but unlike the four-time Ironman winner, the Swiss is a two-time Olympian and has raced extensively on the ITU circuit. That said, if her form continues its current trajectory, Carfrae will need to be running marathons in the 2:40s next year to catch her.
3. Jodie Stimpson
Best result: Gold medal, Commonwealth Games
The Birmingham triathlete’s season built towards the Commonwealth Games and then tailed off quickly, showing the physical and mental investment that can go into winning a first major title. Stimpson was imperious in Strathclyde Park as the competition eventually wilted on the 10km run. It whittled down to just three contenders on the final lap and English team-mate Vicky Holland – whom she later teamed up with for gold in the mixed relay – and Canadian Kirsten Sweetland, couldn’t handle Stimpson’s fierce pace on the run-in.
After winning the first two World Series races in Auckland and Cape Town, Stimpson’s world title charge petered out after Glasgow and she eventually finished fourth. The year ended with a much-enjoyed first taste of middle-distance non-drafting racing and eighth place in Challenge Bahrain. A pure triathlete, expect to see Stimpson in the sport for years to come.
2. Mirinda Carfrae
Best result: World Ironman champion
With sponsor commitments as reigning Ironman world champion and a triathlon pilgrimage to Challenge Roth in July, it was a tough ask for the Australian to retain the Kona crown she first won in 2010. The German adventure played out in typical fashion, Carfrae running down pacesetter Rachel Joyce to take victory, but by the time Hawaii arrived there was another young upstart to worry about. Switzerland’s confident Daniela Ryf was in the mix and dismounting the bike 14 minutes down. It looked a stretch too far, even for the course record holder.
Yet Carfrae would not be denied. Her 2:50:26 marathon broke her own run record as she picked off athlete after athlete, finally cruising past Joyce and Ryf to win by over two minutes. Carfrae may only be 5ft 3in but is a giant of the third discipline – perhaps the only triathlete who can rival her impact on the run leg is American Gwen Jorgensen at the standard distance.
1. Gwen Jorgensen
Vengeance was sweet for the long-limbed 28-year-old from Wisconsin, who achieved an unprecedented five straight victories in the ITU World Series. One of those triumphs came in London, where the former accountant slayed the demons of a puncture in 2012 and crash last year that scuppered her Olympic and then world title ambitions.
There were few mistakes or surprises in this year’s Grand Final in Canada, where she ran through the field with a 33:24min split, over a minute faster than any of her 59 competitors. And Jorgensen is not even the finished article. Coming to the sport late, her bike leg will only improve and with the hopeful return to form of British trio Non Stanford, Helen Jenkins and Jodie Stimpson in 2015, it will be exciting to see the how the American responds to tougher challenges. If you want an early favourite for the Olympics though, the smart money starts here.
Who do you think were the top female triathletes of 2014? Let us know in the comments!