While the state’s top college football teams open their seasons today, some of the world’s top triathletes are in Des Moines preparing for the sport’s highest paying event. The winner of the Hy-Vee Triathlon 5150 Elite Cup men’s race will claim $100,000 in prize money.
Defending Champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Javier Gomez of Spain is favored to win again this year, according to race director Bill Burke. “I would be surprised if he didn’t win,” Burke says. “Now, there are other athletes in the race who can beat him on any given day. Hunter Kemper of the United States has finished second here twice. He won the Chicago Triathlon last weekend, so he’s fit and ready.” No American man has won the Hy-Vee Triathlon in the race’s six year history.
The 2012 winner of the Hy-Vee Triathlon on the women’s side, Lisa Norden of Sweden, is in this year’s field as well. The elite races take place Sunday morning.
Burke says he’s actually more excited about the Hy-Vee IronKids U.S. Championship taking place today. “Last year we had 950 kids and this year we’ve exploded to 1,400,” Burke says. “That makes it — if not the largest — one of the largest kids triathlons in the United States.”
Many of the kids, who are between the ages of 6 and 15, have dreams of becoming Olympic triathletes. “We have kids from 32 states and from all over Iowa,” Burke says. “What’s amazing is we have like 15 kids from New Mexico and 30 kids here from Florida. I mean, that’s a long way to travel, but they’re here because this is the most important children’s triathlon in the United States.”
The triathlon involves running, swimming, and biking in immediate succession over various distances. The elite competitors on Sunday follow an Olympic-size course which involves a nearly mile-long swim, a 25-mile long bike ride, and a 6.2 mile run.