Report /Photo John Coxon
Local hero Laura Bennett (USA) of the United States has just won the 2007 Des Moines BG Triathlon World Cup, the most lucrative ITU event thus far with a golden pot,shared equally between the Elite Women and Men, of a cool $750,000.
Bennett stepped off the podium with a record race purse of $200,000 and another $60,000 plus in prizes which included a new Hummer H3. Laura clocked 2 hours 4 minutes and 32 seconds, 14 seconds behind former world cup champion, Australia’s Annabelle Luxford who was $40,000 the richer. Brazil’s Mariana Ohata pulled out an astonishing run to grind back a two minute deficit from the bike ride finishing third, a further 43 seconds back, but she too, was better off, this time, to the tune of $25,000. Andrea Whitcombe, 2nd in the recent Corus Elite Series in Wales, was the first Britain home in fifth place. G.B’s Michelle Dillon came home in a credible tenth in what was already to be a tough event but compounded by a stiff non-cooling breeze, oppressive heat in the mid thirties, and a deceptively arduous bike and run course. As perhaps testimony to the energy sapping conditions, one of the race favourites, Australia’s highly successful diminutive tri-powerhouse, Emma Snowsill, could only manage 15th taking the last of the consolation prize money of $3000.
Commenting on her experience of the race, Michelle Dillon told us “Oh my God! That was one of the hardest races I have done. I’m and training living in England and just was not prepared for the heat here. A lap and half into the run, I felt like giving in but found the determination to get to the finish as fast as I could while a lot around me were cracking.” Michelle confirmed that the deceptively hilly, twisting nature of the city bike run race route was mentally hard and that combined with the dry heat was strength and energy leeching. As an illustration, normally tough-nut Canadian Kirsten Sweetland collapsed on the run course and did not finish; Germany’s Joelle Franzmann withdrew after lap one of the bike.
Michelle was off the pace in the two laps of the lake swim dominated by the acclimatised and up-for-it American home girls , five of whom exited in the lead group of eight in the first transition with GB, exp pat, Jessica Harrison (France ) the only European in the bunch. After transition, out of choppy Gray’s Lake, the lead bike group consisted McLarty, Zeiger, Haskins, Swail, Luxford, Sweetland, Bennett, and Harrison. The first chasing group were about 30 seconds behind with Snowsill, Moffatt, Groff and others. The second chase group were initially 65 seconds behind the leaders with Warriner, Whitcombe, Tanner, Wang and Dillon amongst others. Emma Snowsill exited Gray’s Lake 29 seconds down but took the front of the chase group , doing most of the work , trying to reduce what was an ever-increasing time gap behind the leaders and that brave effort must be reflected in her disappointing 15th placing.
Michelle Dillon was chirpy after her challenge and told the omnipresent ITU TV’s official race commentator , Barrie Shepley , she was pleased with her result given the conditions and she was full of praise for what she called a “phenomenal race.” Michelle also applauded local spectators. An estimated 40,000 plus watched the action and Michelle said she was so impressed ( and in fact lifted) by the enthusiasm of the spectators who lined the route , even in “downtown” Des Moines and how really got behind the athletes .
(To this casual observers mind that was no doubt admiration for what the elite triathletes were doing in the kind of conditions that would have most ordinary people wilting on just the walk from their patio to the cold drinks fridge in their homes.)
Des Moines, capital city of Iowa, is only the fourth USA city to host an ITU World Cup and had clearly pulled out all the stops for their inaugural Tri. Leading US broadcaster , NBC , covered the event with coverage which will have done so much to raise awareness across the States of this ever growing, spectacular sport. Clearly significant funds had been thrown into the event on top of a world record breaking purse (courtesy of race sponsors Iowa’s $5billion per annum turnover supermarket chain, Hy-Vee ) and the city of Des Monies funding , for example , extensive spectator grandstand tiered seating brought in from the prestigious and hugely popular Augusta Masters Golf Tournament .
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FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS