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Triathlete editors selected 15 of the most memorable headline-grabbing events from the 2011 season.
Brownlees’ Brotherly Domination in Madrid
Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee could have handily won the ITU World Championship Series race in Madrid last June. Instead the 23-year-old opted to slow down and slap hands with fans while waiting for his younger brother Jonathan to round the bend. The pair then draped their arms around each other and approached the finish line arm in arm before Alistair stepped ahead at the very end. The elder brother officially beat his brother by two seconds, but it was a memorable moment for both Brownlees.
RELATED: Brownlee Brothers Go 1-2 In ITU Triathlon, Madrid
Crowie Wins 70.3 Worlds on an Unbranded Bike
When Craig “Crowie” Alexander arrived at the 70.3 world champs on an unbranded bike, it was like Jimmie Johnson rolling up to the start of the Daytona 500 with a logo-free car. Many speculated that the bike was an unbadged Cervélo P4, indicating that the Aussie had abruptly cut ties with longtime sponsor Orbea. The latter was later discovered as fact when the 38-year-old announced the end of his relationship with the company in October. Days later, Alexander became an official member of the Specialized team, and rode to a victory in Kona on a new Shiv.
RELATED: Craig Alexander’s Unbranded Bike
It was a tweet that sent shudders around the world when three-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington posted a photo of the damage she sustained after a harrowing bike wreck in Boulder, Colo., just two weeks before Kona. With her legs covered in a gnarly road rash and purple bruising, many wondered just how much damage had been done. Indeed, the injuries—torn pectoral and intercostal muscles and deep bruises and cuts—were severe. But not enough to cost her Kona, which she won, road rash and all.
RELATED: The Truth About Chrissie Wellington’s Injuries
Wiltshire’s Unsportsmanlike Act
Triathletes may get their fair share of licks during races, but usually the elbows to the stomach and kicks to the head are unintentional. During June’s European Champs, however, it was clear that something shady was going down between Great Britain’s Harry Wiltshire and Spain’s Javier Gomez. A video of the swim shows Wiltshire pummeling Gomez on the head numerous times. Later reports indicated that Wiltshire was attempting to block Gomez as part of Great Britain’s team tactics. The ITU disqualified Wiltshire from the race and ultimately issued a six-month suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct.
RELATED: Team Tactics Gone Too Far?
Verzbicas’ Departure From Oregon
When it came to announcing a major career change, young triathlon and running phenom Lukas Verzbicas took to Twitter announcing—in less than 140 characters—his rather abrupt decision to withdrawal from the University of Oregon after only two months at the school. Verzbicas’ next move? Colorado Springs, where he now resides at the USOC’s Olympic Training Center as part of the Elite Triathlon Academy. Verzbicas, 19, is attending classes at the University of Colorado while focusing on qualifying for the 2012 Olympic squad.
RELATED: Verzbicas Leaving Oregon To Pursue Triathlon Career
Emotional Finishes At Kona
Whether it was the warm temperatures or just something in the salty air, the tears were flowing like lava from pro athletes at the finish line of the Ironman World Champs. Who could forget the emotional embrace between Mirinda Carfrae and Tim O’Donnell, or the way in which Chrissie Wellington burst into tears as she broke the tape? Perhaps Carfrae phrased it best when she said, “That race is something else. … It was tough—physically, mentally, it was a real battle inside my mind. There were a couple tears at the end of the race, but not because I didn’t win, but from exhaustion.”
RELATED: Behind Mirinda Carfrae’s Emotional Second Place Finish
Challenge Roth Records
What exactly was in the water in Roth? Or, to be more direct, just how fast is that course? A duo of iron-distance world records was set at the July race—one by Germany’s Andreas Raelert (7:41:33; 46:18 swim, 4:11:43 bike; 2:40:52 run.); the other by Chrissie Wellington (8:18:13; 49:49 swim, 4:40:39 bike, 2:44:35 run.). Adding to the super-speedy theme of the day, men’s runner up Sebastian Kienle of Germany also dipped under the 8-hour mark (7:57:06), while Germany’s Julia Wagner (8:56:23) and Australia’s Rebekah Keat (8:59:22) both broke nine hours.
RELATED: What Makes Challenge Roth So Fast?
Macca’s Olympic Attempt
In an interesting turn of events for Chris “Macca” McCormack, the two-time Ironman world champ announced in February that he would be returning to his ITU roots in an attempt to qualify for the Australian Olympic team. Meaning no Kona in 2011—and a switch to draft-legal, Olympic-distance racing. The 38-year-old competed in five ITU events in 2011, his best finish being 26th place in Hamburg.
RELATED: Chris McCormack In Kona
Gomez’s Great Comeback in Sydney
In one of the finest comebacks the sport saw this season, Spain’s Javier Gomez rebounded from a bike crash on a rain-slicked course to win the opening round of the ITU World Championship Series in Sydney. The Spaniard rode solo for the last 10K of the bike course, eventually catching the chase pack, then running his way to his 13th ITU victory with a 30:09 10K run.
Photos: Look Back On 2011 ITU WCS Sydney
Armstrong’s Return to Triathlon
When Lance Armstrong returned to triathlon—the sport where he honed his cycling skills before winning seven Tour De France titles—tongues wagged and message boards buzzed about the super-athlete’s potential. After some speculation he’d compete in an Ironman, Armstrong, 40, opted to go off-road, finishing fifth at the XTERRA U.S. Champs in September and 23rd at November’s world champs in Maui.
RELATED: Exclusive Photos Of Lance Armstrong’s Return To Tri
No one can deny the fact that Julie Dibens has guts. Despite competing on a nagging foot injury, the 2011 Ironman Coeur d’Alene champ created monster leads at both the 70.3 and Ironman world champs with phenomenal swim and bike splits, only to be reduced to a walk and eventual DNFs on the run, leading us to wonder what could have been if she was not injured. The injury (later diagnosed as a fractured toe) may have cost the 36-year-old major wins but didn’t hurt her reputation as one of the toughest—and most talented—triathletes in the world.
RELATED: Julie Dibens Unsure About Future Kona Racing
Rollison Wows at Vineman
Melissa Rollison’s day in the California wine country was a brilliant one: The second-year pro outpaced 70.3 vets including Mirinda Carfrae, Leanda Cave and Meredith Kessler to win the race in a course-record time of 4:09. A former elite runner from Australia, Rollison took up triathlon after struggling with injuries and has hardly looked back since, picking up more major wins at the 70.3 World Champs and the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship before wrapping up her 2011 season with an undefeated record over seven races.
RELATED: Where Did Melissa Rollison Come From?
Michael Raelert’s Re-Routed Season
Hopes for a Raelert brother one-two finish in Kona were dashed when younger brother Michael withdrew from the Ironman European Champs with a hip injury. As a result, the 2009 and 2010 Ironman 70.3 world champion failed to meet the qualifications needed to race in the Ironman World Championships. Raelert’s season was not over, however: The 31-year-old rallied to win the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in December by more than five minutes.
RELATED: Inside the Raelert Brothers’ Spring Training Camp
Jorgensen’s Perfect Race in London
There’s fast running in triathlon, and there there’s fast running period. Gwen Jorgensen proved herself to be in the latter category when she literally ran her way onto the United States Olympic squad with a race-best 33:43 10K split at the London World Championship Series event in August. After working in the chase pack on the bike to bridge up to the leaders, the former Big Ten 5K champ at Wisconsin then hunted down all but eventual winner Helen Jenkins for her first podium finish in the WCS—and easily the greatest finish of her young career.
RELATED: Gwen Jorgensen Talks About Her Path To The 2012 Olympics
Ellis’ Ironman Trifecta
Ellis’ very first Ironman was certainly one to remember: Her 8:43:34 wire-to-wire win at Ironman Austria was the fastest women’s debut in history—and the third-fastest iron-distance finish of all time. And to prove that result wasn’t just beginner’s luck, the 34-year-old went on to win two more Ironman races in the month of August (Regensburg and Canada) for a stunning summer trifecta.