Tri Race Recap: The Non-70.3 Worlds Storylines You Probably Missed

Super League London brought the fireworks in its 2023 championship series debut, Challenge Davos featured a middle-distance Swiss Alps showdown, and an unreal sufferfest at XTERRA Beaver Creek brought a few familiar faces out to play (and win).

Photo: Super League Triathlon

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Last weekend’s triathlon headlines may have been dominated by the Ironman 70.3 World Championships – and rightfully so, given the dramatic women’s race, and exhilarating, surprising men’s race. If you missed out on the coverage, don’t worry – you can stream the replay on Outside Watch. But 70.3 Worlds wasn’t the only tri show in town last weekend. In fact, there were three big races you may have missed: Super League London brought the fireworks in its 2023 championship series debut, Challenge Davos featured a middle-distance Swiss Alps showdown, and an unreal sufferfest at XTERRA Beaver Creek brought a few familiar faces out to play (and win).

Lehair shocks, Yee does Yee things at Super League London

London has hosted more races than any other Super League venue since its inception five years ago, and it was once again the perfect place to host the kickoff to the championship series in 2023…but starting it off with an Enduro format seems a little cruel. Super League boasts many tough formats, but Enduro is often considered the most brutal of all, with three back-to-back-to triathlons in a row, no breaks in between. The reward? Valuable team points toward the four-race championship series title (this year’s teams are the Sharks, Scorpions, Eagles, and the all-American Warriors).

Lehair pulls off a shocking win at Super League London 2023.
Jeanne Lehair pulls off a shocking win at Super League London 2023. (Photo: Super League Triathlon)

Hundreds of fans lined the streets around West India Quay as the women dove into the water for the first race. With Taylor Spivey (USA), Sophie Coldwell (GBR), and Beth Potter (GBR) on the start list, it seemed like their collective fitness and experience would leave little room for anyone else to even have a shot at breaking the tape. This is especially true of Potter, who has been on a roll this season in short-course racing. As the race progressed, pundit predictions for the trio looked like they would come true. But no one was keeping close enough of an eye on a certain persistent athlete named Jeanne Lehair – not even the commentators.

Despite falling back numerous times in the London race, Lehair (who most recently finished 11th at the Paris Test Event) was determined to stay within contention. Thanks to her brilliant running ability, she did just that, running her way into striking distance of the podium. Then, at the perfect moment, she launched a bold attack, shocking everyone – including herself – by sprinting for the win. After the race, she exclaimed, “I can’t believe it right now, as I never thought that I would win this race. But wow!”

“Wow” indeed. Coldwell and Spivey placed second and third behind Lehair, while Potter finished a surprising fourth.

Alex Yee dominated at Super League London 2023.
Alex Yee dominated at Super League London 2023. (Photo: Super League Triathlon)

Following the women’s exciting race, the men knew they needed to put on a show in order to keep up that energy for the crowd. Good thing they had the likes of Brits Johnny Brownlee and Alex Yee racing – they always bring the excitement, and even more so on their home course. London was no exception, as the men’s race was full of twists and turns. Those top Brits were pushing at the front of the swim with countrymen Max Stapley and Dan Dixon, along with Canadian Taylor Reid. That group continued to push the pace throughout the race, which meant at the back of the race, the 90-second rule was eliminating athletes who were finding the speed too hot to handle.

There was no breaking away from Yee on the bike, and with his running ability equalling that of professional runners, there was little doubt in the ecstatic crowd who would win when he turned the jets on for the third and final run leg of the day. Yee determined was a big reason for his success, writing on his Instagram, “I love you London. Thanks for the home advantage.” Brownlee and Reid claimed the last two spots on the podium.

Yee is in frightening form right now, coming off of a remarkable Paris Test Event where he raised the bar for every short-course athlete. Yee was missing his closest rival and good friend Hayden Wilde, who is still recovering from a bike crash in Paris. However, it looks like Wilde will be back in Toulouse, joined by the man with the busiest schedule in tri – Kristian Blummenfelt.

Lesley Paterson, Sullivan Middaugh tops at XTERRA USA Beaver Creek

“Survival of the fittest” is how XTERRA described this penultimate race of the XTERRA World Cup series. With the World Championship event in Trentino, Italy taking place in just a few weeks, the “Beast at Beaver Creek” proved a perfect test of fitness. The course features a mountain of climbing – literally, as the athletes ride up a ski slope into the thin air of Avon, Colorado. Last year, the race was won by competitors on two different ends of the career spectrum: Lesley Paterson (41) and Sullivan Middaugh (18). Both returned to defend their titles in 2023.

Middaugh is the son of 15-time XTERRA USA champ Josiah Middaugh, and the race venue itself is as close to a backyard event as can be for the Colorado native. Naturally, all eyes were on him to keep the family business going. Things weren’t so clear-cut for the now 42-year-old Paterson, who hadn’t even gone for a swim in the five months leading up to the race. (Clearly, life as an Oscar nominee is busy.)

Sullivan Middaugh XTERRA Beaver Creek
Sullivan Middaugh en route to a win at the 2023 XTERRA USA Championships.

The men’s race was fast from the start, thanks to 2021 winner Sam Osborne’s (NZL) and his notorious swim prowess. Despite those best efforts, however, Middaugh and Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) were motoring on the bike, and making light work of Osborne’s lead. The big turning point of the race came in the transition from two wheels and to two legs, as Middaugh turned on the afterburners and powered to the finish The ASU student successfully defended his title, with Ruzafa and Osborne finishing second and third, respectively.

“Definitely some home-court advantage,” Middaugh said after the victory. Up next for the USAT Project Podium phenom: the XTERRA World Championship.

Lesley Paterson XTERRA Beaver Creek 2023
Lesley Paterson picked up right where she left off with a win at the XTERRA USA Championship 2023. (Photo: XTERRA)

The women’s race unfolded similarly for three-time XTERRA World Champion Patterson, who probably couldn’t have written the script better herself. With a significant five-minute deficit to make up for out of the swim (turns out if you don’t practice swimming, you slow down a bit), Paterson had her work cut out for her. Yet, just like in the men’s race, the hammer went down on the bike and run. Paterson’s bike was four minutes faster than anyone else, and her run was just fast enough to overtake Samantha Kindsford, who finished second, with a mile to go. Top American XTERRA athlete Susie Snyder came home in third.

Vlain, Nieuwoudt win Challenge Davos

Fun fact: The demands of the Challenge Davos climb over the Flüela Pass are so unique that race directors shortened the typical 90K bike leg of middle-distance racing to only 54K for this particular race. Most athletes to sign up for the challenge ditch their tri bikes and opt for roadies instead. What does this all mean? Well, in the men’s pro race, it means France’s Simon Viain was feeling right at home. Off the back of a great swim, the Frenchman flew up over the pass, putting four minutes or more into the rest of the field. That, plus a solid run that added a minute to his lead, was more than enough for him to comfortably bring home the win. Viaian’s win is an excellent example of how much a mountainous bike leg can shake up a race (I’m looking at you, Nice Ironman World Championships).

“I don’t think you can ever prepare for this fully unless you are here – climbing for 45 minutes to an hour is something else!” Magda Nieuwoudt said of the Flüela Pass. The South African started with a strong swim in the women’s race, held her own with Germany’s Lisa-Maria Dornauer and Merle Brunee (despite being on a borrowed bike) and surged to the front on the run, collecting her third Challenge win of the year and positioning herself for a sweet spot on the Challenge Family World Bonus list for the season.

On Deck 

70.3 Worlds may be over, but even more championship racing is on the way. The men take the stage for the first-ever Ironman World Championships in Nice on September 10, and first-ever women’s only Kona is seven weeks away. Before then, we’ll head to Toulouse, just a few hours west of Nice, for the next Super League showdown. Here, the crowds are notoriously loud, and the racing is equally as fast. There will also be a Challenge double-header, with races in Istanbul and Coquimbo-La Serena, Chile.

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