Triathlete Magazine’s 2012 Best In Tri Awards

From the nail-biting performances to the innovative gear and controversy, here are the people, gear and moments worth remembering in 2012.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

From the nail-biting performances and inspirational comebacks to the innovative gear and controversy we didn’t see coming, here are the people, gear and moments worth remembering in 2012.

Best Race Moment

1. Women’s Olympic Finish
The sprint finish between Lisa Norden and Nicola Spirig was one for the books—even at the finish line, spectators, officials and the athletes themselves weren’t sure who had taken gold until they showed the photo finish. Spirig won by inches.

2. Crowie Edging Out Cameron Brown At Ironman Melbourne
The high-caliber field at March’s inaugural Ironman Melbourne made for an exciting race, but the highlight was the stride-for-stride marathon between veterans Craig “Crowie” Alexander of Australia and Cameron Brown of New Zealand. Alexander eventually opened a gap after mile 20 and won the race in 7:57:44.

3. Rev3’s Cedar Point Finish
At the June Rev3 Cedar Point race, 49-year-old Patti Jackson, a cancer survivor and member of the U.S. Air Force, was still on the course, with an anticipated finish of over 19 hours. Instead of closing up shop, owner Charlie Patten and his staff, all the volunteers, the police and Jackson’s tri club Team Z stayed out to support her. The DJ downloaded her favorite song (Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”), the medical and massage teams stayed to help at the finish and Rev3 held off their elaborate fireworks display until she made it across around 2:30 a.m.

Most Controversial Happening

1. Lance Armstrong’s Short Return
It all started in 2011 when, after more than 20 years away from the sport, Lance Armstrong decided to race an Xterra event. In February he announced that he wanted to race in Kona and proceeded to rack up points at 70.3 races. Then, days before his anticipated Ironman debut in France, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released allegations against him. He was immediately banned from racing any USAT-sanctioned event, ending his Kona dream.

2. NYC Ironman Is One-And-Done
The inaugural Ironman New York first earned attention for its unique metropolitan backdrop and its highest-ever Ironman price tag of $900, which sold out in a record eight minutes. The event took place in August and registration for 2013 opened the day after with an inflated price tag of $1,200. After receiving angry feedback about the high cost and tricky logistics, Ironman suspended and eventually canceled the event altogether.

3. The Challenge-WTC Battle
The Challenge Family and WTC first butted heads in 2001, which resulted in Ironman Europe becoming Challenge Roth. Their battle resumed in 2012. First, Ironman bought the events company that ran Challenge Cairns in Australia. Challenge fought back: They were chosen to take over Ironman Canada in Penticton, which would become their first North American event. The conflict continued when WTC opened registration for the new Ironman Canada in Whistler to take place on the same day.

Best New Race

1. Life Time Leadman Epic Tri Bend
With a jaw-droppingly gorgeous bike course, relaxed race vibe and unconventional distance, Leadman Bend is a new calendar staple. Other perks include quality swag (a jersey, pint glass, long-sleeve tech tee and more) and craft brews at the finish line.

2. Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship Melbourne
This beautiful, urban point-to-point race starts with a swim in a large bay, moves to a two-loop bike course on buttery asphalt and ends with a flat run alongside Port Phillip Bay. The run ends at St. Kilda Sea Baths, with showers, a steam sauna and a heated seawater swimming pool at the finish.

3. Rev3 Maine
Besides having the best post-race meal we’ve ever seen (lobster bake!), Rev3 Maine also features a picturesque course in the family-friendly town of Old Orchard Beach. Both the Olympic and half-iron distances begin with an ocean swim, a bike ride through tunnels of greenery and a run partly on hard-packed trail through the woods.

Performance of the Year

1. Nicola Spirig Out-Leans At The Olympics
Despite two ITU World Triathlon Series wins leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig was largely under the radar. After 1,500 meters of swimming, 40K of biking and 6 miles of running, Spirig was running with a group of four and decided to make a break with 400 meters to go. She narrowly out-leaned Sweden’s Lisa Norden at the finish line tape to earn Olympic gold.

2.Pete Jacobs Dominates In Kona
Despite suffering an early-season injury, Aussie Pete Jacobs shaped his season around coming back to Kona and earning the one place that could improve on his runner-up finish in 2011. Jacobs raced Hawaii with a new set of bike legs and crushed the competition, winning his first world title with a five-minute margin over second place.

3. Natascha Badmann Beats The Young Guns
A good chunk of the 2012 Ironman World Championship’s top-five post-race women’s press conference was spent gushing about the race’s sixth-place finisher, and for good reason. Six-time Ironman world champion Natascha Badmann of Switzerland earned the impressive finish thanks in large part to her field-leading 5:06:07 bike split. Oh, and did we mention she did it at age 45?

Male Athlete of the Year

1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR)
Despite an Achilles tear in May, the older Brownlee stormed back onto the ITU scene by winning his first race back in Kitzbühel, Austria. He went on to thrill the home crowd in London, winning Olympic gold thanks to a stunning 29:07 10K run. With the win, Brownlee became the first-ever reigning triathlon world champion to live up to the hype and earn Olympic gold.

2. Javier Gomez (ESP)
The Spaniard has proven to be the year’s most versatile triathlete. He kept pace with the Brownlees to earn Olympic silver. From there, he dominated the non-drafting Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship. Then, just one week after winning the ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final, Gomez entered his first-ever off-road triathlon in Maui and walked away the Xterra world champion.

3. Sebastian Kienle (GER)
2012 saw the German go from a relative unknown to one of the biggest names on the long-course circuit. The super-cyclist won at the Ironman World Championship 70.3 and finished fourth in his debut at the Ironman World Championship in Kona (despite getting a flat on the bike).

Female Athlete of the Year

1. Leanda Cave (GBR)
In 2012 Cave became the first woman ever to win both the 70.3 world championship and the Kona crown in the same season. She preceded those wins with a victory at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, despite getting a slower start to the season due to an illness she may have picked up at a race in Panama, and later a couple of cracked ribs in a freak fall. The mandated rest just may have been her ticket to a world-beating season’s end.

2. Lisa Norden (SWE)
Nicola Spirig may have outleaned her through the Olympic finishing tape, forcing her to settle for silver, but Norden captured the 2012 ITU world title after a season of commanding performances, including a win at Hy-Vee.

3. Caroline Steffen (SUI)
The “Swiss Miss” led the bike during this year’s Ironman World Championship and battled with eventual winner Leanda Cave on the run, finishing as the runner-up. She also beat out Mirinda Carfrae and Rachel Joyce to win the inaugural Ironman Melbourne earlier in the year.

American Male Athlete of the Year

1. Jordan Rapp
2012 saw “Rappstar” establish himself as one of the top long-distance athletes in the world. Rapp earned his fourth (Texas) and fifth (New York) Ironman wins before dominating the field at the inaugural Leadman Tri Bend. Despite a somewhat disappointing performance at his rookie race in Kona (he finished 13th), Rapp’s three big wins put him atop this list.

2. Cameron Dye
Dye did something this year that few athletes do anymore: He focused his entire season on Olympic-distance non-drafting races, and he reaped the benefits. Dye raced his way to six victories and earned the most points in the Life Time Fitness Triathlon Series, winning the title of 2012 Toyota Cup champion.

3. Andy Potts
Potts has proven himself to be one of the most versatile athletes in the sport, with the ability to succeed across all distances. Potts posted victories across Olympic-distance, 70.3 and Ironman races in 2012, becoming the winningest male athlete ever at the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco. To top it off, Potts was the fastest American male in Kona with his seventh-place finish.

American Female Athlete of the Year

1. Mary Beth Ellis
Ellis, known simply as “MBE” to many, topped off a stellar season, which included victories at the Ironman U.S. Championship (aka Ironman New York) and Ironman 70.3 France, with a fifth-place finish in Kona as the top American woman. A member of Brett Sutton’s Team TBB squad, Ellis only began racing Ironman a year ago but already has five wins under her belt.

2. Sarah Haskins
The winner of the 2012 Race to the Toyota Cup Life Time Triathlon Series, Haskins has proven virtually unbeatable in the non-drafting Olympic distance.

3. Sarah Groff
Her fourth-place finish at the London Olympics, an agonizingly tough position just off the podium, only further endeared the charismatic Groff to the hearts of triathlon fans everywhere.

Age-Grouper of the Year

1. Drew Scott
It’s hard to deny that Drew Scott is following in the footsteps of his father Dave—who happens to be a six-time Ironman world champ. With the fastest overall time at Buffalo Springs 70.3 (including pros), a runner-up spot at the USAT Olympic-distance National Championship and a win at the Boulder 5430 Sprint Triathlon, the 21-year-old’s triathlon future looks unquestionably bright.

2. Kendra Lee
When Kendra Lee, 32, crossed the Ironman Canada finish line in 9:44:58, she was thrilled to win the overall amateur title. But it turns out the Denver, Colo.-based nurse also had the fastest overall female time, going more than a minute faster than the top pro.

3. Harriet Anderson
At her 21st go at the Ironman World Championship, 77-year-old Harriet Anderson electrified the crowd with her 16:59:19 finish, claiming her age-group title once again (no other 75–79-year-olds even attempted the race). Anderson has completed more than 20 Wildflower Long Course Triathlons and 20 marathons—not too shabby for someone who started triathlon in her 50s!

Best Pro Comeback

1. Jamie Whitmore
After becoming a two-time Xterra world champion, the off-road queen was diagnosed in 2007 with a rare form of cancer. Two softball-size tumors were removed from her lower back, and she lost her hamstring, her left glute muscle and use of her lower left leg. While she raced a few short-course Xterras in 2011, in 2012 she conquered the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race by finishing in a time of 11:42:37.

2. Janelle Morrison
A near-fatal car accident in November 2010 broke almost every major bone in the Canadian pro triathlete’s body. Less than two years later she completed a few half-iron-distance races before her Ironman comeback in Penticton, Canada, where she finished in a time of 9:53:20.

3. Andrew Starykowicz
During the bike portion of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon in March, Starykowicz collided with a volunteer, sending them both to the hospital and him into a controversial legal battle that kept him in the UAE for six weeks. Later in the year, wins at Rev3 South Carolina and Ironman Florida put him back in the game.

Best Aerodynamic Innovation

1. Cervélo P5
Cervélo squashed the shortcomings of its last tri bike by building the $6,000 P5 for ride quality, storage and realistic fit. It’s a Cervélo, so you know it’s aero.

2. Mavic CXR80 wheel
Mavic used a plastic bumper to smoothly integrate the rim and the tire, helping this $2,800 wheel-and-tire set excel in wind tunnel testing against some of the best.

3. Giro Air Attack helmet
Created to split the difference between aero and road, the $240 Air Attack creates less drag than road helmets and cools better than full aero alternatives.

Best Gear for the Dollar

1. Shimano Ultegra components
These parts aren’t new or revolutionary; they simply work flawlessly. Electronic groupsets get most of the attention, but, at $1,085, Ultegra shifts and brakes flawlessly without the inflated price tag.

2. Felt B16 tri bike
erodynamic carbon frame, tri-specific fit and reliable components make the B16 the complete package for a triathlete at any level. The $2,000 price tag makes it an unbeatable value.

3. Zipp Vuka Alumina Aerobar
This $255 aerobar may be the most fit-flexible option out there. It can transform to accommodate almost any position, and Zipp says it’s more aerodynamic than their former top-end bar too.

Best Nutrition Trend

1. Hydration in the bottle; calories in your pocket.
Two sports scientists, Allen Lim and Stacy Sims, started convincing athletes to separate hydration and calories, and they created their own sports drink lines to support their research: Skratch Labs (Lim) and Osmo Nutrition (Sims).

2. Gluten-free sports nutrition
More athletes are going gluten-free and the amount of sports nutrition options have rapidly grown this year.

3. Whole-food fueling
While sports nutrition is necessary in certain situations, we’ve seen more and more people revert to fueling with whole foods—things like bananas, nuts, dried fruit and coconut water—when possible.

Trending on Triathlete

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.