Hy-Vee Triathlon: Women’s Pro Preview

Two American Olympic qualifiers and two American Olympic hopefuls highlight the women’s field for this weekend’s Hy-vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa.

Two American Olympic qualifiers and two American Olympic hopefuls highlight the women’s field for this weekend’s Hy-vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa.

Written by: Sal Farruggia

Click here to read a men’s race preview.

The races transition to non-drafting gives Haskins the upper hand. Photo:

Although Sarah Haskins has yet to be beaten this year in a non-drafting race, it’s safe to say she has yet to face competition quite like this. In addition to her American ITU teammates Sarah Groff, Gwen Jorgensen and Laura Bennett, she’ll also face off against the likes of Mirinda Carfrae, Lisa Norden, Liz Blatchford, Nicola Spirig and Alicia Kaye. A few others may finish on the podium should they be able to put forth heroic efforts. Here are a few of our favorites to take a podium spot.

Laura Bennett (USA)

Photo: Paul Phillips

How she Qualified: Invite

Laura Bennett’s list of career accolades runs pages long and includes a win at Hy-Vee when it was a draft-legal event. We can be certain of a fierce swim, fast run and tenacious bike. Bennett has been focusing on draft-legal racing, but definitely has the skill and knowledge needed to take the win on Sunday.

Liz Blatchford (GBR)


How she qualified: 1,200 points in the 5150 series

2nd at St. Anthony’s

1st at Liverpool

This ITU star has been putting up outstanding results since 2000 and is a taking a shot at the Hy-Vee paycheck. Blatchford finished 39 seconds behind Haskins at St. Anthony’s, the closest anyone has come to her in a non-drafting event in 2011. Blatchford has the ability to swim in the first group, and the speed to have the fastest run on the day. To win Hy-Vee she’ll need to elevate her cycling ability to match the other competitors. The 47 seconds Haskins put in to Blatchford on the bike at St. Anthony’s turned out to be nearly the exact difference in their finishing times.

Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)

Photo: Nils NIlsen

How she Qualified: Invite

Unlike other 140.6 racers who would be hopeless dropping down to the Olympic distance, Carfrae has experience at this distance and could contend for a podium spot. Carfrae finished second at the 2010 St. Anthony’s race, which shows she still has it. History has shown that iron-distance athletes can give up two or more minutes in the swim, which may be Carfrae’s downfall. She’s likely to be somewhere in the middle of the swim and should she ride herself to the front, she will be a major threat due to her fiery run. How Carfrae finishes will largely depend on where she’s at in her Kona preparations. Tired legs do not often lead to success in an Olympic-distance race.

Sarah Groff (USA)


How she Qualified: Invite

3rd at St. Anthony’s

There may be no one coming into Hy-Vee on a better string of results than Sarah Groff. Groff has primarily raced ITU this year and has finished in the top 10 an impressive four out of five times, securing an Olympic berth along the way. She has a real chance of winning it all at Hy-Vee. At her lone 5150 race, St. Anthony’s, she was third to Haskins and Blatchford but one would could expect Groff to perform at a higher potential with several more months of training and the focus of a large prize purse. Like other ITU racers, it’s all about the unfamiliar time trial and how much Groff takes out of her running legs to push the pace on the bike.

Sarah Haskins (USA)

Photo: Paul Phillips

How she qualified: 750 points in the 5150 series

1st at St. Anthony’s

Haskins is the best non-drafting Olympic-distance racer in the world right now, and is five-for-five this year on the world’s biggest stages. Her four victories in the Life Time Fitness Series have all came by at least two minutes, and her win at St. Anthony’s was against a very stacked field. With few weaknesses, she ranks along with Sara McLarty as one of the sport’s best swimmers; she crushes the bike and comfortably posts quality run splits while minutes ahead of her nearest competitor. The results show a tough bike doesn’t take much out of her running legs. As dominant as she has been, it’s hard not to make her the odds on favorite to win.

Gwen Jorgensen (USA)

Photo: Paul Phillips

How she Qualified: Invite

Jorgensen has been the hottest thing in triathlon this summer. She went from unknown to Olympic qualifier in two short years. She’s done so with an unbelievably quick 10K. As incredible as her rise to stardom has been, she hasn’t had the time to build her cycling strength and may be weak at that discipline. In ITU races that weakness can be hidden, but not in the non-drafting domain where the bike makes 50% of the race. Jorgensen will likely come off the bike too far behind to catch the leaders on the run.

Alicia Kaye (USA)

Photo: Paul Phillips

How she qualified: 1,400 points in the 5150 series

6th at Miami International

4th at St. Anthony’s

1st at Washington DC

Alicia Kaye has been busy this year. She has raced three 5150 events and five Life Time Fitness Series events, and has reached the podium five times. Kaye appears to have few weaknesses and has displayed tremendous consistency, as well showing steady improvement throughout the season. Kaye has finished second a handful of times this year and will be looking for a breakthrough win at Hy-Vee.

Nicole Kelleher (USA)

Photo: Kris Mendoza

How she qualified: 1,300 points in the 5150 series

4th at Miami International

7th at St. Anthony’s

2nd at Washington DC

This Dartmouth track star has posted some of the fastest 10K splits of anyone in the field. As results of late show, she has been pushing the bike harder and still leading on the run. She can land herself a high Hy-Vee finish if she executes this strategy.

Annabel Luxford (AUS)


How she qualified: 1,100 points in the 5150 series

8th at St. Anthony’s

1st at Boulder

Luxford is a crossover from the ITU circuit where she has had considerable success. In the 2004-2006 seasons, Luxford won four ITU World Cups, but recently has struggled with injuries. She qualified for Hy-Vee by winning the Boulder 5150 against quality competition. Her eighth place at St. Anthony’s isn’t indicative of her true ability, as she was racing with an illness. Luxford will be dangerous with her front-of-the-pack swim and very capable time trialing capabilities. While Luxford isn’t among the fastest of the runners, she is fast enough to hold her place in the front of the field

Sara McLarty (USA)

Photo: Paul Phillips

How she qualified: 870 points in the 5150 series

2nd at Miami International

12th at St. Anthony’s

11th at Washington DC

With six primes totaling $30,900 all before the start of the run, McLarty will likely be giving 100% without even thinking about having to run a 10K. As the fastest swimmer in the sport, she will likely crush the field over the 1.5K swim as she has routinely done in the past. Her bike is powerful enough to hold off the field for at least a few laps. That all adds up to a nice payday for her in primes alone.

Lisa Norden (SWE)

How she Qualified: Invite

Last time we saw Lisa Norden race in the United States she was winning the Los Angeles Triathlon by six minutes. Unlike other ITU stars who are known as being weak on the bike, Norden can put out major watts and her bike will be a huge weapon. Her swim and run times are also among the best. She has had a persistent foot injury this year, which has held her back from competing at her best on the WCS circuit. It will be hard for any women to win Hy-Vee at less than 100%, even for a bona fide star like Norden

Nicola Spirig (SUI)

How she Qualified: Invite

Spirig, a teamTBB member, has been quiet as of late. Spirig has struggled with stress fractures, but her 12th place finish in Hamburg and eighth place finish in London show that she can still compete. She has shown surprisingly fast swim times this year, indicating that she may have spent her time away from running by working on her biggest weakness, the swim. Like the other ITU athletes, Spirig’s success at Hy-Vee will depend on how she handles the non-drafting bike.

Rebeccah Wassner (USA)

Photo: Kris Mendoza

How she qualified: NYC Qualifier

4th at Washington DC

1st at NYC Tri

Wassner is a front-pack swimmer, capable rider and dangerous runner. Wassner has multiple podiums at the Life Time Fitness Series to go along with her win at NYC. Wassner had a hip injury earlier this season which had limited her run, but she now appears to be really hitting her stride. She has had victories over many of the top contenders in the past. Wassner’s swim and run are fast enough for a podium finish, but how high up she finishes depends on how much power she can push on the bike leg.

Other Competitors

Angela Axmann (DEU)

How she qualified: 1,300 points in the 5150 series

Amy Bevilacqua (USA)

How she qualified: NYC Qualifier

Evelyne Blouin (CAN)

How she qualified: NYC Qualifier

Nikki Butterfield (AUS)

How she qualified: 1,875 points in the 5150 series

Amanda Felder-Derkacs (USA)

How she qualified: 1,075 points in the 5150 series

Jenny Fletcher (CAN)

How she qualified: 1,085 points in the 5150 series

Renate Forstner (DEU)

How she qualified: 1,125 points in the 5150 series

Christie Jeffery (CAN)

How she qualified: Invite

Becky Lavelle (USA)

How she qualified: NYC Qualifier

Mandy McLane (USA)

How she qualified: Invite

Kristen Peterson (USA)

How she qualified: 725 points in the 5150 series

Maggie Shapiro (USA)

How she qualified: 950 points in the 5150 series

Amanda Stevens (USA)

How she qualified: 1,350 points in the 5150 series

Pip Taylor (AUS)

How she qualified: 965 points in the 5150 series

Radka Vodickova (CZE)

How she qualified: 1,250 points in the 5150 series

Annie Warner (USA)

How she qualified: 1,375 points in the 5150 series

Laurel Wassner (USA)

How she qualified: 850 points in the 5150 series