Thursday, July 9, 2009


(Curt Wood plans to out-crank the field at LTF. Photo courtesy of Christine Wood.)

LIFE TIME VIII: Don't be surprised if this year's Elite Amateur men's podium resembles HyVee's. America's top two Olympic distance amateur female triathletes--Chicago's Lindsay Whalen and Apple Valley's Cathy Yndestad--will duke it out on Saturday. Oh yeah, there's a pro race, too. Look for a great performance from St. Paul's David Thompson....

At season's end, USA Triathlon will be tasked with naming their Athletes of the Year and AOY Honorable Mentions. Cathy Yndestad, a two-time AOY HM already, and Lindsay Whalen, are expected to be on the list of nominees. In fact, if the award were given today, Whalen would be the recipient.

If Cathy, winner of the last three editions of the LTF Elite Amateur competition, manages to beat Lindsay on Saturday, whether she wins the race or not, then a great argument can be made for Cathy being the 2009 AOY frontrunner.


Versatility. Cathy has been brilliant this year at sprints, Olympic distance and the half IM, whereas Whalen appears to be a short course (sprint through Olympic) specialist.

Here are the 2009 resumes for each of these gifted competitors:

Lindsay Whalen: 1st @ Miami International (FL), 1st @ Memphis in May (TN) , 1st @ HyVee (IA), 2nd @ St. Anthony's (FL).

Cathy Yndestad: 1st @ Bartlett Lake (AZ), 1st @ Gear West (MN), 1st @ Pigman Sprint (IA), 1st @ Manitou Sprint (MN), 2nd @ Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 (TX), 4th @ St. Anthony's (FL).

Assuming that the two highest steps of the podium are reserved for Cathy and Lindsay, the question of who else will mount the platform arises. Some of the contenders include Chicago's Christine Anderson, defending Escape from Alcatraz champ Jenny Fletcher (CA by way of NY), 2009 Lake Waconia winner Brook Mutzenberger (Eden Prairie), Floridian Mandy McLane and North Dakota's Marnie Walth.

Advantage? Walth or McLane. Walth's been on the LTF podium before (2nd in 2007) and just missed (4th) doing the same at the 2007 Dallas US Open's Elite Championship. McLane is young and improving with each race. She actually finished in front of Whalen at Nationals last year, but a penalty knocked her out of the overall top 10.

Now for the guys. On paper, three of the following men should reach the podium: Rick Fesler (PA), 2007 LTF Elite Amateur champ Mark Harms (WI), reigning HyVee winner Nathan White (IA) and Minnesotans Devon Palmer and Curt Wood.

Why Fesler? He was the amateur champion at Columbia last May. Columbia traditionally attracts the deepest amateur Olympic distance field on the entire East Coast.

Why Harms? He's done it before and he's a two-time AOY HM.

Why White? He proved he could win a Big Time event at HyVee. Also, he was runner-up at LTF last year and a top three finisher at Nationals.

Why Palmer? Because he should have won at HyVee. He slogged through the run there and still reached the podium. Also, he may be the best cyclist in the field.

Why Wood? He was 2nd to Harms here in '07. Curt may have the best swim/bike combination--Craig Walton Syndrome--on the U.S. amateur tri scene. To win, he'll need a big lead going into T2.

UPDATE: Let's add another name to the list of favorites: Ohio's Jared Woodford. On June 21, Woodford beat a solid field of men at Washington, DC Olympic. His time was an excellent 1:52:14, just 3:16 behind the pro winner and 6:14 ahead of his (Woodford's) nearest challenger. This has got to be the best Olympic effort by a U.S. amateur male this year.

Hey, who are the men's faves in the pro race?

Greg Bennett (Australia): One win, two 2nds and two 3rds here. Is he fit this year, though? Probably not at the level he needs to be to win.

Andy Potts (USA): Mr. Consistency has been brilliant this year. Last year's runner-up should reach the podium again.

Stuart Hayes (Great Britain): A breakout season in 2008, his '09 performances have been solid but unspectacular by comparison.

Craig Alexander (Australia): Four major 70.3 wins this year already. A former winner here (2005), he is the reigning Hawaii Ironman World Champ. Is he ready for a short and fast race?

Matt Reed (USA): Amazingly talented but prone to occasional bad luck. He's has never raced well at LTF.

David Thompson (St. Paul): If Reed's misfortune here continues and Alexander's long course success has come at a cost to his speed, David could make the podium this year. He's fit and motivated.

Paul Amey (Great Britain): The three-time Duathlon World Champion has been concentrating on the 70.3. His best effort here was a 6th in 2002.

Andrew Yoder (USA). You don't know him now, but you should when the dust clears on Saturday. This 20-year-old has the potential to be special. A podium is possible, but a top 5 or 6 is more likely.

Hunter Kemper (USA): Has the former LTF winner (2006) recovered sufficiently from abdominal surgery last fall? We'll see on Saturday.

As one can see, there are many unanswered questions. Based on 2009 resumes, though, Potts and Reed should control the race. Throwing muscle memory into the mix elevates Potts. Reed's fibers would rather forget the past.

The winner? Andy Potts.

What about the pro girls?

Becky Lavelle (CA): Becky has always excelled in Toyota Cup racing. She's a two-time runner-up at LTF.

Mary Beth Ellis (CO): 2009 winner of Oklahoma Pan Am Champs and Escape from Alcatraz, MB should be a podium threat this year.

Rebeccah Wassner (NY): She's having her best year ever. She's won four major Olympic distances events-- Playas Pan Am Cup, St. Anthony's, Columbia, and Philadelphia--already this season. Reserve a podium spot for this girl.

Sarah Haskins (CO): Hands down, America's best Olympic distance racer in 2008 and 2007, Sarah is now on the comeback trail after surgery last fall. Her '09 results have been decent. Is she ready to start winning again? Good question.

Samanatha Warriner (NZL): With the exception of her 70.3 victory at Geelong (AUS), her 2009 resume is not as impressive as her 2008's.

Julie Dibens (Great Britain): Ms. Versatility has reached the podium here before. Can she do it again? Of course.

Laura Bennett (FL): The six-time Worlds medalist has never had a stellar race here. Like her husband, Greg, she's been flying under the radar this year. Is she healthy?

Sara Groff (CO): One of the most underrated athletes in the sport. Yes, she's capable of making the podium here.

Margie Shapiro (VA): Runner-up performances at Columbia and Philly, both times to Rebeccah Wassner, are her season's highlights. She's a long-shot to make the podium.

Who then will win? Like the men's race in '08, it should come down to a furious sprint between a trio of athletes. Who? Wassner, Haskins and Lavelle.

But who will win? Haskins. No, it'll be Wassner. Wait. It'll be Lavelle. Then again....