Race Coverage

No Clear Favorites & Youthful Exuberance,,,


By Tim Bontrager

The Fairmont Triathlon successfully returned to racing after a 1-year hiatus due to COVID. This course, known for it’s “Switch-Side” swim, flat bike, and friendly run is a jewel for racing. On this day, mother nature was kind and race conditions were very good on the plains of southern Minnesota. A breeze from the north made the return leg of the bike more challenging but it kept the run at a very comfortable temperature. As a result, we saw fast times for many athletes during the run.

With perennial winner DAVID HOLDEN taking the year off, there was not a clear favorite heading into the men’s Olympic race. A trio of Twin Cities residents ended up taking the podium. TIM BONTRAGER followed his early-season TriByKnight victory by leading the race from start to finish, winning with a time of 1:57:49 and notching his second win of 2021. Behind him, an exciting race developed for second between 2019 “Most Improved Triathlete” ANDREW KERSHAW and cold-weather specialist MICHAEL TATE. Despite literally bursting out of his wetsuit during the swim (Impressive calves or a poorly made wetsuit? We may never know…), Tate was able to catch Kershaw on the bike and led coming out of transition. Undaunted, Kershaw passed Tate part-way through the run and never looked back. Kershaw took second with a time of 2:01:13, while Tate finished third with a time of 2:04:34.

A similarly exciting race developed for first in the women’s Olympic triathlon. JULIE BUSCH, winner of the 2018 and 2019 Fairmont sprint, put in an impressive swim and was the first woman out of the water. 2nd out of the water, 2020 Green Lake winner SARAH WENSINK had a two-and-a-half-minute deficit as she was getting on the bike. She clearly had her work cut out for her! Wensink managed to overtake Julie late in the bike course and then put the race away with a sub 40-minute 10k, winning the women’s race with a time of 2:21:38. Busch held on to second with a time of 2:32:04, and Rochester native MARTHA STELTER took 3rd with a time of 2:40:05 on the strength of a consistent swim and bike.,,,

Youthful exuberance came out on top over age and experience in the sprint. Teenage phenom NOAH BILLINGS and 2019 Fairmont Sprint Winner (and master’s racer) KEVIN MITCHELL were separated by 3 seconds starting the run and it looked like anyone’s race at the first turn. In the end, Billings edged out the win, finishing in 58:42 closely followed by Mitchell finishing in 59:30. Another master’s racer, MARIO MINELLI, finished in third with a time of 1:00:41. Youth also trumped experience on the women’s side where teenager GRACE BUSCH clawed her way back from a nearly 2-minute deficit during the run to win with a time of 1:09:35. South Dakotan elite master TERESA VAN HYFTE took 2nd with 1:11:37. Third place was taken by home-town racer JENNIFER KAHLER.