Race Previews

Great Choices...

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WEEKEND MINI-PREVIEWS - There are four multisport races on Minnesota soil next weekend. Five, if you count western Wisconsin's SHELL LAKE TRIATHLON, which historically draws it's share of participants from the west side  of the St. Croix River. In fact, Minnesota athletes have won three of the first five editions of the race, and placed as many in the overall top five as their cheesehead (meant affectionately!) counterparts.

The races were  are previewing in this post are Saturday's HOOT LAKE TRI and TURTLEMAN, plus Sunday's CHISAGO LAKES HALF & SPRINT.

The inaugural IGNITE SWIM RUN (at Cuyuna State Park) will also be contested on Saturday, and we hope that the event draws satisfying numbers and is a great experience for all involved. Since we don't know who's racing, nor what to expect; plus we will not be on hand to witness and report on the event, we implore participants to write race reports and send them our way, hopefully with photos. We will be happy to post those stories.

 

HOOT LAKE TRIATHLON - This Fergus Falls event is about to celebrate its landmark 25th anniversary. One hundred and seventy-nine athletes finished last year's sprint course race, and the early list that we saw (registration is still open) showed that 178 had already signed up. Like race management, we would love to see more than 200 participants this year, and there is a good chance the race will get that many....

Hippy Vibes, Buzzes & Moose Statues...

 

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WEEKEND PREVIEWS - There are three great Minnesota multis this weekend, each with its own special charm and challenge. We hope you will participate in one (or two?) of them, as almost all tris and dus, not just here, but everywhere, could use an attendance boost these days....

Steamy North Country Experience...

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TIMBERMAN SPRINT - When TAYLOR LUNDQUIST sped out of T2 she was in 3rd place, forty seconds behind TARA MAKINEN, a four-time winner of Timberman Sprint, and 1:53 in arrears of two-time champ / course record holder BETTINA KEPPERS.

At first, it seemed that if the teen from Osseo could hold her position against the aforementioned veterans, she just might come away with a new junior course record.

But TAYLOR seemed to have something else in mind. She was almost sprinting when she passed the finish line as she headed out on the three mile run. Would she pay for her aggresivenenss? Or would she settle into a pace that would allow her to catch one or both of the leaders?

Taylor was named 2017 Junior of the Year because, after an impressive, though not award-worthy first half of the season (two other juniors outraced her here last year), she cranked up her game and finished the season with three outright women's victories and a half dozen junior course records.

Would Saturday's Timberman Sprint be her turning point this time around?

It sure was. Lundquist not only overtook Makinen, she even managed to charge past Keppers. The result was not only Taylor's 4th career adult multisport win, but a total thrashing of the junior record.

But wait. There's more. Lundquist's final time was 1:02:57, which lowered Keppers' year-old CR by two full minutes! It needs to be noted here that runner-up Keppers turned in a 1:04:32, twenty-five seconds better than her prior best. Makinen also PRed, her 1:05:04 a 28-second improvement on her previous best time, set in 2014.

Brand Loyalty...

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GRANITEMAN CLEARWATER - This race will celebrate its 15th birthday tomorrow, the last nine of which have been staged at scenic Warner Lake in Clearwater. A glance at the registration list tells us that "Brand Loyalty" is definitely part of the Graniteman deal, as many of those who have raced here in 2017 and before, are returning. We have to admit that we are more prepared to talk about Clearwater's Olympic-plus (28.66 mile bike) race than the sprint, the overall and AG results of which we think will be comprised largely of later registrants, i.e. those who have enrolled since last week, when the list was sent to us. We will predict that Alexandria's buff BRIAN STORHAUG will battle for a top spot. Heck, he could win it, like he did in '17. That was his first career mulisport victory. Pretty cool!

 

So, let's chat about the longer race. We're prepared to predict the winners right now. They are 2017 champ / women's course record holder KORTNEY HAAG, and 2017 G-Man Big Lake Sprint winner, JOSH MORK, assuming of course, he has chosen the longer race. Mork appears to be one of the 2018 Most Improved frontrunners right now, his resume and career trajectory telling us that he will win whichever Clearwater race he chooses...

Heart of the Lakes XXXIII Preview...

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HEART OF THE LAKES XXXIII PREVIEW - Who are the Big Guns who will be towing the starting line of this year's State Championship triathlon, and its Sprint course companion next Sunday? Here, in alpha order, is our breakdown of the talent, not all of it, mind you, but those who we think will battle for podium spots: 

 

JOSH BLANKENHEIM (Duluth) - 2nd in 2017 & 2015 (PR - 1:33:05)

SEAN COOLEY (St. Paul) - 1st in 2017, 2nd in 2016 (PR - 1:31:05)

SAMUEL HAUCK (Rochester) - 2nd in 2008, 3rd in 2009 (PR - 1:27:59)

KEVIN O'CONNOR (Medina) - 2nd in 2010 & 2009, 3rd in 2015 (PR - 1:28:17)

MATTHEW PAYNE (Golden Valley) - 1st in 2016 & 2015, 1st amateur (2nd overall) in 2014 (PR - 1:30:16) ...

Epic Match-Ups...

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MINNEAPOLIS TRIATHLON - The 17th edition of this iconic event will take place at Lake Nokomis next Saturday, and we are anticipating some epic battles at the front. When "Hooty" --Mpls Tri director Scott Hutmacher--sent us a list of the 24-member Premier Division, four names leapt off the page: SEAN COOLEY, KEEGHAN HURLEY, GABY BUNTEN and HANNA GRINAKER. We would be flabbergasted if these athletes did not take the gold and silver medals for their respective genders next weekend.

Who do we think will win? And why?

Let's start with the women.

GABY BUNTEN - The defending women's champ at Minneapolis, Gaby has established herself in the last two seasons as one of the US's premier amatuer female Olympic distance athletes. Thus far in 2018, she has raced in three Olympic-distance contests, winning two of them and placing 2nd  in the other. She had faced Hanna twice previously, beating her at Minneapolis last year, but finishing a place behind her at Minneapolis in 2016. Gaby was named Minnesota Triathlete of the Year in 2017. Grinaker won that award in 2016. It's possible that the winner of this epic match-up will go on to claim the 2018 TOY.

HANNA GRINAKER - Hanna's first Olympic effort, her 2nd multi start ever, produced a 2:10 (Buffalo 2016). That's insane. Her 1:30:00 at Waconia was mind-blowingly fast, demonstrating pro-level sprint speed. And her recent effort at Liberty Half, which was abbreviated to a 63.4 (2K-56 miles -10K) showed her long course chops. Her time--3:40:34--suggested sub-4:30 speed at 70.3...

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