On December 9th, an impressive international field of professional triathletes will assemble on the CHALLENGEDAYTONA Middle Distance start line at Daytona International Speedway. These world-class, fiercely competitive athletes are eager to cross the checkered-flag finish line and lay claim to the first triathlon titles ever awarded at the “World Center of Racing.”
The Men’s Field
Among the professional men are a number of the sport’s top cyclists, including two-time Kona-course-record-crusher Cameron Wurf (AUS). Wurf is ready to push the pace in a battle royale against the rest of the men. His competition includes uber-biker Andrew Starykowicz (USA), known for his all-out aggressive racing style. Equally powerful podium contenders are top Americans Andy Potts (USA), a two-time Olympian and World Champion, and Matt Russell (USA), who finished sixth in the world in Hawaii, just one year after a life-threatening accident.
Kevin Collington(USA) and Jarrod Shoemaker (USA) both hail from ITU (Olympic-distance, draft-format) racing backgrounds. Collington, a collegiate swimmer, has found his niche in long-course triathlon, scoring a U.S. Pro Championship title in 2013 and earning multiple podium finishes. Shoemaker, an Olympian and multi-time World and U.S. National Champion in ITU triathlon and duathlon, known best for his run prowess, is sure to turn in a blistering half marathon at CHALLENGEDAYTONA.
Adding interest to the men’s field is Dylan McNeice (NZL). McNeice is no stranger to victory at CHALLENGEFAMILY events, owning numerous titles including CHALLENGEWANAKA Champion and CHALLENGETAIWAN Champion. Either McNeice or Potts, both supremely swift swimmers, are likely to celebrate being first out of the water at Daytona International Speedway’s Lake Lloyd. Another CHALLENGEFAMILY race regular is Pieter Heemeryck (BEL), victorious at CHALLENGEGERAARDSBERGEN and CHALLENGESARDINIA 2018 and also in the running for a top finish in the 2018 CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus ranking.
Also among the top professional men is Peter Kotland (USA), a 20-year veteran of the pro ranks with a collection of titles in marathon and full and ultra-distance triathlon, including the Ultraman World Championship. He’s joined by pros Steve Zawaski (USA) and Ricky Flynn (USA), both of whom balance traditional careers in addition to pursuing their triathlon passions.
The Women’s Field
Headlining the women’s professional field are a number of notable contenders, a trio of whom have transitioned from ITU racing to long-course success and commonly compete against one another, racing toe-to-toe. Sarah Haskins (USA) represented Team USA at the 2008 Olympics, then went on to win gold at the 2011 Pan American Games. Now, a multi-time triathlon champion and mother of two, she’s ready to put her experience to the test at Daytona International Speedway. She’ll face two of her fiercest rivals in fellow ITU alums Alicia Kaye (USA), a Florida local, and Lauren Goss (USA). Both women own numerous Olympic and middle-distance triathlon titles and are among the fastest in the field.
Also contending for the title is Meredith Kessler (USA). No woman’s place on the podium is ever secure when Kessler steps up to the start line. Known for her prolific racing and winning, as well as her gritty, never-give-up approach, Kessler holds both middle and full distance titles in the double digits. Her 2018 season has marked a return to sport with added motivation since the birth of her baby boy in November 2017. Given the swim prowess of Kessler, Haskins, Kaye, and Goss, the battle will be on between these women from the very first stroke.
Another phenom among the professional women is Lisa Roberts (USA), a former collegiate cross-country and track star who now claims four full-distance triathlon titles, including CHALLENGEVENICE. Roberts is a frequent CHALLENGEFAMILY competitor, currently ranked third in the 2018 CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus standings. Pro Kelly O’Mara (USA) joined the professional ranks in 2017 after scoring the overall amateur women’s victory at the storied Wildflower Triathlon in 2016. She now balances her time between training, racing, and reporting for numerous media outlets, including Triathlete Magazine.
The CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus
Adding an extra level of rivalry to the race, CHALLENGEDAYTONA marks the final competition in the 2018 CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus series, wherein professional athletes will share a total bonus prize purse of $165,000. Several athletes have strategically targeted the event as their last-blast opportunity to earn a solid share of the winnings. While the top three overall men’s rankings are secure, the next three spots are up for grabs in an extremely tight race between Wurf (currently 4th), Heemeryck (currently 5th), and McNeice (currently 6th). Whichever man turns in the best performance on the day will have an opportunity to jostle the standings and win the race within the race. Likewise, in the women’s field, Roberts (currently 3rd) hopes to move higher up in the final top three rankings with a strong race at CHALLENGEDAYTONA.
CHALLENGEDAYTONA also serves as an opportunity to qualify for THECHAMPIONSHIP, to be held on June 2nd 2019 at the x-bionic sphere in Samorin, Slovakia. The full start list for all CHALLENGEDAYTONA events, including the entire pro field, may be found here.
Are you ready to swim, bike, and run at the “World Center of Racing”? From December 7th-9th, 2018, Daytona International Speedway will welcome triathletes and triathlon fans from around the world to CHALLENGEDAYTONA. The entire festival of events will take place at the approximately 500-acre motorsports complex, home of “The Great American Race”—the DAYTONA 500. www.challenge-daytona.com