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Water Levels Alter 5150 U.S. Championship Elite Cup Swim

The professionals competing in the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship Elite Cup on September 2 will not swim in the Des Moines River as planned; instead, the swim portion of the race will be at Gray's Lake.


Des Moines, IA - This summer's drought has claimed another casualty: the swim portion of the Hy-Vee Triathlon planned for the Des Moines River.

Low water levels in the river near the Court Avenue and Locust Street bridges downtown - the intended swim course for the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship Elite Cup races on September 2 - have forced organizers to move that portion of the event to the contingency site at Gray's Lake. The professional triathletes competing in the men's and women's Elite Cup will now start their race on from a platform located on the southwest side of the lake, near the park's Overlook Terrace.

Bill Burke, race director of the Hy-Vee Triathlon, said City of Des Moines officials have been monitoring water levels all summer, and their most recent tests have led triathlon officials to conclude that a swim in the Des Moines River would not be safe for the athletes.

"In the sport of triathlon we're dealing with outdoor venues, and sometimes we have to make adjustments to cope with unexpected weather conditions," Burke said. "That's why we create contingency plans."

He noted that the inaugural Hy-Vee Triathlon in 2007 had both amateurs and professionals swimming in Gray's Lake. The event moved to Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines the next three years, and in 2011 returned to downtown Des Moines, where the Elite Cup racers swam in the Des Moines River for the first time while age-group racers swam at Gray's Lake.

"Gray's Lake is an outstanding facility, and conditions at the lake this year are great for both the age-group and professional swims," Burke said. "We're very fortunate to have a contingency option for the pros that will allow us to stage a full triathlon without substantially altering the bike or run courses."

Gray's Lake will remain open to the public throughout the Hy-Vee Triathlon. Beginning Monday, August 27, certain parking areas and boat rentals may be unavailable at various times to accommodate the event set-up, but the park itself, the trails and the concession stands will be accessible all week. For more information, visit www.dmparks.org.

The Hy-Vee Triathlon kicks off on Sunday, September 2 at 6:45 a.m. with the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship competitors taking to the swim course on the east side of Gray's Lake, followed by the Hy-Vee Triathlon Age Group waves. Both the Championship and Age Group athletes will then bike through western and southwest Des Moines before transitioning at Gray's Lake for the 10-kilometer run through downtown Des Moines to the finish line at the Iowa State Capitol.

The professional triathletes will swim two laps at Gray's Lake and complete their four-lap bike course and four-lap run course on the streets of downtown Des Moines before finishing on the blue carpet in front of the State Capitol. The women's Elite Cup race starts at 1:30 p.m., with the men's race following at 4:30 p.m. Podium ceremonies for both races will be held in front of the Capitol at the conclusion of the men's race, around 6:30 p.m.

Spectators can catch all the race action from the grandstands at the State Capitol, from the Spectator Expo in downtown's East Village, or from any number of vantage points along the bike and run courses. The entire race, including the swim portion from Gray's Lake, will be televised on two jumbo screens - one at the finish line, the other located in the Spectator Expo area at East 5th and Grand. The race also will be shown via live streaming video on the Hy-Vee Triathlon website at www.hy-veetriathlon.com.

Shuttle buses for both athletes and spectators will run continuously between Gray's Lake and the State Capitol area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

On Saturday, September 1, Gray's Lake and Water Works Park will play host to the Hy-Vee IronKids U.S Championship. More than 1,000 triathletes ages 6 through 15 from throughout the United States have qualified to compete for national age-group titles.

The Labor Day weekend events will create the need for some temporary street closures and facility restrictions, primarily downtown and in the vicinity of Fleur Drive and Gray's Lake. A complete list of closure times can be found on the Hy-Vee Triathlon website: www.hy-veetriathlon.com.