The PTO Championships in Daytona took place over the weekend with Paula Findlay (CAN) and Gustav Iden (NOR) claiming victories. The attempt by the PTO to align the sport of triathlon with other major sports, by putting on a global event with a huge prize purse and world-wide media coverage seemed to be a success as the World’s best descended on Daytona International Speedway.
Lucy Hall (GBR) as expected, led the way in the water (24.15) with Lauren Brandon (USA) less than 10 seconds in arrears. A strong pack, some 45 seconds back included Findlay, Nicola Spirig (SUI), Lisa Norden (SWE), Holly Lawrence (GBR), and HUUB’s Fenella Langridge (GBR). Onto the bike, and it was clear there were athletes intent on making a difference on two wheels. Norden who recently competed for Sweden in the World Time Trial Championships was one of those. The only other athletes really matching her was Kimberly Morrison (GBR) who was making her way through the field and Paula Findlay who was putting in a career-best bike split.
Norden and Findlay arrived in T2 first followed by Morrison (+2.07) then Hall (+3.05). Behind them were some of the sports fastest runners, Lawrence, Anne Haug (GER) and Laura Philipp (GER). They were all spread out some 4-5 minutes behind. Haug was possibly the only athlete capable of pulling back that sort of gap over Findlay and Norden, however a 2-minute drafting penalty effectively put an end to her title bid. Norden who was certainly capable of challenging the win, unfortunately, pulled out with injury, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist looked distraught as she had to step off the track. Findlay looked in control for the whole of the 18km run and claimed victory with a winning margin of 2.36 over a fast-finishing Haug who pulled herself back up from 13th place. Philipp took the final spot on the podium with Lawrence 4th and Amelia Watkinson 5th. HUUB’s Langridge arguably put in one of the performances of the weekend to finish 7th marking her arrival on the World stage, an impressive feat for the British athlete who had been sidelined with injury in the weeks leading into the race.
HUUB’s Henri Schoeman (RSA) set things off in the men’s race as he set a blistering pace over the 2km swim. Three other HUUB athletes joined him in the leading 5; Alistair and Jonny Brownlee (GBR) and Andrea Salvisberg (SUI). Nearly all of the top 10 were names you would expect to see at the front of a World Triathlon Series race, and this pace caused some early gaps in the field, gaps that some of the pre-race long-distance favourites would struggle to close. Onto the bike, and it was immediately apparent that one of the main challenges facing the athletes was going to be maintaining the legal draft limit. Although 20m markers were placed around the track, Jonny Brownlee and Vincent Luis (FRA) fell victim to 2-minute drafting penalties, which for both athletes marked the end for their title challenges.
There were various leaders of the front group, including Alistair Brownlee, Florian Angert (GER), Sam Appleton (AUS), and Rudy Von Berg (USA). Magnus Ditlev (DEN) arguably made the greatest impact to the race, the 23-year-old biked his way up from nearly a 3-minute deficit and put on pressure immediately. Alistair Brownlee at first looked like the only one able to match him whilst favourites, and some ITU stars faltered and were dropped. Further back Lionel Sanders (CAN), Sam Long (USA) and George Goodwin (GBR) were making their way slowly to the front of the race.
Through T2 and it was Von Berg to hit the front first, however after a slow T2 Alistair Brownlee soon bridged the gap and moved away into a clear lead. The race looked to be his, but a few kilometres later the double Olympic Champion pulled over to one side trying to stretch his calf. Although not serious looking, with Tokyo 2021 on the horizon, he looked to be making a sensible decision. The race once again seemed wide open.
The race lead was then shared by Appleton and young Brit Thomas Davis before 70.3 World Champion, Gustav Iden, took control and eventually built up a minute lead. The final stages of the race were particularly tense with a number of athletes moving through the field. Two of the fastest on foot, Matt Hanson (USA) and Goodwin were flying around the circuit, not enough to take the win from Iden, but their blistering runs moved them past Von Berg, Appleton and an impressive Schoeman into 2nd and 3rd place. Sanders also moved himself up into 4th just passing Von Berg in the final stages.