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The debut of the PTO World Tour upstaged the Pope in Edmonton and the greatest Ironman in the mainland U.S. hosted a best-of-the-rest fest. And both races had decent live coverage. That’s a win of a weekend for triathlon, so let’s get into it.
Kristian Blummenfelt finally appears human
Triathlon’s Superman has his kryptonite, and apparently it’s the harsh conditions of… checks notes … Edmonton? Kristrian Blummenfelt’s flawless streak at big races was put to an end after an apparent quad cramp put him on the side of the road for 90 seconds halfway through the PTO’s Canadian Open’s 18K (11.2-mile) run.
Gustav Iden was running stride-for-stride with his friend and countryman when the momentarily-catastrophic cramp occurred, and it ultimately led to Iden winning yet another top-dollar PTO event. He’s now up to a quarter-million dollars in career earnings from the PTO and they’ve only been around for like five minutes. Blummenfelt clawed back more than a minute once he started moving again—ultimately finishing second—but the younger of the two Norwegian superstars still made it to the line with 27 seconds to spare.
Asked about the cramp—something we’ve never seen from Blummenfelt mid-race—he’s pretty certain of the cause and it’s a good learning opportunity for age-groupers: “I guess it was just a lack of intensity and power, combined with the duration of the bike, that took me out… [it was] not because of a lack of electrolytes.”
Whether you’re currently the greatest or worst triathlete on the planet, chances are your race-day cramps are because you’re doing something your muscles aren’t used to, and not because you’re deprived of precious electrolytes. You probably are deprived of precious electrolytes in the throes of a long race, but that’s not what’s causing your quad or calf to suddenly seize up.
Instead of reaching for a cup of chicken broth, do like Blummenfelt did: Stop, stretch it out, and get moving again as quickly as possible. Perhaps, however, start with a slow jog instead of immediately returning to five-minute miles like he did.
The Norwegians were a different class than the rest of the field on the run, as is often the case. The big surprises of the day came from third-place finisher Aaron Royle of Australia and fourth-place finisher Sam Laidlow of France. Both were the sole survivors of an early swim breakaway and were two of the most aggressive athletes on the bike. Laidlow set the pace on the bike, along with the man, the myth, and the often-ailed legend Alistair Brownlee. The two-time Olympic champion was as assertive as ever on the 2K swim and 80K bike before bowing out at the start of the 18K run with what looked like stomach pain.
Royle entered the race ranked #100 in the PTO World Rankings, but finishing only three minutes behind Blummenfelt should catapult him way up. After finishing 26th at the Tokyo Olympics (and ninth at Rio 2016), the Aussie has found his form in non-draft racing, although he still has one foot in the door of World Triathlon racing and appears eager to make his third Olympic team in 2024.
Gentle runs down Findlay for $100K
An Aussie with both feet firmly out of the world of World Triathlon is Ashleigh Gentle, and that’s bad news for the other women trying to make money in mid-distance racing. (Which is possible now, thanks to PTO.) The two-time Olympian cashed in the biggest payday of her career, stealing the $100K top prize away from hometown favorite Paula Findlay. A two-minute lead has been more than enough for Findlay as of late, but Gentle managed to run more than four minutes faster to take the win with [relative] ease. Findlay still cashed in 70 grand for her second-place effort.
Fresh off a brilliant Ironman debut, American Chelsea Sodaro ran her way past Laura Philipp to claim the final spot on the podium, along with $50,000. The prize money on offer was very generous, without much of a fall-off from the top spots. Philipp raked in $40K for fourth, and even 15th-place finisher Rachel McBride made $10,000. The 15th-place finisher doesn’t get paid at 99.8% of triathlons. All competitors who finished received at least $2,000—making for a lot more finishing fights farther back, not that we saw them on the broadcast.
And what about the broadcast?
The PTO is throwing even more money at its live production, which was good but definitely not great. It’s not necessarily the fault of the production itself, but the race distance and format didn’t provide much drama. The major questions of the weekend were whether or not Gentle could catch Findlay (she could) and whether Blummenfelt could catch back up to Iden (he could not). It made for a few exciting minutes, but 2K, 80K, 18K around a nice park and neighborhood in suburban Edmonton isn’t going to elevate the sport to new heights.
The heli shots were nice, though, as were the short features that were strewn throughout the broadcast. It’s great to get to see some more of the athletes’ personalities, and I definitely recommend following the PTO on YouTube and TikTok (yes, TikTok) if you aren’t already.
Even if tri-crazy Edmonton lacked many spectators, the course looked fun and it made for mostly honest racing—at least for the men. There seemed to be much more of an on-site and on-social media uproar about drafting during the women’s race. I can’t really comment because I wasn’t there, but it did seem like athletes accordian-ed together every time they came back through transition. If the gaps between riders are only a second, they’re probably not riding 20 meters apart. Then again, maybe 20 meters isn’t realistic in practice. Instead of saying the rule is 20 meters and not handing out any penalties, maybe make the rule 15 meters and start putting people in the occasional penalty box.
WATCH: O+ members can watch the replay of the PTO events on Outside Watch
Over in New York
Competing in her first Ironman in three years, American Sarah True turned in perhaps the most dominant win of her very long career at Ironman Lake Placid. The 40-year-old two-time Olympian won her second race of the season in what was the best race she’s had since back-to-back fourth-place finishes in Hawaii in 2017 and 2018. After a Kona DNF in 2019, True will now be back on the Big Island for the fourth time.
She won by a whopping 16 minutes over Heather Jackson, ten of which came on the swim. Thanks to her win at Ironman Florida last November, Jackson already has her Kona ticket in hand, so the second of two slots went to third-place finisher Jodie Robertson.
While True’s win was all but certain throughout the day, Canadian Cody Beals was the unexpected winner of the men’s race after American Justin Metzler melted down late in the marathon. It’s also Beals’ second win of 2022 after going the last two years without recording a victory. He topped Austrian Michi Weiss by just less than two minutes, and both men are now headed to Kona when it finally returns in October.