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Somehow summer is nearly over, and it’s the busy time of the race schedule. With Kona less than 30 days away and a brief respite in the World Triathlon Championship Series, you’d think pro triathlon racing would chill for a moment. Thankfully, there are finally enough players in the pro tri game that there’s never a dull weekend and always a chance to earn a pittance for swimming, biking, and running. Sometimes more than a pittance if you’re one of the athletes talented enough to race the aptly-named Super League. There are a lot of races to touch on from last weekend, so I’ll try to go through each with Super League-like speed.
Taylor-Brown and Hauser dominate Super League Munich
Round two of the Super League Championship season stopped in Munich for an “enduro” race, which is basically three short swim-bike-run races done with no break in between. It’s my least favorite of Super League’s wild formats, but I appreciate the fact that they’ll try basically anything to see what works.
The gaps in this format end up being more like a long-course race, which is the exact opposite of what SL is trying to be. When you have athletes coming into a race in significantly better form than the field—like reigning SL series champion Georgia Taylor-Brown did on Sunday—you have runaway victories. She was up more than 20 seconds after the first race and basically held that advantage throughout two more rainy loops around Munich.
The win earned her and her Scorpions teammates the maximum 15 points for the season standings. Quick gripe: I don’t like how there’s no incentive to win by more and get more points. Second place—which went to Sophie Coldwell of the Cheetahs—got 14 points whether she finished one second back or 20.
American Taylor Spivey finished third and appears to relish this style of racing. Finally there’s a form of triathlon that puts a tad more emphasis on the swim. She sits second overall in the series standings and races for the Rhinos. If you think that’s a strange name for a triathlon team (it is), you should know that a black rhino can reach a top speed of 34 mph while a scorpion tops out at 12 mph. Both of those facts are still very scary for those of us who top out around 10 mph these days.
After a questionable penalty took the win away from Matt Hauser last weekend in London, the Aussie earned redemption in Munich, pulling away from Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca and last weekend’s winner Hayden Wilde on the final run of the day. Since finishing ninth at the Tokyo Olympics, the 24-year-old has been on a tear, but always seems to finish one place behind Wilde (as he did with his third-place finish at the July’s Commonwealth Games).
Hauser (an Eagle) is now one point up on Wilde (a Shark) in the overall standings with three races still to come. In case you’re wondering (you weren’t), an eagle is by far the fastest of the animals Super League chose for its make-believe teams. A golden eagle (the most common) can hit speeds of 200 mph when it dives for prey like rabbits, squirrels, or even arctic fox. The fastest shark is a shortfin mako, which can move 31 mph—not even as fast as a rhino. I’m still a shark fan for life.
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European Long-Distance Champs crowned at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam
There’s a lot of talk that rising sea levels will swallow places like the coastal Netherlands, but Almere is proof that the low countries have a fighting chance. It’s the newest city in all of the Netherlands, built on land reclaimed from the sea in the 1960s. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds great, and I hope it stays above water.
Racing an iron-distance tri in the Dutch lowlands should make for some very fast times, were it not for the fact that it’s almost always raining, and such was the case on Saturday. A torrential downpour for the start of the bike kept the athletes and times a bit cool, but Britain’s Kieran Lindars still managed to break the eight-hour barrier, bringing home one of many European titles in 7:55:44. It’s far and away the biggest result of the 25-year-old’s career, whose only other notable result is a seventh-place showing at Challenge Daytona in 2019.
Finishing five minutes behind in second was Dutchman Niek Heldoorn, who seems to be enjoying his first year of professional racing. He recently won the Embruman iron-distance race in southern France and has also raced this summer in Lanzarote, Alpe d’Huez, and Malta (where he won).
In third place was American Andrew Starykowicz, who would rather fly to Europe to race a Challenge event than do an Ironman in his own backyard in Wisconsin. In a tale as old as time, Starky took the lead off the bike before surrendering it early on the run. He did manage to repass Norwegian Kristian Grue late in the marathon to move back into third.
In the women’s race, Germany’s Katharina Wolff took the first win of her pro career, finishing five minutes up on countrywoman Lina-Kristin Schink. Another five minutes back came Sweden’s Jenny Nae. Congratulations to all, but we have too many races crowned championship events. None of the ten women competing in this iron-distance “European Championship” had ever won a professional race.
Challenge Family did put up a significant prize purse for a race deemed a championship, giving 5,000 Euro (about $5,000 USD these days) to each winner, and paying ten athletes deep. Each winner also earned 500 points toward Challenge’s $125,000 year-end bonus.
Skipper Sizzling at Ironman Wales
Competing on the one course that might be able to get me out of iron-distance retirement, Joe Skipper overcame a five-minute swim deficit and a 20-minute rest on the side of the road with a bike mechanical to take the win. The always-outspoken Brit finished in 8:35 to win by more than eight minutes over Germany’s Boris Stein. His 2:37 marathon in the rain on one of the tougher courses shows that he might have the best run form of any non-Norwegian with less than a month to go until Kona. (He went through the first 13.1 miles in 1:16.) One of the big issues with the current PTO rankings is that Skipper will not benefit much from the result, because the performance was actually more impressive than the time.
There was no pro women’s race in Wales this year.
Lagerstrom and Crowley on top in Santa Cruz
Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz always brings out a decent field because it’s a perfect place to swim, bike, and run (as long as you’re cool with sharks). American Eric Lagerstrom has had a very up and down season, but righted the sails on Sunday with his first win since this race back in 2018. He finished 45 seconds ahead of 41-year-old Tim O’Donnell.
It was all Australia in the women’s race, with Sarah Crowley taking control of the race on the bike and then actually managing to outrun her longtime rival Mirinda Carfrae. Crowley won by more than four minutes, adding a third win to a lowkey solid season. She decided to sit out of the St. George world champs to focus on Ironman Australia and Ironman Cairns, both of which she won.
McMahon (Yes, that McMahon) and Lane Win Ironman Wisconsin
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Brent McMahon on an Ironman podium – four years, to be exact. The last time McMahon won a full Ironman was the year 2018, which in pandemic time is something like 72 years ago. That’s not to say he hasn’t raced – he’s been in the pro field at a variety of races, but to go from his last race – 25th place at the PTO Canadian Open – to winning the men’s race at Ironman Wisconsin is a feat deserving of a Spotted Cow. The 41 year-old Canadian has more than 25 years of racing experience under his belt, which probably came in handy for surviving the miserable conditions of the race: a choppy swim, constant deluge on the bike and run, and bone-chilling temps that had even the usually-hardy Ben Hoffmann taking a DNF to go eat soup. Almost as impressive as McMahon was runner-up Cody Beals, who raced his third full Ironman in seven weeks.
If you don’t know the name Chloe Lane yet, you will soon. People are talking about the Australian’s performance in the women’s race at Wisconsin, where Lane held her own in a nine-hour neck-and-neck race with Jess Smith. Her win on the tough Wisconsin course comes on the heels of a fifth place at last month’s Ironman Mont-Tremblant. Someone get her a beer, too. It’s Wisconsin, doesn’t lager flow from the bubblers there?
Neumann and Wilms win 70.3 Sunshine Coast
Introducing your 2022 Qatar Airways IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast Pro Female and Pro Male Champions! 🏆Both fields were…
On the other side of the Pacific, Aussie Max Neumann won on Australia’s Sunshine Coast—another perfect place to swim, bike, and run if you’re cool with the occasional great white. Neumann took a narrow win over countryman Steve McKenna, making a break late in the run to win by 12 seconds. Neumann—who has won the last three editions of Ironman Cairns—will now head to Hawaii for his first race on the Big Island.
Australia-based Dutchwoman Lotte Wilms dominated the women’s race, winning by nearly two minutes over Kiwi Hannah Wells. Since making her professional debut at this race last year, Wilms has crept all the way up to #38 in the PTO World Rankings and should make it near the top 30 after this result. She will be competing in next weekend’s PTO Dallas US Open after having finished 18th at the Canadian Open in July.
Periault and Lehmann Take Czech World Cup (and McElroy impresses yet again)
I don’t always touch on World Cup races, but it’s hard not to pay attention to what American Matt McElroy has been up to the last couple of months. He’s running as fast as anyone on the World Triathlon circuit right now (even running faster than Kristian Blummenfelt over 5K at the Bergen World Cup), and he recorded another podium finish on Sunday in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. He’s turned the disappointment of just missing out on the Tokyo Olympics into the best form of his career.
McElroy finished second to Hungary’s Csongor Lehmann, whose name I should learn to pronounce because the 23-year-old is coming up fast. He comes from the Tiszaujvaros school of triathlon, is coached by his father, and has basically been groomed to be a world-class triathlete since birth. And it’s working: Watch out for the Hungarians over the next eight years.
Manoel Messias BRA has run through to 6th with 2.5km to go! The battle for gold, silver and bronze remains with @MattMcElroy9 Csongor Lehmann and Lasse Lührs.
Márk Dévay looking to stay within top 10!
Will this come down to a mighty sprint or will someone make a bold move? pic.twitter.com/63sSDBUsmQ
— TriathlonLIVE (@triathlonlive) September 11, 2022
The women’s race was won by Frechwomen Leonie Periault, who has turned the disappointment of just missing out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo into the best season of her career. She’s raced nine times since finishing fifth in Tokyo and has been on the podium six times, including two wins.
2020 Olympian Summer Rappaport made it two podium finishes for the U.S., finishing third, behind runner-up Bianca Seregini of Italy. She finished third in the first race of the 2022 WTCS season (which took place in 2021 in Hamburg) and is currently ranked #9 in the world as the Series picks back up in Cagliari, Italy, in October.