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Triathlon News and Notes: Olympic Qualification and Spring Race Updates

A look at some of the buzz we’ve picked up in the sport over the past seven days.

There may not be many (if any) races going on right now, but the triathlon news cycle continues to spin.

Olympic Qualification Delayed Until May, At Least

Olympic hopeful triathletes will have to wait until May, at least, to go after a potential Tokyo berth. In a Feb. 4 meeting, the World Triathlon Executive Board decided to continue to delay the restart of the Olympic and Paralympic qualification periods based on evolving COVID metrics and travel restrictions, with a final decision to be made on March 18. This decision also impacts the World Triathlon Championship Series and the World Triathlon World Cup calendars, which will not likely restart until after May 1. (A race set to take place in Miyazaki, Japan on March 20 had already been canceled.) As reported earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee has hinted at their determination to proceed with the Games despite the pandemic, and released a 33-page playbook outlining how the event can be held safely, including sparse spectators, and no physical interaction–including hugs and high-fives–among athletes. 

Currently, the Olympic men’s triathlon is scheduled for July 26, with the women following on the 27th. The mixed relay event, new to the Olympic menu, is set for July 31. So far, only Summer Rappaport has secured her spot on Team USA, having qualified at the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event in August 2019. 

Ironman Oceanside Postponed; Texas, Florida, Others Will Go On

As the pandemic continues to keep many 2021 races in a “wait-and-see” status, Ironman announced the postponement of Oceanside 70.3. Originally scheduled for late April, the California race has been moved to October as certain portions of the course are currently off limits due to COVID restrictions. However, the Ironman team says they’re “full steam ahead with the planning and delivery of upcoming events” in April and May,  including Ironman 70.3 Texas, Ironman 70.3 Florida, Ironman Texas, and the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship St. George. “Our events are evaluated and assessed on their own unique set of circumstances, considering local health metrics, travel restrictions, event design, and community resources specific to the event among other factors,” said Elizabeth O’Brien, the Ironman Group’s North American Managing Director, in a statement. “One thing we have learned through this pandemic is that change is constant.” 

Collins Cup Pushed to Aug. 28

Pro triathletes will also have to wait a few more months for the chance to grab a piece of the biggest prize purse in the history of the sport. The highly-touted Collin’s Cup, sponsored by the Professional Triathlete’s Organization (PTO) and originally scheduled for May, has been pushed back to Aug. 28 due to the pandemic. “While we have proven the ability to deliver a COVID-19 safe and compliant event with the PTO 2020 Championship at Challenge Daytona last year, this date change will ensure athletes have a greater opportunity to prepare for Collins Cup qualification,” said Sam Renouf, CEO of the PTO. The event, which will pit teams from the USA, Europe, and other countries (the “Internationals”) against each other in a live TV event, will be held in Slovakia and will offer a $1,500,000 prize purse.  

Super League Arena Race Set for Next Month

A roster of short course superstars are slated to headline the Super League Triathlon Arena Games when they head to London next month. Brits Jonny Brownlee, George Goodwin, Georgia Taylor-Brown, and Ruth Astle are among the triathletes expected to lead in the high-intensity race format, which features three rounds of a 200m pool swim, 4km trainer ride, and 1km treadmill run, with the order of the legs shuffled each round. While the race will go down live in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on March 27, fans can follow along on Zwift, as each athlete will have an avatar and “compete” on the virtual platform.

Top Pros Throw Down on Zwift

Some of the biggest names in the sport already met head-to-head in the virtual world via the Zwift Pro Tri Series earlier this week. The three-stage event included a 25.8-mile non-drafting hill climb, followed by a 3.6-mile run, and a 7.2-mile draft-legal crit race, with athletes–all competing from home on smart bike trainers and treadmills–collecting points and primes along the way.

Broadcast live on Zwift with pro triathletes Matt Lieto and Sarah True commentating, the men’s race saw Anthony Costes of France take an early commanding lead only to not show up for the run (athletes do not have to compete in all three stages to be eligible for the overall podium). That left space for Canada’s Jackson Landry to move into first overall as Belgian duathlete star Seppe Odeyn slipped into second, while Brit Jonny Brownlee snagged third. After dominating the final bike leg, Costes and James Cunnama of South Africa picked up enough points to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, despite both having goose eggs in the run portion.

Meanwhile, in the women’s race, Lucy Charles-Barclay of England jumped to the front with a very strong showing in the first bike, then held on to fourth position in the run, some 51 seconds behind run leader Melanie Maurer of Switzerland. She regained her lead in the third bike stage, taking the crit by 38 seconds for the overall win. American Meredith Kessler had a strong day to finish second, while Maurer, who placed second in the duathlon world champs at both distances in 2019, held on for the third podium position. The next Pro Tri race is on Feb. 10 and will again be broadcast live on Zwift.

Findlay Signs with Specialized

Following her major win at Challenge Daytona, Paula Findlay inked a deal with Specialized bikes. In a video posted to her YouTube channel, Findlay reminisced on coming full circle with the brand, as she rode with Specialized in the beginning of her career more than a decade ago. “I looked at the bikes in awe thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I was still riding those bikes,’” Findlay said. “Being a part of [Specialized] in the beginning of my career were some of the best years of my life.” Findlay will ride the Shiv for triathlon racing and the Tarmac road bike for day-to-day training, along with SRAM components and Zipp wheels. 

Get A Bike Fit With Matt Wilpers

Fan-favorite Peloton instructor (and accomplished triathlete) Matt Wilpers doesn’t just want you to get stronger on the bike–he wants your form to be dialed in, too. Born from an unmet need Wilpers recognized in the indoor cycling community, he’s created a team of pro bike fitters to work with clients on any type of bike (stationary or outdoor bike on a trainer) in a virtual 45-minute appointment that includes an off-the-bike interview and physical assessment before the fitting, and the fitting.  While Wilpers doesn’t attend the appointments, he does oversee his fitters, who also offer a follow-up report to ensure the adjustments are ideal. “As an avid cyclist and coach, I know firsthand that having your bike properly adjusted to you can not only make you feel more comfortable on the bike but also help prevent injury and improve performance,” said Wilpers. Fittings cost $149.99. 

Podcast Notes

  • American Olympic hopeful Kevin McDowell shares how having an extra year to prepare for Olympic qualification has given him an advantage on the Quest for Gold podcast. 
  • Recently-crowned PTO champion Paula Findlay joins Triathlete Live to talk all things triathlon, including upcoming race plans and how she’s spending the off-season. 
  • Findlay also chats with Matt Lieto and Sarah True on the Zwift PowerUp Tri Podcast and shares the scoop on her new sponsorship with Specialized.
  • Pro triathlete Matt Hanson shares his story, including how he recovered from an iliacus muscle injury, on Fitter Radio.
  • The Triathlete Hour features a lively conversation with 15-time Ironman champ Belinda Granger, who, though retired, has kept her ties to the sport as the pro liaison for Challenge Family.
  • Kiwis John Newsom and Bevan James Eyles break down the Phoenix Sub7 and Sub8 projects and what it’ll take for an athlete to break those marks on IMTalk.