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The 2022 Collins Cup teams are officially set, which means it’s time for us to start speculating over the matchups we might see in Bratislava on August 20.
The unique race format pits three teams of 12 athletes each, representing the United States, Europe, and International, in head-to-head competition. Three athletes—one from each team—will go off at a time in 12 head-to-head races of a 2km swim, 80km bike and an 18km run, with points awarded for each of those matches. Bonus points are awarded for winning by a large margin of victory.
RELATED: What is the Collins Cup?
How are Collins Cup matchups determined? By the team captains: in 2022, that’s Julie Moss and Dave Scott (USA), Natascha Badmann and Normann Stadler (EUR), and Erin Baker and Craig Alexander (INT). The captains will weigh each individual athlete’s strength and weaknesses, then go into an NFL draft-style round of selections. Team USA will lead off with the first pick of the first matchup, then Teams Europe and International will strategically select one athlete of the same sex from their respective team to race against the USA pick; for round 2, the first pick will go to Team Europe, and for round 3, Team International. The selections will rotate until all 12 matchups are locked in.
The many potential configurations of these matchups have triathletes stoked. After all, once the matchups are announced (which should occur in the coming days), we see the best part of the Collins Cup: smack talk and rivalries we didn’t even know we needed. Our Triathlete team is no exception – we’ve been putting together hypothetical matchups since the teams were announced, and these four get us the most excited.
Sam Long (USA), Kristian Blummenfelt (EUR), Hayden Wilde (INT)
The starting premise for my dream match-up was who can take down the Norwegians? Well, one triathlete, the ONLY triathlete, who can put a bit of trepidation in their confident step (and chatter) is – and sorry to break it to all you Sam Long fans – the young Kiwi wildcard Hayden Wilde. This would be a rematch of Wilde v. Blummenfelt we saw at the climax of the Olympic Games last year. It was Big Blu who drew on his superhuman strength to win the day in Tokyo, with Yee beating off Wilde for silver.
But things have changed since then. Blummenfelt’s attention has switched to Ironman and Sub7; Wilde has continued to blossom in draft-legal racing and currently sits with Yee as the finest pair of short course triathletes in the world – by some margin. Time for the two to meet in the middle. While the Kiwi has no sort of pedigree at this level, he’s fearless, and while Blummenfelt developed a clear edge over all other possible contenders, he’s not faced ‘The Falcon” for almost a year.
Sam Long is thrown in because I’d love to see how he gets on. Last year he was left literally and metaphorically floundering when drawn against Europe’s number-one Jan Frodeno, and it was chastening. Perhaps it’s a masochistic choice, but how would he stop it happening this time around? As Long knows better than anyone, it’s a lonely place when you’re the third athlete in a three-way shootout.
How might it play out? Blummenfelt using his bike strength on the flat course – developed from his Ironman training (and taking advantage of Wilde’s lack of TT’ing experience) to give himself enough buffer – just – for the 18km run. Long might hold what is likely to be a sizable gap out of the water, but like 2021 will be too far back to have a real shot. It would be a lot of fun to watch though.
-Tim Heming, Contributor
Chelsea Sodaro (USA), Laura Phillipp (EUR), Ashleigh Gentle (INT)
The matchup I’d love to see is Ash Gentle, Laura Phillipp, and Chelsea Sodaro. Gentle, Phillipp, and Sodaro are all super strong runners and a matchup of these three could come down to the wire on the run. Plus, Gentle and Sodaro have had consistently strong races and podium finishes this year, yet continue to be largely left out of the conversation when folks are making their podium finish predictions.
Gentle finished first at the inaugural PTO Canadian Open this year, taking home the $100K prize purse. She clocked a 1:03 18km run to get the top podium finish, and for those of you doing the math at home, that’s right around 6 min/mile pace. Sodaro finished second at 2022 Ironman Hamburg, the Ironman European Championships, just behind Phillipp who came within seconds of breaking Chrissie Wellington’s long-standing 8:36:13 fastest-ever female iron-distance world record.
All three women represent some of the strongest minds and legs in triathlon. When it comes down to it, I think Phillipp may have an edge thanks to her excellent bike leg, but one never knows what will happen on the run.
Kristin Jenny, Contributor
Sam Long (USA), Gustav Iden (EUR), Braden Currie (INT)
Obviously everyone is thinking about Lionel Sanders and Kristian Blummenfelt, but I actually really like the pairing of Sam Long, Gustav Iden, and Braden Currie instead. In the Lionel/Blu scenario, I just think that Blu simply swims away from Lionel, Lionel maybe tries to hurt himself to bridge (but probably not), and then it’s just a matter of whether or not Blu’s biggest enemy—his cramping leg from Edmonton—resurfaces.
Instead, give me Long, Iden, and Currie because I see Iden and Currie maybe (maybe) swimming close, but if not, I could see the Norwegian hurting himself to catch up to the Kiwi on the bike. Obviously Long would be way (way) behind out of the water, but because he is who he is, I see him doing extreme damage to himself to catch up on the bike. Long seems like a guy with bike-leg FOMO. From there, we’d get to see the Currie v. Iden matchup that never happened at May’s Ironman World Championship in St. George, and if Long is somewhere in the mix, he could pick off anyone who over-commits.
My pick for this matchup win: Gustav Iden pulling away in the last three miles of the run for a one-minute margin.
Chris Foster, Editor-in-Chief
Skye Moench (USA), Daniela Ryf (EUR), Flora Duffy (INT)
(Photo: Jacob Kupferman, Sean M. Haffey, Delly Carr/ITU)
My first inclination was to pit Daniela Ryf against Taylor Knibb once again to prove Knibb’s 2021 Collins Cup win wasn’t a fluke. (Also, not gonna lie – I’m curious to see how Knibb does with an actual tri bike this year.)
But if we’re talking dream matchups, possibly once-in-a-lifetime competitions, we’ve got to take advantage of our rare opportunity to see three of triathlon’s best athletes battle it out. You’ve got Ryf, who is having a hell of a comeback season after riding the struggle bus during the peak pandemic years; Skye Moench, who was the top American at May’s Ironman World Championship in St. George, and Flora Duffy, who seems to win at everything she does—whether it’s the Olympics or the XTERRA World Championships. All three are similarly well-rounded in swim, bike, and run strengths—yet there hasn’t been an opportunity to see the three of them on the same race course before. It’s like that Spiderman meme where they’re all pointing at each other, only with considerably more spandex.
I’m excited just thinking about this race and its potential for it to be a neck-and-neck(-and-neck) competition from start to finish. Though it’s hard for me to say for sure who will come out on top, I’m secretly rooting for Duffy. Because if we went crazy over Knibb’s win last year, I’m pretty sure a Duffy victory would break the triathlon internet.
Susan Lacke, Senior Editor