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The race of the year is finally here and it promises to bring it all: [most of] the best triathletes on earth; an iconic racing venue; more than $1 million on the line; and the greatest live broadcast in the history of the sport. Hopefully. Maybe. We’ll be watching to see. Here’s exactly how to watch the PTO Championships.
How to Watch the PTO Championships
Truth be told, we don’t know much about the live broadcast for Sunday’s PTO 2020 Championship at Challenge Daytona. In fact, until today, we didn’t really know anything about how to watch. PTO will be livestreaming the race on its website. You’ll have to register an account in order to watch, so it’s worth doing that before the broadcast starts at 9:30 EST on Sunday morning.
Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service, will also be broadcasting the race in the U.S. Likewise, it requires a free account to watch. PTO’s livestream and Peacock will be showing the same broadcast. Internationally, the event will be shown in more than 100 countries thanks to an impressive list of broadcast partners that were lined up by IMG. That list includes Fox Sports Australia, TSN (Canada), L’Equipe (France), and BT Sport (UK). Depending on the time zone, some broadcasts will be tape delayed.
In addition to working with a NASCAR production team, the PTO has brought in a commentary team from outside of the sport too. Rick Allen, one of the faces of NBC’s NASCAR broadcasts, will be on the call. Joining Allen for color commentary will be Rowdy Gains, whose voice you’ll be familiar with if you’ve watched any Olympic swimming over the past 20 years. Providing the triathlon expertise will be former pro triathletes Belinda Granger and Alicia Kaye, and Triathlon Magazine Canada editor Kevin Mackinnon.
Who to Watch
Let’s start with who’s not racing since we last gave you the scoop on the athletes: Daniela Ryf, Lucy Charles-Barclay, and Jan Frodeno are three of the top Ironman athletes on earth and they’re all sitting this one out, as are three of the top short-course athletes in the world right now in Georgia Taylor-Brown, Jessica Learmouth, and Flora Duffy, who would likely be the favorite in the women’s field if she were racing. Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, who set an Ironman 70.3 world record in Bahrain last year, is also out of with a running injury.
So, we’re missing a handful of the top athletes in the world, but we’re still left with the one of the greatest fields of triathletes ever assembled. They’ll be racing entirely inside the Daytona Speedway over a unique distance—2K swim, 80K bike (of laps around the race car track), and a 18K run. Women go off first at 10 a.m. ET with the men four hours later.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the athletes who could actually win this thing, and how they could do it.
Anne Haug (GER): The reigning Ironman world champion may be more well-known for her long-course exploits these days, but she’s proven her mettle on the ITU circuit, and she may have the perfect balance of speed and endurance needed for this unique distance. There are a few women in this field who should be able to put some time into Haug on the 80K bike leg, so she’ll have to run her competitors down, like she did in her 2018 Kona victory.
Holly Lawrence (GBR): The co-favorite has to be the reigning Ironman 70.3 world championship runner-up, who will also be very comfortable with this distance. She’ll have some time to make up out of the swim, but she should have no problem doing that the bike, and should benefit if the 20-meter draft zone is properly marshalled. Along with Sweden’s Lisa Norden, Lawrence is the only woman in the field with the horsepower to have a significant lead at T2.
Nicola Spirig (SUI): It’s been four years since we’ve seen Spirig race against a world-class field, but every time she does she rises to the occasion. The two-time Olympic medalist (gold in 2012, silver in 2016) is one of the best single-day racers in the history of the sport, and she’s done remarkably well when she’s raced the 70.3 distance in the past. She even won her first and only full Ironman at Cozumel in 2014. She may not be able to ride with the likes of Lawrence and Norden, but even at 39 years young, it’s hard to believe there’s a faster runner in this field over 18K.
Paula Findlay (CAN): Findlay won on this course last year and that experience should be a big help at such a unique venue. She has the most balanced attack of any of the top women and should be among the leaders throughout the entire race. It’s worth noting that last year’s course was closer to an Olympic-distance tri in length, but this 70.3 specialist should have no problem with some extra laps of the track this time around.
Vincent Luis (FRA): The shorter, the better is typically true for the reigning ITU world champ, but there’s no debating that Luis has the best form in the world right now. We’ve never seen him race on a TT bike before, but according to one athlete who spent time riding with him this summer, “Vince can absolutely hammer.” Power shouldn’t be an issue for him on the bike. Whether or not he can hold his blistering run speed for 18K is the big question. If he can, this race might not be close.
Alistair Brownlee (GBR): Like Spirig, the elder Brownlee is a master of peaking for that one big race each year. With no Olympics or Kona in 2020, Brownlee has had Dec. 6 circled on his calendar all year long, and that’s bad news for anyone planning to beat the two-time Olympic gold medalist. Look for Brownlee to be out front early with his younger brother, Javier Gómez, and Luis. He only knows how to race from the front, so don’t expect him to relinquish the lead on the bike or run without a serious fight.
Gustav Iden (NOR): With Kristian Blummenfelt watching from back home in Norway, it’ll be up to the reigning Ironman 70.3 world champion to carry the Norwegian flag in Daytona. What we do know is that Iden has proven he can outrun the likes of Brownlee. What we don’t know if he can be competitive on a TT bike on a flat course. Iden rode a road bike to victory on the mountainous course in Nice last year to claim the 70.3 world title.
Javier Gómez (ESP): The most versatile triathlete on earth has had success at every distance, but 70.3 seems to best suit his strengths, and the 2K/80K/18K distance in Daytona may be even better tailored to the 2012 Olympic runner-up. He’ll be one of the first few out of the water, and if he can keep it close on the bike, he should be able to go blow-for-blow on the run with the likes of Brownlee and Luis.