PTO US Open Preview

Klemen Suligoj gives us a full breakdown of one of the biggest races of the year

PTO

The Professional Triathletes Organization US Open is the second PTO Tour race this season, following the European Open in Ibiza on May 6th , with Asian Open in Singapore still to come on August 19th-20th .

When: Men's race starts on Friday, August 4th at 16.00 local time (22:00 UK time, 23:00 CET or 7:00 Australian time) and women's race starts on Saturday, August 5th at 16.00 local time (22:00 UK time, 23:00 CET or 7:00 Australian time).

How to watch: For viewers in Europe, the race will be broadcasted on Eurosport, Discovery+ and GCN+. For spectators from the rest of the world, there will be a live stream available on PTO+ and on YouTube.

Distances: PTO Open races are raced over 100 km with a 2 km swim, 80 km bike and 18 km run.

Big prize: The prize fund has been changed for the 2023 season and is now $600,000 USD per event with $100,000 for the winner, $50,000 for second, and $35,000 for third place. From there, prize money drops quite quickly and is capped at $2,000 for athletes placed 26th-30th. There is equal prize money for men and women.

MEN'S RACE PREVIEW

MOST MENTIONED ATHLETES:

KRISTIAN BLUMMENFELT

The amazing Norwegian is back on the start list of a PTO Open event. With his primary goal being the Paris 2024 Olympics, Blummenfelt mostly focuses on WTCS events this year, but also competed in PTO European Open. He placed 2nd in Ibiza, then went on to finish 8th and 15th in Olympic distance WTCS events in Yokohama and Cagliari, before stepping even one step further and finishing 5th in a Sprint distance race in Montreal.

Now, Blummenfelt is set to begin his crazy World tour: he will toe the line in Milwaukee, travel across the pond for the Olympic test event in Paris on August 18th, then immediately fly to Singapore for PTO Asian Open on August 20th, only to return to Europe a week later for Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Finland. While this may sound completely crazy, we’ve seen Kristian step up and down the distances before and perform at top level. His competitors will try to push the pace on the swim in hope to gain as much time as possible on the Norwegian, who is a great swimmer as well and won’t fall too far behind. We can expect him to push hard on the bike to reach the front of the race, and from there, he will in his own words be unbeatable. He will certainly be in contention for top spots in Milwaukee and is one of favourites to win if he delivers his best performance.

MAGNUS DITLEV

The great Dane is the hottest triathlete right now. He opened the season with 3rd place in Ibiza, then went on to defend his title in Challenge Roth, achieving the fastest full-distance time in history with 7:24:40.
While Ditlev is most known for his outstanding cycling power, he surprised everyone with his swim in Roth as he stayed in the front pack with athletes like Daniel Baekkegard and Ben Kanute. He will once again hope to stay as close to the best swimmers as possible (he came out of water a minute behind the first pack in Ibiza), to then drop the hammer on the bike and hopefully never be seen again. Second in last year’s PTO Open, Ditlev is one of the main favourites to grab the top spot this year.

SAM LONG

Sam Long entered the 2023 season with high hopes and a new coach. After 4th place in Clash Miami and a lacklustre performance in Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, Long “fired” his coach Dan Plews and continued as a self coached athlete.

It seems that his decision paid off, as he went on to win 3 races in a row. He topped the podium at Ironman 70.3 St. George, Gulf Coast and Boulder, only to see his winning streak end with a DNF in Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

Big Unit finished 3rd in last year’s PTO US Open and will hope to at least replicate last year’s result in Milwaukee. He seems to be in form, although some might argue he has yet to race against the top competitors this season. While he was able to come back from a deficit he gained in the swim in races he did so far, this will be much harder to do in the US Open, so Long will have to put extra focus on his swimming performance not to fall too far behind the main contenders. Home field advantage and his soon to be born child (baby is due right around the US Open) might be just enough of an extra boost that elevates him above the competition.

JAN FRODENO

Jan Frodeno has once again been given a wildcard for the PTO Open race because he missed out on an automatic place due to his ranking position on June 26th, but later climbed to #19 with his win at Ironman 70.3 Andorra on July 2nd. After having problems with injury, Frodeno returned to racing in 2023 and impressed many with his performance in PTO European Open in Ibiza, placing just below the podium in 4th place. He also placed 4th in Ironman Hamburg and then returned to his winning ways with a win in Ironman 70.3 Andorra.

The 41 year old German has proven he can still deliver a great performance and be in the mix for top positions even in 70.3 and 100 km distance races and despite facing athletes much younger than him. His overall skill and tactical prowess make him a contender for top places in the US Open, although it will be hard for him to challenge Blummenfelt or Ditlev if they deliver their best performances.

LIONEL SANDERS

No matter which race he enters and form he is in, Lionel Sanders always finds himself in the centre of attention. The Lion hasn’t been in the best form this year: he surprised many with his performance in the Arena games in Montreal, but then fell to the ground (literally!) in Clash Miami, where a bike crash resulted in a DNF. What followed was a 4th place in Ironman 70.3 St. George and two 2nd places in Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast and Boulder.

Since then, Sanders went back to the basics: he started eating clean, prioritises recovery and does the “good old fashioned, no BS hard training”. He even teamed up with Sam Long for some of their training sessions and says his best is yet to come.

Sanders finished in a disappointing 21st place in the US Open last year and will be keen to improve his position this year. Ultimately, his result will very much depend on his swim. If he comes out of the water too far behind, it will be impossible to bridge up to the leaders in a world class field like this. But if he manages to stay close to the first swim pack, he can work with others on the bike to catch up and then try to show his strength on the run.

OUTSIDE THE SPOTLIGHT, BUT NO LESS DANGEROUS

BEN KANUTE

Even though Ben Kanute might be the best American hope for a good result on home turf, he doesn’t attract as much attention as some of his rivals. Olympic silver medalist opened his season with 4th place in Ironman 70.3 Oceanside and placed 8th in PTO European Open. He then competed in his second ever full-distance event in Challenge Roth and came in 3rd, setting a new American full-distance record time with 7:37:01.
Kanute is a strong swimmer and we can expect him to come out of the water in front. His bike-run combo will determine how long he can stay in the lead group and whether he can contend for the top spots in the end. While his bike was on par with the best in Ibiza, he lost time on the run and will have to improve in this regard if he wants to fight for the win.

DANIEL BAEKKEGARD

Baekkegard is a dangerous athlete who is always in the mix for the top places, but hasn’t been quite able to grab them this season. He opened the season with 3rd place in Clash Miami and 5th place in Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote only a week later. He placed 7th in Ibiza and was on his way to a good result in Challenge Roth, but a mechanical on the bike kept him away from achieving more than a 4th place.

Daniel comes from a swimming background and is one of those who push the pace early in the race. He did so in Ibiza, but was then unable to keep up on the bike and lost 3 minutes to the first group. His run was on par with the best, just like in Roth where he was only outran by Lange.

We can once again expect Baekkegard in front of the swim. He will then hope for a strong bike leg that would keep him in touch with the leaders. If he manages to do so, he will be very dangerous given his running prowess.

FREDERIC FUNK

It was a rough start of the season for Frederic Funk who came to PTO European Open with high hopes, but after trouble with his wheel and losing time on the bike, only managed to finish in 19th place. He performed much better in The Challenge Championship in Šamorin where he was 3rd, then won one in Challenge Walchsee.

Frederic usually comes out of the water behind the front pack, but bike is his strongest discipline and he can make up time in it, especially if he finds himself in a strong group. His running is not that impressive compared to his competitors, but it is also not a major weakness.

JASON WEST

Not many would argue that Jason West is the fastest runner out there. He ran 3 (!) minutes faster than Olympic distance specialist Leo Bergere in Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, nearly catching him in the end, only falling short by 8 seconds. West also had by far the fastest run in Ibiza, beating Blummenfelt by a minute and a half and third fastest runner Max Neumann by almost 2 minutes.

However, West is not the best swimmer and seems to struggle even more on the bike. His bike split in Ibiza was 22nd overall (out of 26) and despite his blistering fast run pace, he won’t be able to run up to the top places if he once again falls too far behind on the swim and bike. If West however manages to execute a great swim and bike, he has an ability to potentially run 2 or 3 minutes faster than everyone else and run his competitors down for a great result.

AARON ROYLE

Royle kicked off his second middle-distance season with a 3rd place at Challenge Gran Canaria and followed that up with a top 10 finish at the European Open. He led out of the water in Ibiza and rode with the front pack until a group of four broke away, but then suffered on the run and fell back to 10th place.

We can expect Royle at the front of the race from the gun and he will want to form a small breakaway to hold off the stronger cyclists who are slower in the water. He controlled his effort on the bike much better in Challenge Championship and was then able to run well off the bike, finishing in 2nd place. If he doesn’t over bike again, he could have one of the fastest runs in the field and be dangerous for the top spots.

DARK HORSE

MATHIS MARGIRIER

Mathis Margirier came flying completely under the radar this season, placing 2nd in Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote and Challenge Gran Canaria, before winning in The Challenge Championship in Samorin and Challenge Salou.

The Frenchman proved he can compete at the highest level as he parred with the likes of Justus Nieschag, Sam Laidlow and Patrick Lange in Spanish races and left Frederic Funk, Aaron Royle and others in his shadow in Šamorin. He is a good enough swimmer to stay near the front, a strong cyclist and can run a 1:12 half-marathon. With a strong performance, he could pose a real threat.

WOMEN'S RACE PREVIEW

MOST MENTIONED ATHLETES:

Ashleigh Gentle
When we start talking about favourites for the win, we can’t help but mention Ashleigh Gentle first. PTO rank #1 won both PTO races last year and came in 2nd in this year’s European Open, where she was only beaten by amazing Anne Haug. After Ibiza, Ash grabbed another 2nd place in Ironman 70.3 Switzerland, finishing behind Daniela Ryf, then won in Ironman 70.3 Andorra.

Gentle is an overall great athlete with no real weakness, which makes it really hard for her competitors to shake her off. Her biggest strength is the run, where she’s able to run her opponents down even if they do manage to establish a gap. She won last year’s US Open this way, when she outran Knibb by 8 minutes to take the win. Gentle will be hoping for a smaller deficit off the bike this year and if she manages to do so, she’ll be hard to beat.

Taylor Knibb
Ironman 70.3 World Champion and runner up in last year’s US Open only raced 1 middle distance race this year and grabbed a commanding win in Ironman 70.3 Boulder. She also raced some WTCS races and recently announced she has joined a professional cycling team Trek Segafredo. She raced in US National Time Trial Championships, where she impressed with a 4th place.

In last year’s US Open, Knibb broke away from Lucy Charles Barkley on the bike and established an impressive gap to her competitors. She then fell apart on the run, but still managed to hold on to 2nd place. This year, we could potentially once again see Knibb break away on the swim and solo time trial on the bike. If she replicates her last year’s performance, she will be very hard to beat.

Paula Findlay

Paula started the season below her expectations with 5th place in Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. She repeated her result in the PTO European Open, but with a much better performance and star-studded field. She later went on to win Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga before focusing on Canadian National Time Trial Championships, which she won for the 2nd time.

Paula’s focus will now shift back to triathlon as she will look to improve the 10th place she achieved in PTO US Open last year. She’ll hope to hold on to her main rivals on the swim before using her bike power to establish a gap. Despite being a good runner, she’ll be hoping to gain some advantage on athletes like Ashleigh Gentle and Tamara Jewett, who have proven to be even speedier on the run.

Kat Matthews

After 9th place in last year’s PTO US Open, Kat Matthews was keen to tackle Kona and attempt to take the world title. Her dreams shattered in a horrific accident when a car ran into her during a training ride. In a miraculous fashion, Kat recovered and podiumed in her return (I’m not calling it a comeback!) to racing at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. From there, she went on to win Ironman Texas and decided to skip the European Open to instead compete in World Triathlon long distance Championships.

Since May, Kat has been preparing for the second part of the season that begins with the US Open. Judging by her updates, the training has been going well and if she shows up in good form, she’s one of top contenders for podium places.

OUTSIDE THE SPOTLIGHT, BUT NO LESS DANGEROUS

Holly Lawrence
Always near the top, but never quite there”. This would best describe Holly Lawrence’s performances in the last couple of years as she was 6th in PTO Canadian Open, 4th in PTO US Open, 6th in Ironman 70.3 WC and 10th in PTO European Open to list just a few.

Holly’s swim usually puts her near the front and her cycling is on par with her rivals. Holly’s weakest discipline is the run, although she is capable of executing a strong run on a good day. One of those good days was the 2022 US Open when an overall great performance put her just below the podium. With another race like that, Holly could hope for a podium place this time.


Tamara Jewett

Coming from a running background, Tamara Jewett is one one of the speedies runners in triathlon. Last year, her swimming and cycling weren’t on a good enough level already for her to contend for top positions, despite producing (one of) fastest run splits.

In preparation for 2023, Tamara put a lot of effort in improving her weaknesses and hard work seems to have paid off. She won Ironman 70.3 Oceanside with 3rd best swim time, 4th best bike and the fastest run. She didn’t execute the best race in the European Open, but got 6th anyway, just 17 seconds off 5th placed Paula Findlay. Tamara has shown that she can be dangerous and has the ability to outrun the competition by 2-3 minutes. If she executes a good swim and bike, she’ll be hard to hold back.


Indie Lee

Indie Lee has been around for some time, competed in PTO Canadian and US Open in 2022 and placed 11th in 2022 Ironman 70.3 WC. That said, it seems 2023 is a real breakthrough year for her as she finished 2nd in Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote, 7th in a star-studded field in PTO European Open and took the win in Challenge Championship. The latter is even more impressive given the fact that she completed the entire cycling leg stuck in the biggest gear!

Expect Indie to stick somewhere in the front at least until the start of the run, which is her weakest discipline, but a good execution could keep her near the top.

DARK HORSE
Lucy Byram

Byram is next in the line of Lucys that established herself on the world scene. She won 2 races in 2022: Challenge Wales and Ironman 70.3 Jesolo, and then doubled her winning tally in her first week of racing in 2023 as she won Clash Miami and Challenge Puerto Varas. Lucy defended her Challenge Wales title and came in 6th at the very competitive Challenge Championship, less than 2 minutes behind 2nd placed Caroline Pohle.

Now, Lucy Byram is set to compete in her first PTO open race. Confident due to her recent successes and with nothing to lose, a good all-round triathlete could surprise the field in the PTO US Open.

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