Top Professional Triathletes Gear Up for the Inaugural PTO Asian Open
SINGAPORE, 18 AUGUST 2023 – After two consecutive second-place finishes on the Professional Triathletes Organisation Tour (PTO) this year, PTO World No. 1 Ashleigh Gentle is gunning for a return to the top step of the podium with the Aug 19-20 PTO Asian Open presenting the perfect opportunity to do so.
At a pre-race press conference at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Friday (Aug 18), the Australian shared fond memories of racing in Asia and is relishing the chance to challenge herself.
She said: “I’ve done a good job at coming second this year, so it would definitely be nice to take the top step again. But it’s going to be very difficult with the women here who are motivated to also do the same. I definitely feel like my fitness and strength are a lot better than last year, I just haven’t been able to get there in time to take the win at a PTO race this year. But I love these conditions, I know it’s going to be very difficult, but I feel like a lot of the times, I’m racing on instinct and that helps in a situation like this where you have to make decisions on the race course. I haven’t shied away from the fact that the PTO US Open and Asian Open are my two big goals for the year so I definitely hope to be firing on all cylinders tomorrow.”
After winning both PTO titles in 2022 at the Canadian Open and US Open, Gentle is still seeking a third PTO win, having finished second at May’s PTO European Open in Ibiza and the US Open in Milwaukee two weeks ago.
But she will face stiff competition during the Pro Women’s Race on Aug 19 with 2023 PTO European Open winner Anne Haug and PTO world No. 4 Lucy Charles-Barclay in the mix.
To prepare for the conditions here, Charles-Barclay has been training at the hottest point of the day and putting in maximum effort, but she is counting on good swim and bike legs to give her a good start.
She said: “I’ve been trying to get used to how uncomfortable it’s going to feel here on race day. I need to have a really solid swim and definitely a strong bike. I’m not quite sure where my run is at off the back of an injury I’ve had so I feel like having a decent gap before that run will be essential for me, but I’m still confident I can have a good run. Ultimately, I just want to get to the finish line and if I can put together a good race, I’ll be happy with that. The conditions will have a big impact on what the result is and if I’m going too hard. It could even mean not finishing, so I just have to see how it goes.”
In the Pro Men’s race, new father Sam Long is also eyeing a podium finish on Sunday but also shared how his approach to racing has changed since the birth of his son earlier this month. Despite finishing fifth in Milwaukee, Long still crossed the finish line with a grin.
He said: “My life is different now and I’m taking it all in with a big smile. I feel much happier and more grateful to race and it’s giving me more purpose to do triathlons. Normally, we’re not too happy with a fifth-place finish, but I had the biggest smile I’ve ever had at the finish line. I recognise that maybe I had 75 or 80 per cent of my physical capabilities, but I got 110 per cent of myself that day. I was able to find another level to push myself to and the crowd was phenomenal. People were going nuts so I just kind of rode on that.”
Reflecting on how expectations of himself have changed over the years, Long added: “A few years ago, I was so confident but maybe not always realistic. Last year, I went to Dallas (for the PTO US Open) with the expectation to win. When I got third, it almost felt like I had let myself down. Since then, I’ve re-evaluated and it comes with respect and admiration and even fear of the competition. Gustav (Iden) and Kristian (Blummenfelt) have set such high examples. I can go out and put my best race on but people are doing truly remarkable things. I want to put my best foot forward and if I’m in the top five or top three, that’s a great race. If I can get the win, that’s truly an exceptional day.”
Iden too remained realistic about his targets, aiming for a top 10 finish as he admitted he has not hit his physical targets. Instead, he is counting on Norwegian teammate and reigning Olympic triathlon champion Kristian Blummenfelt to triumph on Sunday.
He said: “It’s very difficult to set goals because I don’t know where the others are at. But I hope to surprise myself a little bit on race day and maybe perform better than I think I can at the moment. It’s good to be back, I really love the heat and humidity so maybe that can play into my advantage.”
The four athletes also welcomed the recently announced partnership between World Triathlon and the PTO that recognizes the PTO Tour as the official World Championship tour of long distance triathlon.
Gentle, 32, noted that the increased exposure can inspire more kids around the world to watch and pick up the sport. She said: “It’s a huge incentive to have a season-narrative and be able to be potentially crowned the world champion because we have a set of the best people racing together all season long. I have people back in Australia that I had no idea were interested in triathlon. Now the PTO has come along and they’ve been able to watch me for the last two years. Now there are kids on the street, learning to mount their bike and going to swim lessons. For me, that’s really inspiring and that’s thanks to the PTO and the investment that they’ve made actually showcasing athletes to the world, because if little kids can see us doing triathlon, they might want to do it too, and they finally realise how great this sport is. So I think that the ability for us to be able to race more at this kind of stage is truly incredible.”
The inaugural PTO Asian Open from 19 to 20 August will host the world’s top male and female professional triathletes competing for a total prize purse of US$600,000 in the heart of Singapore. Led by reigning Olympic triathlon champion Blummenfelt, the star-studded field will take on a specially designed 100km course – comprising a 2km swim, 80km bike and 18km run – that takes in iconic landmarks, including the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, the Merlion, the Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Barrage. The 100km race for professional athletes and experienced amateurs begins with a 2km freshwater swim in the Marina Bay and ends near the Marina Bay Sands.
Singapore’s own Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, who won the 100m butterfly gold at the 2016 Olympics, will also take part in the 100km experienced amateur race in a relay team alongside current and retired Team Singapore athletes. The PTO Asian Open also features two duathlon races over a standard 4.5km Run/32km Bike/4.5km Run and a longer 9km Run/64km Bike/9km Run as well as the The Music Run, the signature 5km fun run that encourages everyone to have a go while listening to their favourite hits. In total, the PTO is expecting over 6,000 participants in what promises to be a celebration of multisport activity all set against the backdrop of the iconic Marina Bay Financial District.
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