The Australian triathlon legend was a very interested part of the commentary team as several possible qualifiers for the landmark 2021 event took part in last weekend’s PTO-supported Big Husky Triathlon.
Salthouse dominated the race from start to finish, recording the fastest swim, bike and run splits of the day. That gave Craig plenty of food for thought as he ponders the difficult decisions which loom ahead.
“From my perspective, as one of the team captains for the Collins Cup, it was an interesting race for me today because Ellie (Salthouse) and Amelia (Watkinson) are two of the girls in the mix for automatic qualification or the captain’s pick,” Alexander said.
“Amelia and Ellie went head-to-head today, it’s not ultimately going to be what you make your decision on, you base your selections on a series of things. But all these races mean something in the greater scheme of the Collins Cup.”
Should Ellie or Amelia fail to earn automatic qualification, their performances at Big Husky could still have them in Alexander’s thoughts for the two women’s captain’s picks.
He insisted those picks would not be entirely based on ranking points and PTO Ranking position, and that Team Internationals will consider all elite triathletes.
“We get to choose from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and, with the captains picks it’s not always off the world rankings. If someone from the ITU is in great form and puts their hand up to race, we have the option to pick them.”
‘Europe the team to beat’
The Ryder Cup-style event will see Team Europe, Team USA and Team Internationals fight it out for ultimate triathlon supremacy.
“Each team will have 12 athletes, four males and four females that will qualify automatically and then two men and two women are captain’s picks,” Alexander explained.
“It’s a unique racing format over the middle distance, but it is a match race so one athlete from each team go head-to-head-to-head. So, there are 12 individual races going on, 10 minutes apart.
“So, there’s some tactics and some race dynamics and it’s scored similar to the Ryder Cup. It’s a team competition.”
With the top four men’s and women’s selections determined by the Collins Cup qualification protocol, Alexander already has an idea of who will be in contention for the event. He sees Europe as the team to beat right now.
“The Europe team is very strong, Daniela Ryf, Lucy Charles-Barclay, Anne Haug, Holly Lawrence. On paper that is an unbelievable team, and for the men they have the top four PTO-Ranked triathletes in Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee, Gustav Iden and Sebastian Kienle.
“It’s hard to gauge form right now with very few races taking place, but on paper that European team Is absolutely stacked, but we don’t do the races on paper.”
Sanders vs Frodeno?
With 36 of the world’s best triathletes racing in the event, each individual matchup is vital for team success.
The decisions facing Craig and other team captains around who races who during the eagerly-awaited event provide another exciting sub-plot.
“I’m most interested to sees these make up of these individual match races.
“Say Team Europe have the first pick in an individual race and they select Jan (Frodeno), it is then up to Team International and Team USA to choose who goes against him.
“There is definitely some strategy there and the race dynamic is going to be different from anything we have seen.”
The decision on who does face PTO World-Ranked #1 Frodeno might just be the easiest decision Alexander has to make, as one man has already put his hand up for that daunting task.
PTO World-Ranked #5 Lionel Sanders has already e-mailed the Internationals captains, suggesting he takes on the toughest of all gigs.
“I thought the matchups had already been determined and I was so p****d off that I didn’t get Jan,” Sanders said of the PTO’s recent top rivalries video. His wife Erin showed him a mock line-up of the Collins Cup individual matchups, and he thought they were the real thing.
“I messaged my team captain, I said I need to get a jump start on this. I messaged Lisa (Bentley) and said if you give me Jan I will give you the performance of the entire competition.
“No-one on this team wants to beat Jan more than I do. I’ll either beat him or go home on a stretcher.”
Alexander joked about the request: “We (the captains) got an e-mail from Lionel saying he wants to race the best athlete from the other team, and obviously the best athlete in the world at the moment is Jan.
“Lionel has put up his hand to race Jan. Be careful what you wish for sometimes.”