PTO World #6 Ashleigh Gentle put in an astonishing run performance despite soaring temperatures to claim the first-ever PTO US Open title.
The Australian star, who is now three-from-three at PTO Tour events this year – and $245,000 richer because of it – overtook home-country hope Taylor Knibb in the closing stages to secure another incredible victory. In doing so, Gentle has confirmed her status as the world’s preeminent 100km racer.
You can watch the full replay of the women’s race now on PTO+ in all territories outside Europe and the Indian Subcontinent, where it will be available 48-hours after the race ended.
PTO US Open – How It Played Out
As predicted, Lucy Charles-Barclay was soon at the front in the water, Taylor Knibb the only athlete to stick on her feet. With the rest of the field strung out behind them, the Brit and American came out of the water for the mid-way Australian exit with a lead of 31 seconds to a group including Holly Lawrence, Ashleigh Gentle, Flora Duffy, Paula Findlay and Lisa Norden.
By the end of the swim, that lead had only increased, with Charles-Barclay and Knibb leaving the water in 27:01 (1:21/100m) one minute ahead of the chasers. Charles-Barclay stole a march of around 15 seconds on Knibb through T1 while the chase pack was led onto the seven-lap bike course by Holly Lawrence, 1:05 after Knibb.
At around 8km into the 80km course, Knibb surged past Charles-Barclay and began to put time into everyone on the course. During lap two, Charles-Barclay, who had already lost her race nutrition bottle from the rear of her bike, had a brief stop to address an issue with her electronic shifting, which had apparently overheated under the Texan sun.
By halfway through the bike, Knibb’s buffer was 1:51 to Charles-Barclay. In turn, the Brit had a 1:12 gap to the four chasers who’d detached themselves from the rest: Holly Lawrence, Paula Findlay, Flora Duffy and Lisa Norden, some 3:03 off the leader.
By the start of the final lap, Knibb’s lead was up to 3:04, Charles-Barclay holding steady at 2:08 ahead of the chase pack and losing a more time – now 5:13 behind Knibb. Meanwhile PTO Canadian Open winner Ashleigh Gentle was leading the second chase group, 6:19 from the front and 1:06 from the podium contenders ahead.
Showing no sign of weakness, Knibb pushed on to T2 and after a controlled transition, started the 18km, five-lap run with a lead of 3:42 to Lucy Charles-Barclay. 2:25 later (6:07 behind Knibb), Findlay, Duffy, Lawrence and Norden began the run shoulder to shoulder. However, it wasn’t long before Duffy, the double Commonwealth Champion upped the pace to take a clear third place on the course.
Ashleigh Gentle, eighth off the bike and 6:52 off the lead, stormed onto the final leg, quickly establishing herself as the fastest runner on the course. Soon, Duffy faltered while the Australian seemed unphased by the heat overtaking within the first 5km.
From there, Gentle continued to hunt her prey, overcoming her deficit to Lucy Charles-Barclay by 10km. Initially, it seemed the Aussie would run out of road to catch Knibb, but the American was reduced to a walk over a couple of short sections as the conditions took their toll.
Making the pass just before the 16km mark, Gentle had 2km of running to soak up the fact she would be taking a second consecutive PTO Open victory worth another $100,000. She crossed the line in 3:37:17 after a 1:04:59 run, which was four minutes faster than any other woman.
Knibb held on for second and $70,000 with a 3:38:32 finish while Lucy Charles-Barclay completed the podium in 3:40:31 to earn $50,000.
Holly Lawrence paced herself perfectly to stay in the hunt for big money, coming fourth in 3:43:37 to claim $40,000. Lisa Norden’s 3:44:49 finish was worth $35,000, the Swede pipping Olympic Champion Flora Duffy to round out the top five.
“I’m getting all emotional now,” said a jubilant Ashleigh Gentle. “It’s been a really good year – it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve definitely been enjoying the sport again. Thanks to the PTO for putting this on and giving us triathletes the opportunity to race these world-class events against world-class athletes. It’s a privilege to be here and I am just absolutely in shock.”
On the race in the Texan heat, the PTO World #6 said: “I had to dig to the depths of myself for that one – that was really, really tough. Seeing the group ride away was a little depressing but I just tried to keep my head in the game and hope that I could run into a good position. I absolutely did not expect to have run into the win.
“I’ve been telling myself the last couple of days that it is not that hot but it is very hot and I just tried to manage my pacing well. I guess it paid off.”
Second-place finisher, Taylor Knibb, the PTO World #7, was in pole position for much of the race and takes home $70,000. The 24-year-old American said: “I’m just so grateful to go to get to the finish line. I don’t know how I made it… I was just dying, overheating. I couldn’t move any faster. Like that was. I don’t know how I made the finish line. And that’s pretty much all I can say.”
The third-place getter, Lucy Charles-Barclay, was first out the water, hung tough on the bike, and ran strongly to take the final podium position and $50,000. The British star and PTO World #5 said: “That was absolutely brutal out there. And to anyone who is finishing this in these conditions, these ladies are just hard as nails. That was incredibly tough conditions to overcome. And yeah, I’m just happy to make the finish line, to be fair.
“I had my fair share of nightmares out there. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the hardest gear for the first two laps. I think the battery must have died or overheated and the mechanic gave me a new battery. Once we got that sorted, I felt up and running, but I had lost my nutrition… this is not the environment where you want to lose your nutrition. So I just had to keep my head, try and get as much nutrition on board and tough it out on that bike psychologically.
“I had to dig deep and find something. I mean, I’ve trained incredibly hard. So, you know, this is the moment that you’ve been working for. And when things don’t go quite right, you’ve just got to tough it out. And I think I’ve gained a lot just from overcoming those things going into my next races.”
Next Up – PTO US Open Men’s Race
If you’re in Europe or the Indian Subcontinent, you can watch LIVE exclusively on Eurosport or GCN+. Highlights and race replays will be available 48 hours after the race in these regions via PTO+.
If you’re in the rest of the world, you can watch LIVE on PTO+ with pre-race coverage including countdown shows and press conferences also available on the same platform.
You can also watch live on a selection of regional television broadcasters. Check the full list of broadcasters here.
Men’s Pro Race – Sunday 18 September
- 14:30 CDT (Local)
- 12:30 PDT
- 15:30 EDT
- 19:30 UTC
- 20:30 BST
- 21:30 CET