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November 20, 2020

Next level: Lionel Sanders relishing fresh challengers

The PTO 2020 Championship will see one of the strongest fields in triathlon history assemble on the start line in Florida on December 6.

The world’s current middle-distance elite will battle it out for a landmark $1,150,000 purse at CHALLENGEDAYTONA®, along with some of the sport’s most exciting newcomers.

New crop adds star power

The likes of Vincent Luis, likely to start favourite for Olympic gold in Tokyo next summer, will look to transition their peerless prowess over shorter distances to the new challenge Daytona will pose. Providing fresh star power with the raw brilliance to challenge the established status quo.

For Canadian star Lionel Sanders, currently number 4 in the PTO World Rankings, this is

what really elevates the event into a gripping spectacle which will be must-watch for a global audience.

He said: “This will be my first test against the ITU guys, the new crop of ITU guys. You know these guys are next level, truly next level.

“Kristian Blummenfelt – truly next level. Vincent Luis – truly next level. Stuff I’ve never seen, stuff I can’t even wrap my head around, run times, swim times.”

Beware the march of Iden

Lionel has already noted from afar the stunning impact which this new crop of short-course specialists can have when they step up in distance.

He watched with a mixture of shock and awe as 24-year-old Norwegian prodigy Gustav Iden simply ran away with the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice last year. The exciting Blummenfelt meanwhile was also prominent in fourth.

“I mean Gustav Iden, 70.3 world champion, really unchallenged for the most part. He ran away, came off the bike and ran away. We gave him no run, no shot.

“He came to a long-distance event and there was no long-course guy really able to give him a run for his money. He even said it himself, ‘hopefully the long-course guys have improved this year’.

“I don’t know if I’ll be the guy. He’s the guy who motivates me to be the guy.”

Mind over money

There has been much hype surrounding the record purse for the PTO 2020 Championship. It was recently boosted with all competitors each to receive a minimum of $2500.

Despite the positive impact this will undoubtedly bring for the sport, money is not what makes the relentless competitor in Sanders tick.

Instead, he is driven by the burning desire to push himself to insane levels against the very best in the world. He lives for events like this, fuelled by the desire to compete, and ultimately the desire to win.

“Money brings competition to that level and to this event. If I knew what’s driving me, I’d probably have fixed it and I’d stop driving places.”

“But I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that if you’re racing for money you will be destroyed.”

Right now, the 32-year-old Canadian is concentrating on his final meticulous preparation for December, as he looks to peak at exactly the right time for the massive challenge which awaits him.

The latest stage of that preparation came in late October as he smashed the Canadian track cycling hour record by more than 2.8km. The gladiator, it appears, is almost ready for the arena.

He said afterwards: “I know I can have my first hour pretty good in the bike. I think it’s going to probably go around an hour 45 for the bike, so need to extend the power, being able to hold the position and the power for another 45 minutes and I’ve got about a month to do it.”

“It was always a method to the madness, and I needed to get my run speed back up, I needed to get my bike speed back up, my ability to hold a TT position.

“And so I did that with this event, and now I’ve kept my swimming up. Now I just need to get the speed work back in, get my takeout speed good and for my ability I’m going to be in good shape for that race.”

“I think it shows I’m going to be in good bike and run shape.”

Given the competition he will face in December, Lionel knows only the highest of levels will be sufficient to challenge at the business end of this unprecedented showpiece event. He has no illusions.

“The only way for me to be competitive is to be a world class bike-runner and so that’s what I train to do.

“We’ve got about six weeks that I can extend the endurance now for the Daytona event.”

You can keep up to date with all the latest news ahead of the PTO 2020 Championship, including star athlete interviews and details of how to watch the race, by signing up to receive exclusive content direct to your mailbox.

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