Several highly ranked PTO athletes are in action this weekend, trading the frosty cold of mainland Europe’s spring for the hot sun of the Canary Islands at CHALLENGEGRANCANARIA.
After a two-lap bay swim in turquoise waters, the bike course features over 1,700m of climbing. With few technical corners, the four-loop ride should favour athlete with a strong power-to-weight ratio. Finally, there’s a four-lap seafront run with plenty of turnarounds for competitors to eye-up the competition.
WHAT’S THE LOWDOWN?
Date: 24 April 2021
Location: Los Caideros, Gran Canaria, Spain
Time: 08:00 BST
Prize Money: €19,000 – pays 6 deep €3,500 to €500
Format: 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run
Course: Bay swim, hilly bike, flat run
Nick Kastelein (INT #26)
THE BIG STORIES
Based on the form book, CHALLENGEGRANCANARIA will be led by world number one Jan Frodeno (EUR #1) but there are certainly a few athletes who will try to push the German out of his comfort zone.
Patrick Lange (EUR #29) is a two-time Kona winner but we’re yet to see him go shoulder to shoulder with Frodo when both are firing on all cylinders. If that’s the case here, we could see a great battle – and if Lange’s near his countryman by the finish, it’ll certainly make Collins Cup captains Normann Stadler and Chrissie Wellington take notice.
Of course, there’s more than this duel alone, with other European talent seeking prize money and points. Pieter Heemeryck (EUR #14) is the second-highest ranked Team Europe athlete on the start line and won this event in 2019. However, Britain’s Thomas Davis (EUR #15) is just one spot behind in the rankings and had a strong race at the PTO 2020 Championship where he beat the Belgian.
Four more top-20 ranked European athletes are also on the start list including Pablo Dapena Gonzalez (EUR # 17) – who won this race in 2018, Adam Bowden (EUR #18) and Frederic Funk (#EUR 19). This highlights the quality of the field in Gran Canaria – and how close the fight for Collins Cup points could be.
The women’s race should be packed with intrigue. Katrina Matthews (EUR #8) is the highest-ranked athlete on the start list and won here as an age grouper two years ago. The 2020 Ironman Florida champ also has her sights set firmly on Collins Cup qualification.
The Brit will face plenty of stiff competition including Maja Stage Nielsen (EUR #16). The Dane has proven form in hot conditions having come second at IM Cozumel and IM Lanzarote in 2019. She’s also been just shy of breaking the top-10 in Kona on three occasions.
We’ll also get to relive a classic rivalry thanks to the presence of 2012 gold and silver Olympic medallists, Lisa Norden (EUR #18) and Nicola Spirig. Norden, whose injury-forced exit from the PTO 2020 Championship last December packed an emotional gut punch, returns reinvigorated from training in neighbouring Fuertaventura. Meanwhile, Spirig, 39, is aiming to represent Switzerland at a fifth Olympic triathlon this summer.
Both women are powerhouses on the bike – Norden certainly has the edge in putting out the watts in the TT position but Spirig is an ace on the climb. Both women are serious runners too, so perhaps another sprint finish could be on the cards!
KEEP AN EYE ON
Nick Kastelein (INT #26) will be seeking to improve on his eighth-place finish at CHALLENGEMIAMI, where he didn’t have the day he wanted. Gran Canaria is also an opportunity for the Australian to get one over on his regular training partner, Frodeno.
While not yet ranked, middle-distance rookie Sara Perez Sala could certainly figure for the win in Gran Canaria. The former Olympic breaststroker showed in CHALLENGEMIAMI that she could hold onto the feet of super swimmer Lucy Charles-Barclay (EUR #3) and bike with her too, finishing in fourth.
WHAT THE PROS SAY
Katrina Matthews on returning to Gran Canaria:
With the Collins Cup selection high on my agenda for the next few months… I need to get some serious points on the board in order to stay in contention for selection. I know this race will offer a lot of great performances to showcase just how competitive Team Europe will be at the Collins Cup!
Nick Kastelein on firing on all cylinders:
I want a performance that reflects what my numbers show in training. If that happens, there’s nothing more I can do and I will be happy! To catch the attention of the captains, obviously to beat a big name or two would do it. But to lead from the front and empty the tank on the race course, that’s an attitude that I feel would impress.
Lisa Norden on returning from injury and contending for the Collins Cup:
Heartbreak is a part of the process in sport… Daytona obviously was a tough one but I bounced back OK… [Gran Canaria] has a really competitive field which is fantastic, it will be a good indicator of where things are at. To make Team Europe at the Collins Cup I’ll have to race out of my skin for a few races this season… as I haven’t raced so much, my ranking is a long way down. But you should never say never, challenge accepted!