With the Collins Cup Opening Ceremony and the Match Draft Picks now completed, we finally know who will fight it out in each of the 12 matchups in this historic event.
We’re in for some seriously exciting matches once racing gets underway on Saturday with all the athletes from Team Europe, Team US and Team Internationals pushing their limits to prove themselves the best, rack up the points and be the first team to ever lift the Collins Cup.
Here’s the lowdown on all 12 matches and how they could play out. Don’t miss your chance to make your own predictions in the Collins Cup Fantasy Competition, where you could be in with a shot at winning some incredible prizes.
Between now and race day, we’ve got the athlete press conference to look forward to on Friday 27 August at 10:00 CEST while the main Collins Cup broadcast begins at 12:30 CEST on Saturday 28. Head over to the Collins Cup broadcast information page to see how to watch in your region.
Team Europe Captains Natascha Badmann and Normann Stadler went hard out the gate by picking Daniela Ryf for the first-ever Collins Cup matchup. Ryf is, without doubt, one of the sport’s greats – a strong swimmer, an unbelievably powerful cyclist and a sensational runner.
Team Internationals Captains Lisa Bentley and Simon Whitfield matched the world #1 with the world #2 – Teresa Adam. Adam is an athlete who could put time into Ryf during the swim and one of the only athletes in the sport with a chance of matching the Swiss Miss on the bike. While the Kiwi’s run stats fall short of Ryf’s, Adam’s not raced since January – and never before in Europe – so her running form could surprise on Saturday.
In Taylor Knibb, Team US Captains Karen Smyers and Mark Allen went straight in for a tactical pick in match #1, pitting the speed of an up-and-coming short-course star against these two proven iron-distance champions. At the recent World Triathlon events in Canada, Knibb – the Collins Cup’s youngest competitor – showed she’s one of the sport’s best swimmers and bikers. Meanwhile, while her 1:21 run split at 70.3 Boulder is faster than Adam has ever produced over the distance. Add in the fact that this battle will be fought over 2km, 80km and 18km and Knibb is a genuine contender for the win.
Lucy Charles-Barclay has shown herself to be adept at all distances but her tactics are well known to the other teams – use her swimming strength to make a gap, ride hard and try to maintain that buffer for the run. While the Brit might fulfil the first part of that gameplan in the water, her lead to a pair of stellar swimmers in Paula Findlay and double Olympic medallist Katie Zaferes might not be great enough to put her out of sight.
Findlay has beaten Charles-Barclay before, the Canadian running away to take the win at Challenge Daytona in 2019. Findlay’s bike stats also give her the edge on the second discipline so she could wipe out any swim deficit before the matchup is over.
Katie Zaferes is the second wildcard for Team US. While she’s unproven at middle-distance events, the American’s pedigree speaks for itself as a World Triathlon Champion and Tokyo 2020 bronze and silver medallist. An awesome swim, bike, runner with no weaknesses, Zaferes could show the other two what speed really is.
Match #3 will be a battle of the runners. Team Europe’s Anne Haug is widely considered the sport’s best in the third discipline – reflected in a running rating of 100%. That means the only tactic for Team US and Team Internationals will be to put time into the German before the run begins.
Jeanni Metzler is an incredible runner herself, with a fastest half-marathon split of 1:15:26 this season. On paper, the South African should beat both Haug and Hering out the water, too. So, if she can hold an advantage by T2, she could take the win.
Hering shares the same 84% swim rating as Haug, so the two could well hit the bike together. If that’s after Metzler, there could be some tactical plays when it comes to whose job it is to lead the charge.
Metzler has beaten Hering in three of their last four races together – though it was the American who took the most recent scalp. However, Haug thrashed them both at the PTO 2020 Championship at Challenge Daytona.
Holly Lawrence is a seriously tough competitor and a middle-distance specialist who’s highly accomplished in all three disciplines. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be a walkover for Team Europe in match #4.
Lawrence is likely to lead this trio out the water but Ellie Salthouse, who’s also a great swimmer and a middle-distance maestro herself, could stay on the Brit’s toes then force her to work on the bike.
While Moench might lose a bit of time in the swim, she’s the strongest cyclist of the three and beat Lawrence the last time they raced together at 70.3 St George. So unless there’s a significant gap, it could all come back together by T2 – leaving the race to be decided on the run.
All three athletes are well-matched here but with no love lost between Lawrence and Salthouse, the Aussie – who’s undefeated in 2021 over middle-distance – could have the extra motivation to clinch victory.
On paper, match #5 should be a win for Team Europe. With her overall ranking of 94%, Emma Pallant-Browne’s only slight weakness is in the swim though she still trumps Sodaro and Crowley in that department.
Even if American super-mom, Sodaro, and iron-distance Aussie, Crowley, can stick to the Brit’s feet in the water, it’s unlikely they’ll drop her on the bike – Pallant-Browne has shown she’s a match for anyone but Daniela Ryf on two wheels.
On the run, Pallant-Browne is impeccable, her fastest split a 1:16:54 this season. Could we see the Brit take extra points for a match domination? It could be on the cards.
Either way, the more exciting battle could be for second place between Sodaro, who’s still on the upward swing back to her best after returning from maternity leave, and Crowley, the iron-distance powerhouse whose skillset might not suit this shorter course.
Match #6 is a battle of long-course warriors. All three women have performed over the iron distance this season – and all broken the nine-hour barrier in the process.
With higher swimming rankings, there’s a chance the McCauley and Lester could edge out Matthews on the swim. Lester would then be hoping to use her bike prowess – she’s rated 96% – to make a gap before the run.
Both Lester and McCauley will need time on Kat Matthews before the run as the Brit has shown she’s an athlete to be feared on the final leg. Matthews ran 2:49:48 for the marathon in May – the fastest time of the last five years. That said, the 18km finale isn’t ideally suited to any of these iron-forged specialists, so there could be an upset by the finish line.
With the world #1 ranking, the iron-distance world record and a winning streak that goes back to the start of the 2018 season, everyone is expecting Jan Frodeno to perform at the Collins Cup. That puts a huge target on his back and gives both the German’s competitors extra incentive to be the one to topple the champ.
A superb swimmer, Sam Appleton should be out the water with Frodeno but will need to pull out something special on the bike as Frodeno’s 99% run rating is significantly higher than his own 85%. Perhaps the safe bet will be to shadow Frodeno for as long as possible and try to score maximum points over Sam Long – then again, where’s the fun in that?
At just 25, Long has rocketed to the top of the sport with a massive bike-run combo and the personality to match. The Big Unit will be desperate to beat Frodo and while his bike is ranked higher – 99% versus 94% – the American might just lose too much time in the swim to make it count. One thing’s for sure though, Long won’t let up for a second in the chase – recently coming from behind to beat Appleton in Boulder, which is sure to give him a psychological edge.
As PTO 2020 Champion and reigning 70.3 world champ, Norway’s Gustav Iden is the real deal. An athlete who gets stronger as the race progresses through the disciplines, it’s Iden’s run that earned him both titles – beating Rudy Von Berg on both occasions.
Von Berg will be seeking to distance Iden in the swim and with a similar pace through the water as Kyle Smith, the pair could work well over the 2km to put a little time into Iden. Von Berg is higher-ranked on the bike than Smith but the Kiwi is no slouch having ridden sub-two-hours in a half this year.
The pair will need quite a buffer to stave off the Norwegian’s inexorable run speed, but there’s a chance Iden could simply run out of road to make the catch.
While Smith appears the underdog of the match-up, he definitely shouldn’t be counted out for the win. The New Zealander had the fastest swim and bike times at the 70.3 European champs in June and with a shorter run, this could be the perfect distance for him.
Sebastian Kienle’s form coming into the Collins Cup is a complete unknown. He’s been rehabbing injuries and hasn’t raced since May. If he’s back to his best, the German’s a true warrior who will stop at nothing – this is a man who rode an entire 180km bike leg with a piece of glass digging into his foot.
Lionel Sanders wanted the match-up against Sebastian Kienle, who he’s battled with twice before at Challenge Samorin and come out on top both times. The pair are similarly matched in the swim but Sanders should have the edge on the bike and run. However, he’s just a week post a big iron-distance race in Copenhagen so whether he’s firing on all cylinders could make the difference here.
While Sanders is ranked 100% on the bike, Starykowicz – who’s ranked 99% – has a long reputation as the sport’s most dominant cyclist. A late call-up for the Collins Cup, Starykowicz is also a better swimmer than both Kienle and Sanders, so should be off up the road before that pairing leaves the water. Realistically, though, he’ll need at least five minutes in hand to have a chance at victory, which could be just too much in a race this length.
Based on the rankings, this is one of the closest Collins Cup matchups we’ll get to see on Saturday. Daniel Baekkegard, Ben Kanute and Max Neumann are all spectacular swimmers and will surely stay together in the water. They’re also bike and run powerhouses, all ranked within a couple of percent of each other.
Baekkegard is an athlete everyone’s been talking about – his win at 70.3 Bahrain this year was the third-fastest ever over the distance, probably making him the one to beat here.
Kanute, meanwhile, has shown he can maintain his short-course speed alongside his middle-distance focus. If anything, this slightly shorter bike and run distance only favours the American, who recently took his fourth straight victory at Escape From Alcatraz, an iconic standard-distance race.
Neumann is the least known of the three but is a double IM Asia Pacific Champion. Don’t let those iron-distance wins fool you though, the Aussie is a seriously fast athlete who’s run 1:10 this season.
All in all, this one’s too close to call.
Braden Currie is an incredibly consistent performer. He’s not had the chance to race outside his native New Zealand over the last two years, so will be desperate to test himself against this tough competition. The strongest swimmer in the match and equal to the others on the bike, his run ranking is also just 1% lower than Patrick Lange’s at 96%.
A two-time Kona winner, Lange is arguably the world’s best iron-distance runner. However, while the German excels over the longer races, his middle-distance palmares aren’t quite of the same calibre, his last win coming in 2017.
Lange’s improved swim-bike could be crucial in the match, especially if he can stick behind Braden Currie in the water to distance Matt Hanson. If the pair reaches T2 with an advantage, we should be in for an exciting shoulder-to-shoulder run.
However, with a 100% run rating, Matt Hanson could have the speed to close down anything but a colossal lead. Throughout 2021, the American has proven himself the best middle-distance runner in the world, seemingly constantly surging through the field to put in race-best splits. If Hanson reaches T2 with the others, Team US could score top points here.
Team US Captains’ Pick, Justin Metzler, was brought onto the team on the back of his great second-place at IM Coeur d’Alene and fifth-place at 70.3 Boulder recently. Metzler’s ace card here is his swim, where he could distance both his competitors and solo away to build a lead.
Jackson Laundry comes to the Collins Cup in rising form after going third, second and first in his last three races. If he’s within hailing distance of Metzler after T1, the pair could work well together on the bike to keep Skipper at bay. Metzler and Laundry are ranked at 89 and 90% on the run so we should see a good battle between the two.
Joe Skipper is one of the fastest bike-runners in the business with a 96% bike rating and 100% run rating – credentials he’s often underlined at iron-distance races. At the middle distance, he’s less consistent and has yet to put a win against his scorecard. There’s no doubting his talent though, he could yet pull something out the bag – if he can overturn what’s likely to be a significant swim deficit.
History In The Making
With such an array of talented and well-matched athletes going head-to-head in this totally new race format, triathlon history will be made on Saturday. Not only is the team dynamic new to long-course triathlon but with Team Captains able to help shape race outcomes through radio communications and access to athlete data, it’ll be a fascinating new take on what the sport of swim, bike and run can be.
The race coverage gets underway at 12:30 CEST on Saturday but there’s plenty more to watch on the Collins Cup website or iOS/Android app before then including both parts of the PTO’s Beyond Human documentary and the Battle For Glory and Greater Than One video series.