The PTO 2020 Championship at CHALLENGEDAYTONA® brought together one of the most star-studded fields ever assembled for a triathlon event.
With many different routes to Daytona – automatic qualification through the PTO World Rankings, PTO wildcards, CHALLENGEFAMILY® invites and race qualification – triathletes of all ages earned the opportunity to compete.
In this article we focus on those veteran athletes who have spent their entire careers waiting for the opportunity to compete for a slice of the mammoth $1.15 million prize purse and the up-and-coming stars of the triathlon world hoping to upset the applecart and compete with professionals they have idolised since their youth.
When it came to a head-to-head, did youth trump experience? Or was it the veterans who handled the pressure best on the Daytona International Speedway®?
‘Young guns’ shine in Daytona
In the men’s race, on the start line were several athletes who were 25 or under and hoping to make a name for themselves in the high-calibre field.
Gustav Iden, George Goodwin, Sam Long, Kieran Lindars, Magnus Elbaek Ditlev and Frederic Funk locked horns with triathletes they had looked up as they pursued a career in the sport. Iden and Goodwin obviously stole the show with their win and third place respectively.
Iden produced an outstanding swim to keep the deficit to the short-course experts who excel in the water to under two minutes, but it was his work on land that was the catalyst to his success as he made his way through the field to earn victory. Likewise, Goodwin produced an all-round masterclass to finish on the podium.
The youngest man in the field to finish was the 23-year-old Funk, who conjured a fabulous display of his own to come 17th and pick up $7,000.
“This whole event was just the beginning of something big and especially young athletes like me can be very glad that we have the PTO making triathlon even better,” he posted on Instagram after the race.
With Long and Ditlev also earning top 20 finishes, the ‘young guns’ certainly had an outstanding day in the men’s race.
The youngest competitors to finish the women’s race included Lucy Hall, Amélie Kretz and Lisa Becharas.
Hall showcased her incredible swimming pedigree to lead the race into transition one and maintained her pace through the bike stage before succumbing to an injury on the run.
“I picked up a slight niggle along the way. Taking mainly positives, learnt a lot and now to get mended,” Hall posted on Instagram after the race in which she finished 28th.
Kretz and Becharas came 33rd and 34th respectively – but both commented on social media about the opportunity to race against the world-class field in Daytona.
Age is just number
Tim O’Donnell, 40, rolled back the years to finish 16th in the star-studded race, earning $8,000 in the process. The 2009 ITU Long Distance World Champion, who was second at the 2019 IRONMAN World Championship, was the only over 40 to finish in the top 20 of either race.
The highlight for the American legend was an outstanding display on the bike, notching a 1:40:14 split – the ninth best in the field. His experience in the PTO 2020 Championship once again increased his desire to continue in the sport
“I absolutely love to race and I want to win! I walked away from that event with a fresh focus and a desire to achieve my 2021 goals,” O’Donnell posted on social media.
Potts exited the swim on the coat-tails of O’Donnell but was unable to keep up with his compatriot on the bike – dropping around two minutes from his fellow veteran.
Potts was only able to claw back 13 seconds on the run to O’Donnell but was agonizingly a minute outside the prize purse positions.
In the women’s race, 42-year-old Lisa Roberts, a six-time winner over the IRONMAN distance, competed in her final professional race.
She admitted the distance didn’t suit her and a pre-race change of bike due to back pain didn’t help – but the triathlon legend loved the experience and praised the event after the race.
“This event marks a major turning point in professional triathlon,” she said. “I’m excited to watch it unfold and see where it takes these fabulous athletes. I have the pleasure to know!”
Fellow 42-year-old Rach McBride was pleased with their performance in finishing in 32nd place – ending in direct competition with the younger end of the field in Kretz and Becharas.
The first professional triathlete to come out as gender non-binary, McBride, who is a three-time IRONMAN 70.3 victor, rode the fastest 80km of their career.
After the race McBride posted on social media: “I celebrate the privilege to cross the finish line amongst the best athletes in the world.”