Gustav Iden may have taken the top step on the podium at the PTO 2020 Championship, but Matt Hanson raised more than a few eyebrows too.
The 35-year-old American produced a sensational 57:22 run split at CHALLENGEDAYTONA® – the best of the day – to cut down everybody bar the Norwegian prodigy en route to a stellar second-place finish.
It was a fantastic result for Hanson, up against the greatest field ever assembled by the sport. The closing stages were quite something as he scorched past a string of star names. Much to their surprise.
“Yeah, the last lap was definitely a bit of a blur. I think I started the last lap in eighth or ninth and ended up second, it was an important lap for sure.
“I think the last five guys asked what lap I was on, George (Goodwin) did, Rudy (Von Berg) did, Sam (Long) did, Lionel (Sanders) did. They all thought I was a lap down when I was going by them, so it was a little bit of an additional motivation bump I think.”
Immediately after crossing the line, Matt revealed that he had been waiting all year for a run performance like this. He ended that wait in some style, with a display founded on sustained brilliance.
He explained: “I mean if you look at the splits that I put out, I never really officially made a move, I just ran really steady, you know I had one bad mile in there, mile number 2 was a 5:17 but other than that my slowest mile was a 5:09 and my fastest was a 4:59, so I’m not great at converting that to kms but I think that’s like a 3:10-3:20 range.
“I had to bump it up in the last km, or maybe the last km and a half, on the back stretch, just wasn’t making up much time on to George. That was the only real hard decision to make, do I play it safe and run for third or do I really try to make the move and go for second?
“You know I’d just come so far in the race and just kind of made the decision, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Goodwin’s breakout day
Just behind Matt at the finish was Britain’s George Goodwin, who also came from off the pace to snatch third. His performance drew high praise.
“George had a fantastic day, definitely a breakout performance for him,” said Matt.
“He actually came out of the swim with me and dropped me in transition on the bike and so he came off the bike quite a bit in front of me, so a little bit different.
“It shows again how a little bit of a different strategy can still play out so just it was a really important day to show how you have to execute a clean race and you know you can do that using your strengths, whether that is on the bike or in the run or in the water.”
The men’s pro race capped a fantastic festival weekend at the iconic Florida venue. Matt emphasised what events like this mean to the development of triathlon.
“I thought it was a really well-structured race weekend event and it made it a lot of fun. A lot of age groupers I talked to were really happy to be able to enjoy the men’s pro race as well, and the women’s pro race the next day. So I think all those things are really important for growing the sport and especially for growing us professionals.
“So often the age group triathletes don’t really know what’s going on with the pros because they are racing at the exact same time.”
All eyes on Collins Cup now
The next major milestone for the PTO is the Collins Cup, scheduled to take place at Samorin on May 22, 2021. Matt was ranked #17 in the PTO World Rankings heading into Daytona and is hoping for a subsequent boost.
“I think that I am obviously looking forward to the Collins Cup, I hope the weekend solidified my spot there on the start line.
“I hope that was good enough, we’ll see how the rankings unfold, but I think I should be up there.
“The Americans had a pretty good performance in Daytona, I think we have five in the top 20 or something like that so definitely bodes well for us, I think, so it’ll be fun.”
Despite a COVID-ravaged year, the sport of triathlon ended 2020 on a year on a high note with the drama in Daytona. The future appears bright, and Matt expects more giant leaps in 2021 and beyond.
“We can’t thank the PTO enough for helping us bring this sport forward and it’s really a good time to be a pro triathlete.
“You know I think if you’d asked us last year, we were like ‘you’re four or five years too late, it’s hard to get things going right now’. That’s not the case any more. It’s a really exciting time and I’m really excited to see what the next couple of years bring and how it’s going to change the triathlon landscape.”