Home > Feature

Can Lionel Sanders compete with the speedsters at the PTO US Open?

Canadians Matt Sharpe and Jackson Laundry also part of the stacked field

Photo by: PTO

When you put $1 million in prize money up, you’re going to get many of the best triathletes in the world to your event. The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) has raised the bar when it comes to professional triathlon racing over the last few years, and even though we’re a few weeks out from the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, all but a few of the sport’s biggest names are here in Dallas for this weekend’s PTO US Open.

So, while we didn’t see three of the major Kona favourites for the women’s race (Daniela Ryf, Anne Haug and Laura Philipp) toe the line here in Dallas for today’s women’s race, a good portion of the rest of the top women distance triathletes on the planet were here. The same goes for the men’s race – while it’s missing the Norwegian duo of Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden (and Alistair Brownlee, who pulled out just a few days ago due to a stress fracture) – the lion’s share of the rest of the top men are here.

Related: Ashleigh Gentle runs her way to the PTO US Open title

That includes a number of men who could make a top finish for Canada’s Lionel Sanders a challenge. He might be the second-highest-ranked athlete in the PTO standings here in Dallas (behind Magnus Ditlev), but unless he can come out of the water a bit further ahead than he did at the PTO Canadian Open in July, Sanders will have his work cut out to make the podium here in Dallas.

Of course you never say never when it comes to Lionel Sanders, who miraculously sprinted to a runner-up finish at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside earlier this year, coming out of nowhere to earn that spot. He did it again in St. George to earn his second Ironman World Championship runner-up finish.

At the PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton, though, Sanders was simply too far back at the end of the swim to be a factor for the podium, finishing seventh. Once again he’ll have to contend with some strong swimmers who will look to open up as much of a break as they can after the 2 km, non-wetsuit swim. Look for Aaron Royale, Josh Amberger and Ben Kanute to blast off to the front and see how long they can stay clear on the bike. (You can likely add Sam Laidlow to that mix, too.)

Daniel Baekkegard at the PTO US Open press conference. Photo: PTO

Then, on the bike, you’ve got the likes of Ditlev, Daniel Baekkegard, Rudy Von Berg and Florian Angert to keep the pace up, possibly even at a tempo that will match Sanders’. While the Canadian will likely have some company in the form of Sam Long to help keep the pace going, it’ll be a stretch to see him gain much time on the speedsters ahead.

The run, though, might make all the difference here in Dallas. (OK, it’s officially Irving, Texas, but close enough to Dallas!) In today’s women’s race the last half of the run turned into a battle of attrition. Tomorrow the weather is expected to be even hotter. There’s no one on the planet who can suffer like Lionel Sanders – a race where it turns into a battle of who can hang on is right up his alley.

Related: How to watch the PTO US Open

There are two other Canadians in the field, both of whom could fare well here, too. Jackson Laundry will wear race number 9, and will be motivated to get a good race under his belt after a disappointing day at the Collins Cup last month. Matt Sharpe is fresh off a 70.3 win in Boulder and a third-place finish at last week’s 70.3 Santa Cruz. Sharpe can swim with the leaders – the question will be whether or not he can bike and run with this level of competition.

So, the bottom line is – stay tuned. It’s going to be another day of exciting racing here in Texas.