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Can the men’s race in Ibiza possibly live up to the hype?

The PTO European Open sees three of the biggest names in the sport face off for the first time. We preview the men's race in Ibiza

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Considered one of the greatest long-distance races of all time, the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship pitted Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez against each other in what turned into a epic race that came down to the run. Frodeno took the win after a blazing 1:06:33 half-marathon, with Brownlee finishing second and Gomez rounding out the podium. It was one of the few times when all the hype leading into a triathlon event actually played out on race day.

That’s not to say that we don’t often see exciting race days. It’s just that we don’t always see the predicted close finishes come to fruition. Last year’s men’s race in Kona, is a great example. Four men shattered the course record in an incredible day of racing, but rather than see Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden sprinting to the line, we saw Iden pulling out all the stops to beat Sam Laidlow, with Blummenfelt taking third, and Aussie Max Neumann keeping him honest to the line.

How to watch the PTO European Open

While we’ve seen some big names (including Laidlow) pull out of tomorrow’s race, the event still features the long-awaited duel between Blummenfelt and Frodeno, with the added mix of two-time Olympic gold medalist Brownlee in the mix.

“I’ve been looking forward to this race for 10 years,” Blummenfelt said today. “He [Jan] was like the top of the sport when I was figuring out what Triathlon was all about. When I started Googling triathlon, he was crossing the finish line in Beijing [Olympics 2008].”

“I mean, it is cool because we have the two generations, but we also have the third one in the middle,” Frodeno said. “Alistair [Brownlee] is the third guy in the circle. It’s always cool to race him. I hope he’s in shape and healthy because he always makes any race interesting.”

You can see the start lists for tomorrow’s races here.

Three man race?

Hardly. All the hype around the big three names in the field will no-doubt fire up the likes of Magnus Ditlev and Neumann as they hit the start line in the morning.

Men’s field at the PTO European Open missing Gustav Iden

Brownlee and Frodeno, two of the fastest swimmers in the field, will no-doubt want to try and open up a gap in the first leg of the race. They should have some company – Daniel Baekkegard, Ben Kanute, Kyle Smith and possibly Leon Chevalier could very likely be ready to join them in a 2 km smash fest in the water. Blummenfelt and Ditlev are likely the two powerhouses on the bike ready to join them, but Brownlee and Frodeno are likely to keep the pace going as fast as possible to require a huge effort to get to the front.

If no one is able to break free on the bike, then we will be set for a treat on the 18 km run.

Can Frodeno pull out a performance similar to that 2018 run in South Africa? He pushed so hard that day he ended up hurting his hip and having to miss Kona. He’s also 41. He’s also not finished a race in almost two years thanks to a series of injuries.

Is Blummenfelt ready to blast over a 100 km race a week before he continues his quest for Olympic points so he can return to Paris next summer to try to defend his title?

And what about Brownlee? Frighteningly fast when he’s healthy, he’s struggled to get to races in top shape for the past few years.

Or could we see another breakthrough day for a super-talented athlete who hasn’t been under the microscope all week in Ibiza? Ditlev, Neumann, Baekkegard, Kanute, Chevalier (heck, he’s the reigning World Triathlon world champion) – at virtually any other race we’d be talking about them being the favourites to take the win and their share of the $600,000 prize purse.

Ultimate showdown

The hype has been building for weeks now. Tomorrow we’ll see if the actual race lives up to all the expectations. Based on similar events in the past, there’s a good chance we won’t see the three men everyone is expecting to see top the podium.

That hardly means we’re not in for an incredibly exciting race, though.