If there was any doubt that Ironman and the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) are full-fledged competitors, today’s announcement around the PTO European Open should make it all pretty clear. The PTO European Open in Ibiza (Sept. 28-29) will take place either six or seven days after the women’s Ironman World Championship race in Nice, which, seemingly, will force some of the sport’s top pros to make a choice between the two companies and their respective series.
Will we see Kona champ Lucy Charles-Barclay in Nice trying to defend her title next year? Will Anne Haug (pictured winning the PTO European Open in May) look for another world championship title, or head to Ibiza to defend her title in Ibiza? Daniela Ryf told us in Kona that she wasn’t going to be back to race on the Big Island, but that she’d be gunning after another title in Nice – will she stick to that plan if there’s a chance to be part of the lucrative PTO series?
Of the top-10 women in the PTO standings right now, five would normally be athletes we’d expect to see at the Ironman World Championship: #1 Anne Haug, #4 Lucy Charles-Barclay, #5 Laura Philipp, #6 Kat Matthews and #8 Daniela Ryf. (Taylor Knibb, #3 in the ranking, competed in Kona this year, but coming off the Olympics would be more likely to skip the race in Nice. She’s already said that her Kona appearance was in preparation for the 2025 race on the Big Island.)
That also means that there are five women in the top-10 who aren’t necessarily Nice bound next year who could highlight the field in Ibiza if those athletes didn’t show up including some pretty big names – Ashleigh Gentle, Taylor Knibb, Paula Findlay, Emma Pallant-Browne and Imogen Simmons.
Ironman steps up
Making the decision that much tougher for long-distance specialists, Ironman has countered the PTO plans with the announcement of it’s own global series next year (see below).
Thanks to its 100 km race distance which is an easy transition for Olympic-distance athletes, and because some of its top stars will be at the Olympics, the PTO needs to schedule as many events after the Olympics next year as possible. The PTO Asian Open in Singapore will take place in April, but Ibiza is now in September and we’ve yet to hear when any of the other PTO Open events will take place. Ironman has also had to back things up a couple of weeks for both Nice and Kona thanks to the Olympic Games, too. Add Super League Triathlon to that mix next fall and you have one very jammed schedule.
The PTO has partnered with World Triathlon, so its event in Ibiza is the “European Championship” for both pros and age groupers, and its series will serve as one event in the World Triathlon Long Distance Championship. That series is supposed to include at least six races – if so, missing the European Open might not be the end of the world for the likes of Charles-Barclay, Ryf and Haug.
“We’ve been very clear with our strategy for the PTO Tour,” said PTO CEO Sam Renouf. “It’s about getting the world’s best triathletes competing head-to-head over our new 100 km distance (2km swim/80km bike/18km run) in iconic locations around the world and then broadcast to a global audience.”
While Nice might not have the same panache as Kona, the Ironman World Championship still carries a lot of weight and clout with sponsors. Now the big question is: which series will be the most lucrative for the pros in terms of prize money and sponsorship.
It will certainly make for some interesting dynamics for 2024 – which didn’t really need much more on that front with the Olympics already looming large.
Stay tuned – we’re reached out for some follow ups on all this and will provide updates as they become available.