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PTO revamps race quotas and prize money distribution

"Best athletes going head-to-head creates the most compelling race narratives."

Photo by: Professional Triathletes Organisation

For years many triathlon commentators have felt that for the sport to really grow it needed to concentrate its pro fields, allowing more opportunities for the world’s best to compete against each other. The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO), which is co-owned by the pros, has taken a step in that direction with the announcement that the PTO European and US Opens will included the top 30 women and men in the PTO World Rankings, while the PTO Asian Open, set just a week before the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, will include the top 20 in the rankings. There will also be a reduction in the prize purses at the events, with each offering US$600,000 (vs the $1 million offered last year at the Open events). The $2 million year end bonus will now also be distributed to the top 50 in the world rankings – in previous years it went out to the top 100. (In previous years, athletes finishing 21 to 50 in the rankings earned $5,000, while those who finished 51 to 100 in the rankings earned $2,000 in the year end bonus.)

The winner’s check at each of the Open events will remain at US$100,000, with second earning $50,000 (vs $75,000 last year) and third taking home $35,000 (vs $50,000 last year).

Related: PTO European Open date and venue announced

“Establishing a more regular consistency of ‘world championship level’ events is imperative to grow the sport through TV audiences, media coverage and sponsor opportunities for our athletes,” said PTO CEO Sam Renouf. “So we needed to think carefully about how we kept the momentum of the first season going as we simultaneously work on plans to establish more of a season-long schedule and narrative for the Tour in 2024 and beyond. We believe the steps we are taking in 2023 to increase the number of races and spotlight the very best athletes, whilst balancing prize funds, will help ensure we continue to grow in a sustainable way.”

“Looking back at how the PTO Tour races panned out last year and then our post-season discussions with athletes, broadcasters and other key stakeholders, it was clear that the best athletes going head-to-head creates the most compelling race narratives,” Renouf continued. “Whether that was Gustav (Iden) and Kristian (Blummenfelt) at the men’s PTO Canadian Open or Ashleigh Gentle, Paula Findlay and Chelsea Sodaro in the women’s race. Those athletes were all in the top 20 of the rankings. A similar picture emerged in Dallas at the PTO US Open with Ashleigh pipping Taylor (Knibb) and Lucy (Charles-Barclay). Even if some were surprised by the success of Collin Chartier over Magnus and Sam [Long], he was still #28 in the PTO World Rankings going into the race.”

The athletes involved in the decision are all-too-aware that it won’t be popular with some of their professional compatriots.

Related: PTO Rankings deep dive and more … The Life of Tri podcast

“The PTO Athlete Board was unanimous in approving these changes for the 2023 season,” said Skye Moench. “While we understand the changes may not be popular amongst all athletes, we also understand the context of the changes and the direction the PTO is trying to go. We also appreciate the need to grow the PTO Tour and go to different markets, which sometimes means compromising on different elements like the number of athletes racing or the prize money.”

“I want to see more people watching top level long distance Triathlon, being inspired by seeing the top athletes racing. It’s crucial that the PTO Tour succeeds. We need to be focusing on the very best racing and stories on a consistent basis,” said Moench’s fellow PTO Athlete Board member Alistair Brownlee. “I’m convinced that the PTO Tour’s success is Triathlon’s success. It’s tough to create something new but ultimately it will benefit every Triathlete.”