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Lionel Sanders skips the PTO Tour to focus on Ironman

Canadian star passes on PTO Tour contract as he seeks elusive Kona title

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Canadian star Lionel Sanders has announced that he’ll focus on the Ironman Series in 2024 rather than the PTO Tour. (OK, like a true politician, Sanders never actually says he’s going to do one or the other in the video, but certainly appears to be saying that his 2024 focus will be on Ironman racing.) The decision likely makes sense for the two-time Ironman World Championship runner up – since he regularly trails the sport’s top swimmers out of the water, making up time over an 80 km bike vs 90 or 180 km is more of a challenge.

Lionel Sanders asks his fans what they think he should do – PTO Tour or Ironman Pro Series

“We thought long and hard about it, consulted with a lot of people, but this season and this career started with the Ironman and it will end with Ironman,” Sanders said to videographer Talbot Cox when asked if he had decided what series he would “partake in.”

In a video posted on his YouTube channel today (see below), Sanders said that he asked Jan Frodeno for some advice.

“Do you have a picture of something you wish for that you haven’t achieved?” Frodeno asked the Canadian star.

“This journey starts with Ironman and it ends with Ironman,” Sanders said after pointing to a picture of Frodeno winning on the Big Island. “It started with Kona and it’s going to end with Kona. 10 years of professional triathlon have culminated in this attempt to win the Kona race.”

Sanders acknowledges that he’s got to work on his swimming, while also improving his efficiency on the bike. Surprisingly, for an athlete considered to be one of the sport’s top runners, Sanders also said that he needs to work on his run split if he intends to do well in Kona, citing his 2:52 personal best marathon time on the Big Island.

Lionel Sanders lists off all the training mistakes he’s made, but he’s still determined to to coach himself

Sanders would likely have been offered a contract to compete in the PTO Tour, which has yet to be announced this year, but is likely to have more success at the newly announced Ironman Pro Series. Points will be up for grabs over both the full and 70.3 distance in the Ironman Series, with full-distance races weighted more heavily in terms of points.

One would imagine that the PTO might still want to allow Sanders to appear in a few events in 2024 – his YouTube presence is amongst the largest in the sport. The PTO hasn’t yet announced its schedule or the athletes taking part in its series this year, though, and has appeared to imply that the six- to eight-race PTO Tour would include 20 men and women at each race. The PTO has said that athletes would be under contract to compete at the various events, but until we’ve seen the final schedule and roster, we won’t know who will be participating at the PTO events in 2024.