Some of the world’s best triathletes competed in Šamorín, Slovakia, on Saturday at the inaugural Collins Cup, representing three teams: Europe, US and Internationals. Featured on Team Internationals (which was captained by retired Canadian triathletes Simon Whitfield and Lisa Bentley) were Canada’s Paula Findlay, Lionel Sanders and Jackson Laundry. The trio made history as they became the first Canadians to compete at the new and unique event (which saw them swim 2K, bike 80K and run 18K), and while their team finished in third behind Europe and the US, they each posted great results.
The Collins Cup split the field into 12 “matches,” each of which included three athletes. Findlay was in Match #2, a difficult race against Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay and American Katie Zaferes. With three second-place finishes in Kona, Charles-Barclay is one of the best athletes on the professional Ironman scene, and she was the favourite heading into the match. While Zaferes is not familiar with long-course racing (she had reportedly never raced past the Olympic distance of 1,500m-40K-10K before Saturday), she is one of the best athletes on the World Triathlon Series, and she was coming off of winning a pair of Olympic medals in Tokyo.
It was a tough race from the start, and Findlay quickly found herself falling behind in the swim. She didn’t let this get her down, though, and instead chipped away at the lead throughout the bike. She ultimately only gained about 20 seconds on Charles-Barclay throughout the second leg of the race, but she cut Zaferes’s lead by almost three minutes. On the run, Findlay continued to reel Zaferes in, but she ran out of room on the 18K course and ended up in third place.
Sanders and Laundry
Sanders kicked off his Collins Cup campaign ahead of Laundry, racing in Match #9 with American Andrew Starykowicz and Germany’s Sebastian Kienle. Starykowicz tried his best to shake Sanders throughout the swim, but he only managed to create a gap of 10 seconds throughout the 2K course. By the early stages of the bike, Sanders had passed Starykowicz, but he didn’t hold onto that lead for long, as he slipped while rounding a corner and crashed. Sanders looked hobbled as he got up and grabbed his bike, but within minutes he was back in action and looking comfortable.
By the end of the ride, only a few seconds separated Sanders and Starykowicz, meaning their match would come down to a footrace. Sanders dropped the American and charged toward the finish, ultimately taking the win. What makes his victory more impressive is the fact that just one week ago, Sanders ran to a second-place finish at Ironman Copenhagen, where he posted a blazing-fast 7:49 finish.
After a poor swim and disappointing bike leg, Kienle ran extremely well, completing the 18K course in 61 minutes. This split was enough to get him past Starykowicz, but he couldn’t catch Sanders, who finished a minute sooner. “I ran the best that I possibly could,” Sanders said after the race. “If this was a half, Kienle probably would’ve caught me.”
Shortly after Sanders got his race underway earlier in the day, Laundry jumped into the Danube River with Great Britain’s Joe Skipper and American Justin Meltzer to race the event’s final match. Laundry beat his competitors out of the water, but Meltzer was right behind him as they entered T1. By the time Skipper finished his swim, he was about 90 seconds back, but he got to work on the bike course and soon passed both Laundry and Meltzer.
That's what it meant to @JackLaundry93 🙌
— PTO (@protriorg) August 28, 2021
Skipper’s bike split was three minutes quicker than Laundry’s (and more than five faster than Meltzer’s), and he started the run with a good buffer. Unlike Kienle in the earlier match, Laundry didn’t run out of room on the course, and he managed to catch Skipper in the final couple of kilometres. He crossed the line 38 seconds ahead of Skipper and almost four minutes in front of Meltzer to take the win and give Team Internationals another match win.