The second edition of the PTO Collins Cup had the best of triathlon on show. Thirty-six athletes representing Team Europe, Team USA and Team International competed in groups of three across 12 matches (6 men, 6 women) earning points for their team based on their performance during the 2 km swim, 80 km bike, and 18 km run. Along with triathlon favourites including Daniela Ryf, Anne Haug, Gustav Iden, and Kristian Blummenfelt—who all successfully won their matches— Canada had four athletes racing for Team International: Lionel Sanders, Jackson Laundry, Paula Findlay and Tamara Jewett.
In match three, Findlay was up against Kat Matthews for Team Europe and Skye Moench from Team USA. Right from the gun, Matthews and Findlay tussled for the swim lead, but it was Findlay who managed to take the lead and set the pace. Findlay built a gap and was first out of the water with a 20 second lead on Matthews and a 55 second lead on Moench.
Findlay is known for her prowess on the bike, but so is Matthews, who would be her biggest challenger during the 80 km course.
After members of Matthews’ team downplayed Findlay’s win at Canadian National Time Trial Championships earlier this year, Findlay said on That Triathlon Life podcast that she would gladly go head-to-head with Matthews on the bike. Findlay proved her abilities, setting a pace Moench nor Matthews could match.
Findlay went from strength to strength, holding a 3:50min/km pace on the run and growing her lead throughout the run. Taking the win and all six available points for Team International, Findlay won with a gap of over six minutes and said she “never really took her foot off the gas all day.”
“I’m very happy…I didn’t feel great but I was pushing really hard all day,” Findlay said.
Matthews finished second, struggling to hold back emotions in the final kilometre, while Moench finished third.
The most anticipated match was between Lionel Sanders, Sam Long and Team Europe’s Sam Laidlow. The PTO has a reputation for fanning the flames of any rivalry and it was Laidlow and Long who found themselves in the fire. After Laidlow’s trash talk went too far, Long stormed out of a press interview and, needless to say, Long came into the race with a point to prove.
Unsurprisingly, Laidlow took the lead on the swim from the gun, setting a pace neither Sanders nor Long attempted to follow. Laidlow came out of the water with an incredible three minute lead but, with Sanders and Long sharing the chase work on the bike, the catch was inevitable.
The match continued to captivate during the run with an early attack from Long at the three kilometre mark. Sanders didn’t seem to respond initially but, dropping Laidlow from his shoulder, it was clear Sanders was still in the game. It wasn’t long until Sanders and Long were together again. Behind them, Laidlow’s race crumbled as he slowed to a walk while holding his stomach. Although he manages to start running again, he faces Sanders and Long on an out and back section and, looking completely broken and dejected, makes an unreciprocated attempt at eye contact— it’s clear Long’s message has been sent.
In a thrilling finish, Sanders sprinted to the line to take the win earning Team International 4.5 points. Sanders might have taken the win but it seemed like a victory for both Long and Sanders. Referencing the drama with Laidlow, Sanders stated during the finish line interview that he and Long “were both on the same team [for] this one.” Sanders acknowledged Laidlow’s swim and effort on the bike but added that the events before the race “got a little too personal.” Long added that, for him, his performance was statement about “respect” and that “I think [Laidlow] learned his lesson here.”
While the two admitted to working together, Long explained that it was only to derive the best performance out of one another. “When Lionel and I work together, the strategy is to inflict as much pain as possible on each other so it’s not exactly fun teamwork. It’s kind of like let’s kill each other and see who crosses the finish line first.”
Laidlow managed to finish 29:11 behind Sanders.
It was no surprise Haug took the match win but the three athletes stayed closer than many other matches for the first half of the race. It wasn’t until the 40 km point on the bike that Haug took control and maintained her lead until the finish. American Jackie Hering would get a penalty after a helmet infraction on the bike, but Jewett put together the best race of her career on a major stage, taking second to Haug in her match, finishing 1:45 behind the 2019 world champion to ensure Haug didn’t gain the maximum number of points.
Laundry came to defend his match win from 2021 but ultimately it was no surprise Gustav Iden would take the win for Team Europe. Matt Hanson of Team USA would finish second, Laundry third.
The Final Scores
Team Europe would defend their title and dominate again with 53 points. Team International, that included the four participating Canadians who contributed a total of 10.5 points collectively, would finish second with 38 points. Team USA finished with a total of 22.5 points.
For the full results from the PTO Collins Cup, click here.