The strongest women’s field the PTO Pro Tour has seen to date lined up in Dallas, Texas, and right off the pontoon, Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) took the lead. Even without a speed suit for the non-wetsuit 2 km swim, Charles-Barclay set a pace only USA’s Taylor Knibb could follow.
Thirty-seconds behind, Sara Perez Sala (ESP) led out the large chase pack which was full of all the favourites, including Paula Findlay (CAN), Flora Duffy (BER), Katrina Mathews (GBR) and Ashleigh Gentle (AUS).
After two laps, Charles-Barclay was first out of the water in 27:01 with Knibb right behind her. Rebecca Clarke (AUS) brought in the chase pack in 28:01 with Duffy, Fenella Langridge (GBR), Ellie Salthouse (AUS), Holly Lawrence (GBR) and Findlay. Notably, race favourite and world ranked number four, Mathews was missing, coming in later and losing 3:45 to the leaders.
Charles-Barclay was first out of transition, but, with a mechanical issue keeping her in the hardest gear for two laps, Knibb took the lead only a few kilometres into the 80 km bike. After getting a new gear battery from the mechanic, Charles-Barclay problems were still not over when she lost her nutrition and then dropped another bottle later on.
There was a lot of movement in the main pack behind as the women got onto the bike course. Lawrence, Findlay, Duffy and Lisa Norden (SWE) made up the first chase pack with Lawrence and Findlay doing the vast, if not all, of the work. Sarissa De Vries (NED) managed to bridge up to the group in the closing kilometres with the next pack, that included Gentle, a further thirty-seconds back. The course proved to be a fast one with the majority of the women maintaining an average speed of 48-50km/hr, but it was only Knibb who clocked a split under the two hour mark.
With three gels in her hand, Knibb got out of T2 and straight to work setting a fast pace for the five lap 18 km run. Charles-Barclay had a slower transition, even taking on water, while the main chase pack flew in and flew out, jostling for position.
It looked like it was just going to be a fight for third between the chase group but Gentle, just as she did in Edmonton, had run legs like no other athlete on the course. Working her way through the field with paces around the 3:18 min/km while the rest of the contending field running around 3:37 pace, the Australian seemed to be on another level. The race really started to heat up—literally—with 10 km to go when everyone seemed to start visibly suffer from the high temperatures. Knibb was seen walking twice, and everyone’s paces began to slow significantly. Everyone, that is, except Gentle.
With 2.7 km to go, closing down almost a seven-minute gap, Gentle ran herself into the lead. Although her poker face started to crack from the intensity of the heat, it was replaced with a smile as she crossed the finish line for her second PTO victory of the season after 3:37:18 of racing.
“I absolutely did not expect to win,” Gentle said in post-race interview. “I wasn’t thinking about Taylor’s time split, I didn’t want to know…I kept telling myself it’s not that hot, but it is very hot! I just tried to manage my pacing well and I guess it paid off.”
Knibb, clearly overheated, finished second while Charles-Barclay completed the podium. Canada’s Findlay finished 10th with fellow Canadians Rach McBride in 13th, and Tamara Jewett in 16th.
- Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 3:31:18
- Taylor Knibb (USA) +1:15
- Lucy Charles-Barclay +3:13