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Lucy Charles-Barclay, Jan Frodeno lead Team Europe to Collins Cup win

Team Europe won the inaugural Collins Cup, followed by Team US in second and Team Internationals in third

The first-ever Collins Cup took place in Šamorín, Slovakia, on Saturday, and it was a thrilling and entertaining affair. Team Europe powered to the win in exciting fashion, taking the top spot with 42.5 points to beat second-place Team US (31.5 points) and Team Internationals (25.5 points). The event featured a unique format that made for a full day of racing, teaming rivals together and pitting short-course and Olympic athletes against 70.3 and Ironman champions.

The event format

The Collins Cup field was broken into 12 groups of three called matches (six for women, six for men), each consisting of one athlete from the three teams. Each match was its own mini-event, meaning it didn’t matter who had the fastest overall time of the day — instead, athletes were tasked with winning their individual matches.

The athletes swam 2 km, biked 80 km and ran 18 km, and they earned points for their teams based on where they finished in their matches. A match win was an automatic three points, with second place winning two and third getting one. From there, athletes could still boost their scores, with half a point being awarded for every two minutes they finished ahead of their competitors (with a cap of three additional points per athlete).

The women

Going into the race, the biggest unknowns were Americans Taylor Knibb and Katie Zaferes, both of whom are short-course athletes. Knibb had only run one long-course race before Saturday (70.3 Boulder just a few weeks ago, where she finished second), and Zaferes hadn’t ever raced past the Olympic distance of 1,500m-40K-10K. Everyone was curious to see how the pair of Americans would fare in an event essentially double the distance they’re used to.

Both women got out to hot starts in the swim, with Knibb breaking away from multiple world champion Daniela Ryf of Switzerland early on. Zaferes managed to get on the feet of Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay, where she stayed for the remainder of the swim. It was to be expected that, as short-course athletes, Knibb and Zaferes would have good swims, but the question after T1 was whether they would be able to survive a bike with the giants of long-course racing.

Riding a road bike with clip-on aero bars (everyone else raced TT bikes) Knibb quickly proved that she can ride with anyone, not only maintaining her lead on Ryf, but extending it. She ultimately finished the ride with the fastest bike split of the day, and despite that tremendous effort, she still had the legs to fly to the win on the run. Knibb won the race in 3:30:11, which was the fastest time among the women.

In Match #2, Zaferes stuck with Charles-Barclay for much of the ride, but she faded near the end, and Charles-Barclay entered T2 with a healthy lead of more than a minute. Canada’s Paula Findlay was also part of this trio, and while she had the fastest bike split of Match #2, she was unable to make up enough time on Charles-Barclay for it to be a tight race heading onto the run. Charles-Barclay proceeded to drop a 1:06:01 run split, earning her the win and second-fastest result of the day in 3:33:46. Zaferes finished in second and Findlay crossed the line in third.

Another big matchup in the women’s race was between Holly Lawrence of Great Britain and Ellie Salthouse of Australia. The two have developed a rivalry in years past, and the triathlon world was excited to see them go head to head on Saturday. They didn’t disappoint, swimming side by side for almost the entire 2K and biking within seconds of each other for most of the ride.

Then, in the last 2K of the bike, Lawrence lost control as she rounded a turn and crashed. She was able to continue racing, but by the time she got back on her bike, Salthouse and Skye Moench of Team US were well ahead of her. Salthouse won their match, with Moench finishing second and Lawrence crossing in third. After her win, Salthouse said she was disappointed to see Lawrence crash.

“I was really looking forward to the foot race with her,” she said. “Winning doesn’t feel quite as good when someone goes down like that.”

The men

As many expected him to do, Germany’s Jan Frodeno ran a dominant race on Saturday, winning his match by close to five minutes and posting the best time of the day at 3:13:08. He battled with Australia’s Sam Appleton throughout the swim and bike, but once they hit the run course, the three-time Ironman world champion could not be stopped. Frodeno ended up putting more than four minutes between him and Appleton over the 18K run, and he pushed himself to his limit until the very end.

“It’s a team competition,” Frodeno said after the race. “You don’t want to let them down. Every point counts.” Frodeno’s teammate Gustav Iden of Norway also had a stellar day, posting the event’s second-fastest time at 3:13:28.

In Match #9, Canada’s Lionel Sanders stuck with Andrew Starykowicz of Team US in the swim, but he suffered a crash early on in the bike. Fortunately, he and his bike were OK, and Sanders managed to chase Starykowicz down and take the win in his match. Germany’s Sebastian Kienle, who was well back after both the swim and the bike, posted the fastest run split of the match, beating the American but failing to catch Sanders.

There were 12 matches in total (Canada’s Jackson Laundry won the 12th and final match in a late surge past Great Britain’s Joe Skipper), but Team Europe only needed 10 to win the inaugural Collins Cup. Denmark’s Daniel Bækkegard flew to the win in his match against Ben Kanute of the U.S., sealing the deal for the Europeans.

For full results from the Collins Cup, click here.