Byron Bay’s Sam Appleton has pulled together one of his strongest performances to date to take home 6th amongst a world class field at the 2020 PTO Championships in Daytona, Florida on Monday morning.
Up against one of the strongest professional fields assembled in recent years, Appleton clawed his way back from a tough swim to earn himself a Top 10 finish at the Daytona International Speedway.
Speaking to Triathlon Australia, Appleton said that he felt confident in himself heading into the race, following one of his strongest training blocks of his career.
“It was just great to be able to get out and race again after so long of a break from racing,” Appleton said.
“I was a little unsure of the race fitness, which is a lot different than training fitness, but I just backed myself and I had confidence in my training that I would be able to deliver on race day.”
“I had a relatively poor swim, but that was offset but some of the best bike legs I have ever had. I was actually surprised I rode to the front so quickly, but once I was there i wanted to try and see if we could split it up a little and perhaps hurt the legs of the faster runners.”
In a tightly contested affair, the short course experts shone from the start with Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), Henri Schoeman (RSA), Vincent Luis (FRA) and Javier Gomez (ESP) all making their intentions of a podium finish clear from the outset.
Only slightly trailing behind the leaders out of the water, it was apparent that both Appleton and fellow Australian Joe Gambles would need to work hard on the bike if they wanted a chance at a strong finish.
Appleton wasted no time in getting to work, putting together an exceptional bike leg to reel in the leaders and secure himself a position inside the Top 5 for the majority of the time trial style bike leg.
Heading into T2 in second, Appleton dug deep to remain in the mix for a Top 10 finish. Taking advantage of penalties awarded to his toughest competitors, Jonathan Brownlee and Luis, as well as a fatiguing field, Appleton hung tough to secure himself 6th place overall. While fellow Australian Gambles maintained his mid-pack position to finish 26th overall, behind winner Gustav Iden (NOR).
Australia’s Sarah Crowley, Carrie Lester and Renee Kiley left it all out on the track as they fought tooth and nail in a strung out and competitive women’s race.
Crowley, Lester and Kiley found themselves playing catch up for most of the race. After a challenging swim, Crowley and Lester got to work on the bike, making up for lost ground to pull themselves up to position just outside of the Top 10, while Kiley lay down some of the fastest bike splits of the day to maintain her position.
Feeling the effects of the physically demanding time trial bike course, Lester and Crowley pushed through on the run, to finish in 23rd and 24th, respectively, with Kiley in 31st.
Canadian Paula Findlay gave the field a bike and run masterclass with the 2012 Olympian laying down a blistering pace to secure herself the 2020 title, more than four minutes ahead of her nearest competitor, Anne Haug (GER).