As long as you stand on the top of the podium at the end of the day, it’s quite easy, I would say, to still be friends,” said PTO World #1 Kristian Blummenfelt, when asked how easy it is to remain friends with his great buddy and fellow Norwegian Gustav Iden, whilst competing against him.
Iden, PTO World #3, responded by saying: “I think it’s not like you forget that you’re friends out there. But I think the will to win is strong in both of us. So I don’t think we will give each other too much slack. When things get really tough towards the end, I think all logic goes out the window and you just want to finish first.”
Paula Ready as Canada Expects
Paula Findlay has very much been the face of the event to date, alongside her Canadian compatriot Lionel Saunders.
“I’m trying not to let [the pressure] really get to me and try to use it more as excitement than nerves,” said a focused Findlay.
“It’s really cool to be back in Edmonton. The last time I raced here was 2015… so I know the roads really well and it’s really fun to see my face and Lionel’s face all over the city on the banners… and I’m just trying to use that to get me excited to race.”
“I think it’s a really unique course. It’s very technical… it kind-of looks like a World Cup ITU circuit with lots of corners, lots of climbing, lots of descending. So I think it’ll make for an interesting race and no-one knows what to expect so it’s a cool course.”
Lionel was quick to praise the strength of a stacked men’s field but also displayed a steely determination – and a smile.
“These guys to my right and Brownlee as well, obviously, are the best guys in the world, truly. So it would mean more than anything I’ve accomplished in my career [to win the race], most definitely.”
“Early on in my career, I was so bad at swimming that there was only one option and that was ride the bike as hard as you possibly can to get back in the race and hopefully soften the legs for the run. Then I got my swim better and I was doing OK. Then these guys came around and they’re extremely well-rounded so I really only have one option to win and it is to make the bike insanely hard. Unfortunately, or fortunately if you like suffering, that’s the way I will have to race for the remainder of my career.”
“It’s not that fun finishing second, I’ve got lots of seconds. I would like to be gunning for the win so there’s only one way to do it and it’s to absolutely destroy the bike. Yes the back-half of the run gets extremely painful because of it, but that’s part of the game plan.”
All American Hering Gunning for Victory
American Jackie Hering also paid tribute to the press conference show of strength and the rest of the field she finds herself competing against in Alberta this weekend. But was equally confident in our own abilities. The PTO World #12 saying:
“I’m not going to lie, there’s an extremely intimidating list of people at this race, in the women’s race and the men’s race. I just think it’s amazing the amount of Olympians and champions. Even just sitting up here with these guys I’m like, ‘how am I possibly sitting up here?’. But it’s important for me to try not to think about that and just focus on my own race and controlling how I execute my race, which I do feel confident in doing, and just not worry about everyone else.”
PTO World #3 Laura Philipp was taking strength from her record performance in Kraichgau earlier this year: “I was super proud of my performance and seeing how close I got to that record, of course…it also set the seed into my mind that maybe one day I really want to go for it.”
Just In Time Brownlee
Double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee admitted that he’d only made the decision to race on Monday this week:
“I feel healthy, although maybe not that fit. I only made a very last minute decision to come actually on Monday. But I’m absolutely delighted to be here. I’m happy to be injury free and looking forward to racing as hard as I can and just enjoying it.
Brownlee, who needs a good performance this week to put himself in the frame for a Collins Cup captain’s pick, also took a moment to step back and talk to the significance of the first-ever PTO Tour event.
“I also think it’s a great opportunity to support this first event of the PTO Tour, which I think is a fantastic project and I felt like it was important to be here from that aspect as well. I’ve been a triathlete since I was 8 years old and when I was 16 I remember sat in a careers class in school… you’re going along the table: I want to be a brain surgeon, I want to be a lawyer or whatever, and I said, ‘I want to be a professional triathlete,’ and the teacher said, ‘Is that even possible, boy?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know to be honest but I’m going to give it a go.”
“Nearly 20 years later, I have managed to be a professional triathlete. But still, I think there’s a long way that triathlon can go in terms of commercialising the sport and providing opportunities for exposure and earning for elite athletes especally in the long-distance side of it.”
“There are some phenomenal athletes and I think there are great stories to be told, there are great athletes to watch and for fans to follow and there needs to be a format to do that. I think the PTO is bringing that and pushing up every other organisation’s game around it.”
Emma Pallant-Browne was last to go. The PTO World #8 reflecting on her experiences in Miami earlier this year when she recorded a DNF:
“I’ve passed out in races and training before but that was by far one of the worst experiences. I was quite ill the week following up and had a lot of tests and it was clear that if I wanted to keep pushing my body like this I had to make some big changes. And one of those big changes came from a call with Precision Hydration, with Andy Blow [Precision Hydration Co-Founder] and the team. It was being proactive – as a triathlete it’s going to be really hard to avoid hot races – it’s the sport we do, it’s a summer sport. It’s putting things in place nutrition wise, hydration wise and also even tactically how I race. So even preloading on my sodium and I’ve pretty much times five-ed everything I was drinking before in terms of concentrations and I went into the races after that feeling confident.”
Turning her thoughts towards the PTO Canadian Open, she said:
“It’s an incredible event, an incredible thing to be a part of the first one. To win? I don’t think there would be many words to describe it. The quality of the fields here… there’s so many people with so much potential and it’s going to make for a really exciting event.”