Anticipation is sky-high as Milwaukee, Wisconsin prepares to host the PTO U.S. Open, the second race of the 2023 PTO Tour. This blockbuster event, scheduled for the weekend, is set to be one of the largest weekends of triathlon in North America this season with more than 7,000 participants and an estimated 20,000 spectators.
The professional men's race will take place on Friday, August 4th, and the women's race on the following day. With a whopping total prize purse of $600,000, each winner will take home a cool $100,000.
The event, held alongside the USA Triathlon's Age Group National Championships, will feature the standard PTO Tour 100k race distance. The race starts with a 2km wetsuit-legal swim in Lake Michigan, followed by a seven-loop 80km bike ride on Lincoln Memorial Drive, and concludes with an 18km run in Veterans Park.
The Battle of Titans: Men’s Contenders
At the heart of this exhilarating competition, Olympic champions Jan Frodeno and Kristian Blummenfelt will offer a riveting rematch. Still, the large assembly of top-tier athletes – including young talents like Clement Mignon, Trevor Foley, and Frederik Funk, as well as experienced competitors such as Ben Kanute, Lionel Sanders, and Tim O’Donnell – adds an extra layer of unpredictability to the race outcome. Given the incredibly strong field, we are certain of only one thing: a new male champion will emerge at the PTO U.S. Open.
Among the key contenders, Kristian Blummenfelt, Magnus Ditlev, and Jan Frodeno draw significant attention:
Despite being the reigning Olympic and 70.3 world champion, the 29-year-old Norwegian has yet to secure a win in 2023. Blummenfelt's strategy revolves around maintaining the pace, keeping up with the leading pack during the swim and the bike segments, and then outperforming everyone in the run. The Milwaukee race could see him changing his losing streak.
The 25-year-old from Denmark, also known as the "King of Roth," has proved his capabilities beyond being a strong cyclist. Ditlev's recent record-breaking performance at Challenge Roth, where he won the race with a new course record, makes him a strong contender in Milwaukee.
The 41-year-old German, coming back from a long injury break, has proved his unwavering prowess, even at this age. Frodeno is likely to lead most of the race, considering his swimming expertise. However, his ability to maintain a sustained pace during the 18k run will be crucial for him to secure his first significant win of the 2023 season.
A Thrilling Showdown Expected in The Women’s Race
As we count down to the big race on August 5, several key questions are emerging about the top women contenders' performances.
Taylor Knibb vs. Ashleigh Gentle: A Battle of Speed and Stamina
Reigning PTO champion, Ashleigh Gentle, has her sights set on the US Open title once again. But can she outrun the ever-formidable Taylor Knibb? Known for her astonishing running speed, Gentle will be hoping to catch up to Knibb, who could potentially create a substantial lead during the swim-bike portion of the race. The challenge will be whether Gentle can keep pace in the initial stages and whether Knibb can maintain her advantage during the decisive run.
Paula Findlay: A Champion's Cushion
Canadian triathlon star, Paula Findlay, is another strong contender to watch. Her recent crowning as the Canadian time trial champion signals a strong showing on the bike course. However, the question remains: Will her cycling offer enough of a cushion to compensate for her slightly slower swim and run, enabling her to edge ahead of the pack?
Tamara Jewett: A Potential Game-Changer?
Canadian Tamara Jewett, known for her phenomenal running prowess, could be the race's dark horse if she can keep up in the swim. Coming off a victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside, Jewett has demonstrated an improved swim-bike performance. If she can keep her losses minimal in these early stages, she might use her strong running ability to close the gap and even break into the lead pack.
Holly Lawrence: A Persistent Challenger
British triathlete, Holly Lawrence, will be hoping to keep the competition intense. With a track record of podium finishes at similar events, she's shown time and time again that she's a force to be reckoned with. Her challenge will be to sustain her performance across all three sections and keep herself in contention against the leading athletes.
Kat Matthews: A Distance Dilemma?
Another interesting aspect to consider is Kat Matthews' performance at this distance. After her strong second-place finish at the Ironman World Championships in St. George and a stunning performance at the Sub-8 Project, Matthews was involved in a car accident that resulted in severe injuries. While she made a triumphant return to racing with a win at Ironman Texas, she later dropped out at the World Triathlon Long Distance Championships. Her performance in Milwaukee will likely depend on whether she's fully regained her strength and how well she can handle this specific race distance.