The PTO Tour US Open in Milwaukee was more than just another race; it was a masterclass in strategy, endurance, and sheer willpower. The push and pull between athletes throughout the event created an electric atmosphere. Here's an in-depth breakdown of the race and its pivotal moments.
The Swim: Brandon Sets the Tone
As the race commenced, Lauren Brandon made her intentions clear. Recognized for her swimming prowess with the title PTO Swim Rank #3, Brandon effectively utilized her swim pace to fracture the field right from the start. With a strong surge, she gained a lead of about 30 seconds over her closest competitors, Taylor Knibb and Rebecca Clarke.
However, behind Brandon, an intense battle was brewing. Athletes like Haley Chura and Holly Lawrence, closely trailed by Gentle and Salthouse, emerged from the water within two minutes of Brandon. Such narrow margins underlined the fierce competition and the importance of transition phases in triathlons.
Biking: Knibb Takes Charge
Exiting the waters, the athletes swiftly transitioned to the bike. Here, Taylor Knibb's expertise shone brightly. Knibb bridged the gap to Brandon and soon took the lead. As she pedaled forward, she managed to grow her lead, forcing others to rethink their strategies.
But it wasn’t just about Knibb. Lucy Byram, the young British contender ranked at PTO World #36, delivered a shockwave through the event by catapulting herself from the 10th position to the 2nd during the bike leg.
Run: The Deciding Phase
As the athletes transitioned from bikes to the final leg, the run, the anticipation was palpable. With Knibb leading by 1:27, followed closely by Byram and Findlay, the stage was set for a nail-biting finish.
Ashleigh Gentle, despite her initial setbacks, displayed an impeccable running pace. In the first 5 kilometers itself, she managed to shave off almost a minute from her 3-minute deficit. This impressive feat placed her comfortably in the second position.
However, Taylor Knibb, with her unyielding spirit, managed to hold off the fierce competition. Even as Gentle narrowed down the gap to 51 seconds, it was Knibb who crossed the finish line first, in a triumphant 3:32:58.
The Winners Circle
The final results of the PTO Tour US Open Women's 2023 were as follows:
- Taylor Knibb (USA) - 3:32:58 - $100,000 prize
- Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) - 3:33:49 - $50,000 prize
- Paula Findlay (CAN) - 3:37:43 - $35,000 prize
- Lucy Byram (GBR) - $20,000 prize
- Holly Lawrence (GBR) - $14,000 prize
In an emotional post-race interview, Knibb revealed the challenges she faced during the race and how Jan Frodeno, the previous day's winner, inspired her to believe in herself. Her heartfelt sentiment resonated with many, emphasizing the trials and tribulations athletes undergo.
Acknowledging the Competition
Second-placed Gentle, though visibly disappointed, graciously acknowledged Knibb's superiority on the race day. Paula Findlay, capturing the third spot, expressed her relief and pride in securing a podium finish, especially considering the heightened competitiveness of the event.