The inaugural PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton today saw some of the world’s very best athletes battle it out for a $1m prize purse.
After Ashleigh Gentle took the gold yesterday in the women’s race, Today’s event boasted big headliners in the form of Britain’s most accomplished triathlete Alistair BrownleeOlympic and world champion Kristian Blummenfelt and 70.3 world champion Gustav Iden, along with the likes of American star Lionel Sanders.
In a race of hopes dashed, surprise injuries, and new talent, here’s how it all went down…
What happened in the PTO Canadian Open men’s swim?
As the elite men dove into the water of Hawrelak lake for the start of the 2km swim, three spearhead groups immediately emerged led by USA’s Ben Kanute, Henri Schoeman (GER) and Sam Appleton (AUS).
A group of six managed to hang onto the feet of Schoeman as they strode out the Aussie exit at the end of the first 667m lap, including Brownlee in a slick HUUB swimskin who was back racing today after a substantial break due to injury.
Brownlee said of his hiatus: “right now I’m really happy to be in Edmonton, it was a very last minute decision to be here… I’m physically quite fit, been training hard and consistently for quite a long time with a bit of time off to recover from the injury. The running part is going to be a bit of a struggle I think.”
By mid-way through the swim, Schoeman, who had to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics mid-race due to a foot injury, swam on fine form and had single-handedly created a monumental 49s gap between his six-man entourage and the rest of the field led by Blummenfelt with compatriot Iden just at his feet.
Right on Schoeman’s toes was Aaron Royle of Australia, followed by Brownlee, France’s Sam Laidlow and Kanute, with Kyle Smith (AUS) a few seconds back.
After a total of exactly 25mins in the water, Schoeman was first to emerge with Royle and Brownlee hot on his heels, meanwhile Blummenfelt’s chaser group completed the swim almost a minute later.
What happened in the PTO Canadian Open men’s bike?
After a long run to T1, lead racer Schoeman lost precious seconds in transition after forgetting to take his swimskin off completely. That left Brownlee to push the power on the front of the bike over the initial 900m 5% gradient hill.
A few seconds down from Brownlee were Laidlow, Royle and Schoeman, each sitting just outside the draft zone of each other’s wheels.
As the athletes spun into downtown Edmonton, Brownlee was passed by Laidlow, but remained in his sights, with the two Aussies slowly losing ground 20s back, with the Norweigans remaining around 2mins behind.
Coming into lap two of four at the 20km mark, Brownlee spun past Laidlow again up the initial hill, the two playing cat and mouse taking turns at the front for the entire bike leg.
By mid-way through the ride, Iden and Blummenfelt had made their way up to the fourth and fifth position, 90s behind the front runners, with Germany’s Frederic Funk muscling his way into the top five past Smith.
In the last few minutes of the bike leg, Iden pushed the power to make his way up to the third position, still over a minute behind the front two, and 15s ahead of teammate Blummenfelt.
What happened in the PTO Canadian Open men’s run?
Coming into T2, Brownlee made a rookie mistake by riding right over the dismount line before jumping off his bike, yet craftily managed to avoid a penalty by picking up his bike and running back and forth over it once more.
But it’s just the beginning of Brownlee’s troubles. A few minutes into the 18km run as Laidlow and Brownlee strode across the one bridge on the out-and-back course, Brownlee slowed to a walk clutching his stomach with a painful grimace.
Needing no other invitation, the two Norweigan stars Iden and Blummenfelt sped past and set their sights on tracking down young Laidlow.
By the end of the first 4.5km run lap with the Norweigans only 16s behind the front runner, Blummenfelt suddenly stopped with a clutch at his quadricep, seeming unable to continue.
Iden raced away from his injured teammate and started reeling in Laidlow. As if in a comedy of errors, just as Iden passed the Frenchman, Laidlow also ground to a halt clutching his glute and hamstring, another struck down with supposed cramp.
After raiding the Precision Hydration aid station, Laidlow seemed to revive himself enough to continue his race and maintain second position. Meanwhile, third position Royle’s chased down by Blummenfelt, who went onto overtake Laidlow, seemingly having overcome his quad niggle.
But there’s no stopping Iden, who by half way into the run, had carved out a 1min15s advantage over teammate Blummenfelt. Yet with the stats showing Blummenfelt running 16s per mile faster than Iden, the gap between the two teammates started to become smaller and smaller, but it just wasn’t enough for Blummenfelt.
Who won the men’s 2022 PTO Canadian Open?
With high-fives to the crowd and a relieved smile, Iden crossed the line in a winning time of 3:10:48, immediately collapsing to the floor in exhaustion. Around 30s later, he was joined on the blue carpet by teammate Blummenfelt, with Royle rounding off the podium in third.
Quotes from winner Gustav Iden and runner-up Kristian Blummenfelt
Gustav on his win: “I did a first lap in the front and I thought Kristian would do a bit at the front too. He just got there and I started to get a bit comfortable behind him, but then he suddenly pulled aside with a cramp and I was thinking ‘damn, now I have this, no problem’.
“Then I see him at the turn around back there and he’s actually not that far behind, and he’s gaining on me, and I’m a bit low on energy. The last lap was full on struggle… luckily I managed to keep him behind.”
Blummenfelt on whether he just ran out of time: “I don’t think so, I think he [Iden] timed it well. I was on good form, I just missed it there and I kept cramping up.
“I was happy to be able to come back again into the race and fight for the win at least at the end, and be back on the podium. At one point I thought I’d have to pull out. Then to come back and get second after 17km isn’t too bad I would say.”
Top image: PTO / Eurosport