Team Europe triumphed in a spectacular Collins Cup, successfully defending their title of a year ago from a powerful Team International and united Team US.
Winning eight of the 12 match-ups, Team Europe once again won the ‘battle of triathlon’ and claimed the prestigious Collins Cup trophy.
Team Europe got off to a stellar start with PTO World #1 Daniela Ryf – who raced despite shingles a year ago – had the race she was truly capable of to seal the fastest women’s time of the day, beating Olympic Champion Flora Duffy in the process.
Another key match-up was Kristian Blummenfelt’s domination – the PTO World #1 and Olympic, World Triathlon and Ironman World Champion adding the fastest time at the Collins Cup to his resume.
Much of the talk in the build-up to today’s race had centred on the exchanges between Team Europe’s Sam Laidlow and Team US’s Sam Long – who had agreed to disagree as pre-match exchanges reached boiling point following Thursday night’s Opening Ceremony.
That match provided compelling viewing as Sanders and Long wiped out a huge swim deficit to Laidlow on the bike before overtaking on the run. From there, it was an epic shoulder-to-shoulder battle that could only be decided by an all-out sprint to the finish in which Sanders clinched victory for Team International.
The final scores at the X-Bionic Sphere of 53 for Team Europe, 38 for Team International and 22.5 for Team US, meaning that Team International could pass the Broken Spokes trophy.
The 12 match-ups went head-to-head-to-head over 100km – a 2km swim, 80km bike and 18km run. Here is a rundown of how it played out in Samorin along with key quotes from the finish line.
Daniela Ryf (EUR) vs Sarah True (US) vs Flora Duffy (INT)
After initially holding onto Flora Duffy’s feet, Daniela Ryf and Sarah True were left to swim together as Duffy motored away. That equalled a 25-second lead to Ryf and True out the water, a lead that extended to over 30 seconds thanks to Duffy’s swift transition.
Soon Ryf had Duffy in her sights while True couldn’t hold with the pace of the Team Europe athlete. By halfway through the bike leg, in classic Ryf style, the Swiss Miss was 1:39 ahead of the Olympic Champion with Sarah True almost three minutes behind. Ryf’s charge continued unchallenged, the PTO World #1 creating a seemingly insurmountable buffer of 5:37 to Duffy and 6:48 to True.
While Duffy did bite some time from her deficit at first, Ryf remained incredibly strong to win in 3:28:50, some 6:58 ahead of Duffy and 11:30 ahead of True to claim a full six points.
Score: EUR – 6 / US – 1 / INT – 3
Key Quote: Daniela Ryf
“It feels really amazing to be coming back after last year I could perform well in all three and feel like I’m a complete athlete again. When I got to the last km I heard it was 5s over 5 min so I pushed as hard as I could to try to get the max 6 points.
“Last year I raced while I was sick. I had blisters all over my legs, I had shingles and you obviously can’t race like that. This morning I went for a jog and my heart rate was about 30 beats lower than last year.”
Laura Philipp (EUR) vs Chelsea Sodaro (US) vs Ashleigh Gentle (INT)
Mirroring Match 1, Ashleigh Gentle took the lead in the water with Chelsea Sodaro and Laura Philip tucked in closely behind. It wasn’t long before the Australian pulled ahead to create a margin of just over a minute after the 2km was done.
Philip had closed the gap to 40 seconds by 40km in, with Sodaro 3:12 behind. The German soon made the junction to Gentle and took the lead going on to press her advantage to 54 seconds by T2. Sodaro meanwhile was struggling at 10 minutes off the pace.
Gentle, winner of the recent PTO Canadian Open, quickly ran down the German and took back her lead. From there it was plain sailing for the Australian, going on to win in 3:30:51. Laura Philip managed to keep her deficit to 2:32 while Sodaro was over 15-minutes back.
Score: EUR – 3.5 / US – 1 / INT – 5
Kat Matthews (EUR) vs Sky Moench (US) vs Paula Findlay (INT)
With Paula Findlay swimming to the front, Team International were once again leading in Match 3. The Canadian managed to eke out 21 seconds to Kat Matthews and a minute to Sky Moench. Findlay wasted no time on two wheels – piling on the pressure to create a gap to the chasers.
By halfway, Findlay had a lead of 2:03 to Matthews, who had Moench right behind her. That buffer continued to grow, Findlay running out of T2 with 4:22 in hand to Moench and 5:24 to Matthews, who appeared to be having less than her usual bike strength.
Findlay remained super strong throughout the 18km run to take the tape in 3:31:10, taking maximum points with a 6:46 lead to Matthews and 7:30 to Moench.
Score: EUR – 2 / US – 1 / INT – 6
Nicola Spirig (EUR) vs Sophie Watts (US) vs Vittoria Lopes (INT)
With Lopes’ swimming pedigree, there was no doubt it would be pole position once again for Team International in the swim. The Brazilian came into T1 with a 25-second lead to double-Olympic medallist Nicola Spirig with Sophie Watts over two minutes behind.
In her last international triathlon competition, Nicola Spirig showed she wasn’t here to make up the numbers by charging to the front of her match and taking a lead of 2:24 to Lopes by halfway and 4:03 to Watts.
The Swiss superstar reached T2 with a lead of 4:49 to Watts and didn’t let up for a moment, rounding off her international career with a sensational win some 16:32 ahead of Lopes. Meanwhile, Watts was forced to withdraw.
Score: EUR – 6 / US – 1 / INT – 3.5
Key Quote: Nicola Spirig
“I was pretty nervous. I felt pretty good but didn’t know what to expect. I had the extra pressure from the team. I was nervous but came out of the water and was 25 seconds behind Lopes and knew I could make that.
“I was really keen to show I was the right pick and I deserved the spot and I’m really happy I’ve helped the team to have a good performance.
“I’m just happy to have a good performance in my last international race and it’s nice to go out like that.”
Holly Lawrence (EUR) vs Jocelyn McCauley (US) vs Ellie Salthouse (INT)
Team Europe were first out of the water in Match 5, Holly Lawrence leading but with Team International’s Ellie Salthouse just six seconds behind. Team US’s Jocelyn McCauley – the second-fastest biker here last year – was only 1:04 down. The American continued to make inroads and took the lead just after the halfway mark. Lawrence managed to stick closely to McCauley, the pair dropping Salthouse convincingly.
Once on the run, it was Lawrence’s day. The Brit ruled the run to cross the line in 3:33:10, 4:33 ahead of McCauley and a massive 13:18 ahead of Salthouse, who had a tough race but pushed on to the end.
Score: EUR – 5.5 / US – 3.5 / INT – 1
Anne Haug (EUR) vs Jackie Hering (US) vs Tamara Jewett (INT)
In perhaps one of the most evenly-weighted match-ups, there was nothing to separate Anne Haug, Jackie Hering and Tamara Jewett out of the water. That status quo remained throughout the bike, all three women entering transition within 15 seconds of one another.
From there Haug steadily moved away over the 18km, proving herself the sport’s best runner once again to cross the line in 3:33:57, 1:44 ahead of Jewett and 5:23 ahead of Hering.
Score: EUR – 4 / US – 1 / INT – 2.5
Key Quote: Anne Haug
“My main goal was to stick with the girls on the swim because I’m with them in T1 then everything is in my hands and it was. Jackie did a great job on the bike until the turning point and then I took control and then just wanted to run fast.”
Kristian Blummenfelt (EUR) vs Ben Kanute (US) vs Hayden Wilde (INT)
With an expectation that Team US’s Ben Kanute would lead from the water, it was a little surprising to see Hayden Wilde right behind him and Olympic Champion Kristian Blummenfelt just five seconds behind.
While Kanute initially pushed the pace on the bike, he was never out of sight of his competitors. Blummenfelt took the lead around 50km in and didn’t look back, reaching T2 with a 1:45 buffer to Kanute and 5:05 for Wilde. Keeping the pressure on during the run leg, Blummenfelt’s lead ballooned while Wilde tracked down Kanute to move into second at around 8km in.
The Olympic Champion, Ironman World Champion and World Triathlon Champion stormed to victory in 3:09:19 setting a benchmark for the other men to follow. Wilde was over eight minutes behind with Kanute nearly 12 minutes back.
Score: EUR – 6 / US – 1 / INT – 2.5
Key Quote: Kristian Blummenfelt
“It’s tough to come from sprint distance to 100km but I knew that Hayden was one of the ones who could do it. That’s why I stayed behind until 50km or so on the bike because that’s when it starts to get hard and was super stoked with my run legs.
“The support out on the course was giving me a little bit more energy and it’s such a great place.”
Sam Laidlow (EUR) vs Sam Long (US) vs Lionel Sanders (INT)
In a match that had courted controversy before even a toe was dipped in the water. Team Europe’s Sam Laidlow went out fast to immediately distance Sam Long and Lionel Sanders, scything through the water to create a lead of 3:17 after the 2km swim.
By halfway into the 80km bike, Laidlow was 2:37 ahead of Sanders who was sitting just in front of Long, the pair switching turns through. By 53km, the Frenchman’s lead was down to just 1:33 and still narrowing. By T2, Sanders and Long had Laidlow in their sights and indeed pushed past him in the first kilometer. From there Long and Sanders were running shoulder to shoulder as Laidlow was eventually forced to walk, clutching his stomach.
Long surged around halfway through the run to create a gap, but the elastic never truly snapped with Sanders getting back up to the American. In the end, it was a sprint finish between the pair that decided the match, Sanders outpacing Long as they entered the stadium to clinch the match in 3:12:25, Long just two seconds back.
Laidlow would eventually finish nearly 30 minutes behind, helped along by match 11’s Gustav Iden.
Score: EUR – 1 / US – 3.5 / INT – 4.5
Key Quote: Lionel Sanders
“Not bad for a couple of duathletes! It was deeply personal for me too. I told Sam, let’s put this guy in his place. I like Sam Laidlow but I think it got too personal, so I think we were on the same team on this one.
“This is totally next level. We were both here last year and it’s going in the right direction and we’re showing the world and people are excited about it.”
Key Quote: Sam Long
“I had absolutely no option but to back this up. The song in my head was Aretha Franklin R. E. S. P. E. C. T. When Lionel and I are working together the strategy is to inflict as much pain on each other as possible.
“Better just to do what you got to do and get the job done.
“I think he learnt his lesson here and think some respect is due but the race is done, we’ll have a beer and we’ll become friends and Sam will have to buy all of the rounds!”
Key Quote: Sam Laidlow
“I knew I’d come out with a lead on the swim but I got onto the bike and my stomach wasn’t taking on any nutrition. I don’t want to make excuses but it just wasn’t my day. Once I stopped for the toilet four or five times, towards the end I started to feel OK again so there’s still hope I guess!
“They beat me and were better today. There will be other races. I can’t predict how I would have done if it wasn’t for that, they were just better guys today. II’m definitely hungry to have another shot, it’s just fuel to the fire. I’ll be back.
On embrace at end with Sam Long
“I appreciated that [the embrace] and their respect. They’ve got more experience than me and achieved a lot more, so it was nice to share some kind words even after my failure.”
Magnus Ditlev (EUR) vs Rudy Von Berg (US) vs Max Neumann (INT)
It was no surprise to see Aussie Max Neumann lead from the water with Team US’s Rudy Von Berg right behind. What was a surprise was the stellar swim of Team Europe’s Magnus Ditlev, the Danish superstar just 18-seconds adrift.
Ditlev was in the lead by 20km into the bike and had built a gap of 1:26 by halfway to Von Berg and 3:38 to Neumann. The Dane’s advantage was 3:49 at the start of the run, a lead that would only grow. By 9km in, Ditlev was over five minutes clear of the American with Neumann struggling more than 12 minutes back.
Continuing to stride towards the finish, Ditlev crossed the line in 3:13:31, taking maximum points 7:20 ahead of Von Berg and 11:20 ahead of Neumann.
Score: EUR – 6 / US – 3 / INT – 1
Patrick Lange (EUR) vs Jason West (US) vs Aaron Royle (INT)
Aaron Royle was another Team International athlete to create a gap in the water, the Aussie besting Patrick Lange and Jason West by nearly two-and-a-half minutes. By halfway, that lead was still holding at 2:39 to Lange (who had a 10-second penalty due to crossing the bike mount line early) and 3:28 to West.
By T2, Royle had edged out his lead to Lange while West lost more time, coming off the bike more than six minutes down. Showcasing the talent that had bagged him a Captains’ Pick for Team International, Royle cruised ahead while Lange suffered, West gaining moving to second after halfway.
Royle stormed to a powerful win in 3:17:30, 4:52 ahead of West with Lange bringing it in – Team Europe’s victory confirmed – 6:24 behind.
Score: EUR – 1 / US – 2 / INT – 5.5
Key Quote: Aaron Royle
“I think especially for me I prefer a bit of a dynamic course where there are some hills so it made for a really hard day. I knew I had to swim hard which I did and when I put myself in that position I knew there’s no looking back now. At times it’s just playing with your mind that you’re starting to slow down or they’ll start catching you. And thinking they are catching you when you turn around on those long straights and seem closer than they are.”
Gustav Iden (EUR) vs Matt Hanson (US) vs Jackson Laundry (INT)
Gustav Iden and Matt Hanson were neck and neck in the water, keeping Team US in the game. Meanwhile, Jackson Laundry was 1:27 behind – a rare slower swim for Team International. It didn’t take long for Iden to assert his dominance – 1:23 ahead at 20km, 2:21 at 40km and 4:57 by the dismount line.
On the run, he was imperious, his natural running style propelling him to maximum points. Along the way, Iden collected fellow Team Europe member Sam Laidlow, who’d rallied to hold with the Norwegian’s pace.
Iden took the tape in 3:11:32, the winning streak of his lucky hat intact, 7:46 ahead of Hanson and 21:16 ahead of Laundry, who fought valiantly to reach the finish line.
Score: EUR – 6 / US – 3.5 / INT – 1
Daniel Baekkegard (EUR) vs Chris Leiferman (US) vs Braden Currie (INT)
True to form, Daniel Baekkegard put in a storming swim to give himself an advantage of 42 seconds to Braden Currie and 3:01 to Chris Leiferman.
From there, it was a solo day for the Dane, who ripped through the bike course to extend his advantage to 5:14 and 9:12 on the Team International and Team US athletes respectively.
There was no way back for Baekkegard’s competitors during the 18km run as the Team Europe athlete didn’t let up for a second to ensure maximum points in the final match. Baekkegard crossed the finish line to close out the Collins Cup in 3:13:52, 7:48 ahead of Currie and 10:49 clear of Leiferman.
Score: EUR – 6 / US – 1 / INT – 2.5
Team Europe: 53
Team International: 38
Team US: 22.5
Commenting on a memorable day’s racing, Sam Renouf, PTO CEO said:
“That was brilliant entertainment. From the Sam Long and Lionel Sanders’ sprint finish to Kristian’s domination, to Ashleigh Gentle, Paul Findlay and Daniela Ryf’s supreme displays, it was hairs on the back of your neck stuff. The team dynamic, the performances and the rivalries have contributed to a special event. All played out on a global broadcast platform to fans around the world.
“I am hugely grateful to the athletes for their efforts not just today but throughout a long week – and believe they have taken the second year of the Collins Cup to the next level. It sets it up perfectly for next year!”