Paula Findlay retains Challenge Daytona title
“One of those perfect days that never happens… but it did today”. That’s a pretty succinct and accurate summary from Canada’s Paula Findlay, on her Sunday of racing at the inaugural PTO 2020 Championship.
Winner of the (shorter) Challenge Daytona event in 2019, this was a completely different animal. Over $1million on the line and a seriously deep field, the former ITU star of 2011/12, proved that Findlay 2.0 is a serious contender in her new discipline. Fine reward, for battling through many years of injury and doubt when many had written her off her chances at the very top of the sport.
Top-10 out of the swim, off-the bike alongside Lisa Norden (SWE), first onto the run course and never headed (or indeed threatened). It’s tough to pick holes in that performance – hence, Findlay’s immediate post-race comment.
Great Britain’s Lucy Hall, to nobody’s surprise, lead the way in the water (24:15), with Lauren Brandon (24:23), the only athlete to stat close to the speedy Brit. That said, with a chase group, including Nicola Spirig (SUI), Findlay, Pamella Oliverira (BRA), Jeanni Seymour (RSA), Lisa Norden (SWE) and a British trio of Holly Lawrence, Jodie Stimpson and Fenella Langridge less than 45 seconds back on Hall, that advantage was never going to be decisive.
With such a strong start from Spirig, the Swiss 2012 Olympic Champion looked to be in perfect position, given her well-regarded strength on the bike and run, but sometimes things don’t go to script. I can’t remember the last time (ever?) that I saw Spirig losing time on the bike, but, first time for everything I guess.
Hall’s cycling prowess can be overlooked, and in Florida she was in no mood to drift backwards through the field. Fenella Langridge and Holly Lawrence were also riding well. A little further back in the swim, Kimberley Morrison was making progress through the field too, no doubt relishing the time-trial friendly environment of the Daytona International Speedway.
By T2, Norden (who would soon be out of the race on the run through injury) and Findlay arrived together, followed by Morrison (+2:07), Hall (+3:05), and then a lose grouping over the next 90 seconds, which included Langridge, Lawrence, Brandon, Oliveriera, Amelia Watkinson (NZL) and the fast-running German duo of Anne Haug and Laura Philipp.
Haug’s four minute deficit to Findlay looked tough but, perhaps, possible… but would be made much harder, as she had to serve a two-minute drafting penalty.
Findlay was quickest through T2 to take the lead from the London 2012 Silver medal winner, Norden, and was never headed. Behind, Haug kept calm and did was she does best – running incredibly well in triathlon competition – and stormed through from 13th. While she was closing the gap throughout, it looked like it would be enough, and at the front, Findlay maintained her pace, rhythm and composure.
While it matter not, the final winning margin of 2:36 should remove that ‘what if’ question. Paula thoroughly deserved victory, while Haug was also gracious and professional when interviewed immediately post-race.
More from Daytona soon.
PTO 2020 Championship / Challenge Daytona – Sunday 6th December 2020
2km / 80km / 18km
1st ($100k) – Paula Findlay (CAN) – 3:24:55
2nd ($70k) – Anne Haug (GER) – 3:27:32
3rd ($50k) – Laura Philipp (GER) – 3:30:00
4th ($35k) – Holly Lawrence (GBR) – 3:31:09
5th ($30k) – Amelia Watkinson (NZL) – 3:31:50
6th ($25k) – Skye Moench (USA) – 3:32:30
7th ($23k) – Fenella Langridge (GBR) – 3:33:42
8th ($20k) – Sara Svensk (SWE) – 3:35:00
9th ($18k) – Elisabetta Curridori (ITA) – 3:35:07
10th ($17k) – Nicola Spirig (SUI) – 3:35:17
12th ($13k) – Emma Pallant (GBR) – 3:35:47
13th ($11k) – Kimberley Morrison (GBR) – 3:36:31
15th ($9k) – Jodie Stimpson (GBR) – 3:36:38
16th ($8k) – Nikki Bartlett (GBR) – 3:37:14
18th ($6k) – India Lee (GBR) – 3:37:58
28th ($2.5k) – Lucy Hall (GBR) – 3:42:18
DNF – Katrina Matthews (GBR)
DNF – Ruth Astle (GBR)
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