John Levison provides the context and background to Argon 18 adding British long-distance triathlon stars Joe Skipper and Ruth Astle to their athlete roster in 2022.
The start of of every year is typically the time that we see significant changes in the sponsorship landscape in most sports. Professional triathlon is no different in that regard.
With perhaps the biggest season in the history of the sport ahead – two IRONMAN World Championship races, the introduction of the PTO Tour, Sub7/Sub8, the Arena Games World Championship Series – all joining the calendar (and fingers crossed that the impact of COVID will subside too), there’s a lot for brands and athletes to consider.
In recent news, we’ve seen the Brownlee brothers join BMC from SCOTT bikes, Taylor Knibb (and Sam Long) join Trek Factory Racing and Javier Gomez now riding Orbea bikes. And that’s just three interesting moves of many within the industry.
UK focus for Argon 18?
Canadian brand Argon 18, with their top-tier triathlon bike, the E-119 Tri+ Disc, would seemingly have eyes on increasing their exposure within the UK market given the recent additions of both Joe Skipper and Ruth Astle to their athlete roster.
In the US – though we don’t know if the decisions are related – Heather Jackson just last week thanked Argon 18 as their four-year partnership together came to a close. Sam Long had been riding Argon 18 too, prior to his Trek deal.
Both Skipper and Astle are renowned cyclists within the triathlon world, and both enter 2022 off the back of great results last year.
Joe Skipper – Man of IRON
Skipper took IRONMAN wins in the UK (Bolton) and Chattanooga, with further full-distance podiums in Lake Placid and Switzerland.
After thankfully surviving a ‘van meets bike‘ incident in October, he’ll be racing in both IRONMAN World Championship races in 2022, but before that will be at the IRONMAN African Championship in South Africa too.
Joe was previously riding the Quintana Roo PRsix Disc – which we profiled in June 2021.
Breakthrough season for Astle
While Joe has been winning iron-distance races on an annual basis since 2017, Ruth Astle had a breakthrough season at the Pro level in 2021 by matching Joe with two wins.
A frequent racer and high-level performer through her age-group racing days, a calf niggle impacted the frequency of Ruth’s racing through the year. When she did manage to get that under control however, the results started to flow in the second half of the year.
Winning the PTO-supported Outlaw Half Holkham – her first Pro podium – set her up for a fine Q4, where she firstly won IRONMAN Mallorca, and then five weeks later backed that up with another podium-topper at IRONMAN South Africa.
With winning margins at both events being less than two minutes, Astle showed she can hang tough in the final stages when the pressure is on. If she can get those lower leg issues resolved, it’s more than reasonable to assume there’s further progress to be made too.
All of those Pro races to date have been ridden on the Specialized Shiv Tri Disc, which was part of the package of products and support Ruth received in 2019 when she was part of the successful Zwift Academy Tri Team.
Like Joe, Ruth is qualified for both IRONMAN World Championship races already, and they will be her key targets for the year.
More than bikes?
As we discussed just a few days ago with Andrew Horsfall-Turner, a good bike and lots of fitness is just part of the package these days. Continued developments in aerodynamics, clothing, kit and bike fitting are also key contributors to success. A simple ‘more watts’ approach is not going provide sustained success, if the rest of the field are optimising all of those elements. Check out how Joe and Ruth are approaching that in their recent YouTube video releases.
It’s fair to say that Skipper and Astle are already among the very best in that regard. Joe maintained an average speed of more than 27 mph when setting a Competition Record of more than 325 miles in 12 hours.
Astle – who benefitted from time in the Specialized WIN(d) Tunnel as part of the Zwift Academy team – has also worked extensively with Matt Bottrill regularly in recent years too. When a man who helped advise Victor Campenaerts to Hour Record success calls her ‘The Bullet’, and “the gold standard in aero”, she is already well versed in the combination of (wo)man and machine in perfect harmony.
Back in 2017 (which we covered), Argon 18 launched the Notio Konect device to enable the capture and analysis of performance and aerodynamic data in real time. In Joe’s video above – testing at Newport velodrome – you can see that he is already putting that resource to good use.
Increasingly, sponsorship and partnership deals are more than just, ‘what’s the product / what’s the ($$$) deal?’ Skipper and Astle should be arriving at every race in 2022 confident that they are not giving anything away in the bike equipment department.