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Ashleigh Gentle on T100 racing: ‘The best battles are yet to come’

Fast-paced racing and epic battles: Ashleigh Gentle says the best is yet to come for the PTO 100km race series.

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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As we count down to the much-anticipated official announcement of the PTO race calendar for 2024, the Professional Triathletes Organisation has shared that we can expect a much busier pro race schedule, plus the addition of more age-group racing. And that extended schedule is set to create a season long narrative as the best of the best from both short and long course go head-to-head throughout the year over the 100km distance.

Australian triathlon star Ashleigh Gentle has become known as the ‘Queen of the 100km’ after enjoying plenty of success on the PTO circuit since her step up from Olympic distance racing. In an interview with TRI247 Ashleigh shares her insights on why the PTO races have got so many pros excited, what it takes to be competitive over the 100km distance – and the battles we might see unfold in 2024.

‘It honestly feels like an Olympic distance effort… but for 3.5 hours.’

Take a look at a PTO race roster and you’ll notice that these races are bringing together a cross section of some of the top athletes in triathlon. From short course stars such as Taylor Knibb, to long course heroes like Anne Haug and Lucy Charles-Barclay – who has recently announced she’ll be focusing on the 100km distance in 2024.

So what is it about the 100km distance and the PTO’s race format that’s got so many of the top names in the sport toeing the start lines?

For Ashleigh Gentle, it’s the way the races create that short course excitement – over a far longer distance: “I kind of see it as Olympic distance racing, but just over a longer time frame. It’s still short enough to really push yourself to a really deep level. Most of the races that I’ve done with the PTO, it honestly feels like an Olympic distance effort… but for 3.5 hours. You can push yourself to a pretty extreme level.”

The closed course, multi-lap race format also helps to create engaging race dynamics – for the athletes and for spectators, says Ashleigh. “We’re on a closed course, so we don’t have to worry about getting caught up in any other races. The multi-lap courses create excitement, and it means we can use the locations to their fullest, in a way where spectators can see us multiple times.”

“Singapore [PTO Asian Open] was my favourite race in 2023. I don’t think the crowds were really shown as much on TV, but our race coincided with a huge mass of the age-group athletes registering for other events going on over the weekend. So the crowds were absolutely incredible. It was really entertaining to run through Marina Bay with that many people.”

The unique opportunity to race in city centre locations

Those multi-lap courses and city centre locations Ashleigh mentions are a point of pride for the PTO, creating a race set up which showcases the cities and the athletes all at once.

Gentle describes the experience at Singapore in particular as a unique opportunity. “As a course as a whole I did enjoy Singapore a lot. The bike ride was really fun, through such a highly populated and dense city.”

Ashleigh Gentle wins PTO Asian Open in Singapore 2023
Ashleigh Gentle took the top spot on the podium at the PTO Asian Open [Photo: PTO]

“It was pretty remarkable that we were able to ride these roads that would otherwise be impossible to ride. It’s super unique and it’s quite a privilege because some of these cities are densely populated and very busy otherwise.”

Fast-paced racing

When you’re bringing together the biggest names in the sport over a new race distance, what does it take to be at the pointy end of the race? “Honestly, I feel like I’m still working it out!” Ashleigh explains.

“It sounds silly because I guess I have been quite successful over the PTO distance. But I still think that I can push the boundaries and get a lot faster which is an exciting prospect for me.”

“The racing is so fast now, that you have to have that Olympic distance speed in you to be competitive over all three disciplines.”

Being able to step up in distance, but keep in touch with that fast-paced racing is something Ashleigh has really enjoyed since racing on the PTO circuit. “For me it’s been really enjoyable because I have gone up in distance, but I still touch on that speed work. That’s something I really enjoy, and I’m a huge believer that if you love what you do and you still get to have elements in your training that you enjoy, you get the best out of yourself. Being able to still do those faster sessions, especially on the run – it’s a nice feeling.”

‘The best battles are yet to come…’

It’s not been often that we’ve been able to see the stars of short course go head-to-head with middle distance specialists and long course athletes in an event where every athlete is bringing their A game. So doing precisely that is what makes the PTO racing interesting, says Ashleigh: “We’ve seen Taylor Knibb and a few short course athletes come and do it. Then you’ve got a big cohort of us who are focusing on middle distance. Then you’ve got some super names in IRONMAN. People would probably class Anne Haug as an IRONMAN athlete, but she’s so quick.”

PTO European Open 2023 women podium Anne Haug Ashleigh Gentle Lucy Charles Barclay photo credit PTO
[Photo credit: PTO]

“Getting those different athletes all onto the PTO distance, finding that middle ground. That’s what makes it so exciting. I think the best battles are yet to come.”

Post-Paris show downs: ‘Bring it on!’

Talking of battles, there’s been much speculation about whether – given the PTO’s plans for a far longer race season – we might see some of the Olympic athletes on a PTO start line after Paris.

On the possibility of a post-Paris show down, “it’ll be interesting,” Ashleigh says. “I’ve seen people like Beth Potter and Taylor Spivey and some others publicly say that they’d like to do the PTO races. So we might see them on the PTO circuit in the next few years.”

“No doubt some Olympic medallists will likely be putting their hand up for wildcards if they’re available after Paris. We might see some of the very top level short course athletes be offered wildcards at various points in the year. But I think primarily spots at the PTO races will roll down to the athletes who have been chasing points and racing middle to long distance events, which I think is fair.”

“For me as an athlete, I just need to focus on myself. If there’s any big surprises on any of the start lists… bring it on! It’s fun, and it’s what I love to do: racing the best in the world and seeing who comes out on top. I think that’s good for the sport, we want to be able to entertain people that tune in.”

Podium positions and a positive mindset – 2024 ambitions

After winning both PTO Open races in 2022, and maintaining a 100% podium record in 2023 – what goals are on the horizon for Ashleigh Gentle in 2024?

“I would love to be able to retain at least one PTO title,” Ashleigh says. “It’ll be harder than ever but that’s always a goal. I’ve been quite successful in the PTO tour, so I’d love to be able to keep standing on those podiums and being really competitive at the top end of the sport.”

But podiums aren’t the only priority for Ashley. “I also want to keep enjoying myself and loving training and racing. I’ve had a huge shift in the last few years within myself, and I think being able to stay in that mindset for me is really key.”

“If I’m not doing as well as I would like to do, it’s just about grounding myself. Remembering why I’m doing this sport and really finding the love of it.”

That positive headspace is key for being able to keep training and racing at the highest level. “When I’m in a good space, I can get up every day and push myself to the limit. To really hurt yourself [training] day in day out, you have to love what you’re doing.”

“I just try to enjoy the process, and I’m always grateful that I get to go to work every day and my work is triathlon. I know that it’s a very privileged thing, so I want to make the most of it.”


Inspired to take on one of the T100km age group races this year? Get ahead of the game and check out our training tips for stepping up from short course, or stepping down from IRONMAN distance racing – without compromising on your speed or your endurance.

Jenny Lucas-Hill
Written by
Jenny Lucas-Hill
Jenny Lucas-Hill is a writer, content creator and communications professional. A long-distance triathlon enthusiast, she has three full Iron-distance finishes to date & also loves watching the sport.

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