Britain’s Non Stanford and Australia’s Aaron Royle claimed the $100k first prize by winning the inaugural Couples Championship in Florida on Sunday.
Stanford overtook Kirsten Kasper (and partner) Matt Sharpe on the closing run in Fort De Soto Park to post a terrific victory. French stars Marjolaine Pierré and Clement Mignon claimed the final spot on the podium.
The race, the brainchild of Ben Atkins of sponsors Waterfall Bank, played out on Facebook Watch via a PPV stream, and the lack of live timing made things difficult for commentators, fans and journalists alike. But here is a recap on what we were able to glean.
Leg 1 – Strategy employed
The first decision the couples had to make was who went first – they all had to confirm their decisions a couple of minutes ahead of the 0700 local time (1200 UK, 1300 CET) start. In the event the vast majority went male first.
The format remember was relay – with each member of each coupling completing a 0.25m swim, a 10m bike and a 3.1m run. The prize money was $100k for the winner, $20k to the runners-up and $10k for the third-place finishers. Couples all received $10k in appearance money.
The aforementioned Sharpe and Royle were first out of the water along with Eric Lagerstrom, while the chasing pack were around 40 seconds off the pace in choppy waters. Roksana Slupek and Rachel Klamer were the first women into T1.
Royle took control early on the bike to open up a healthy gap and was 40 seconds ahead of Sharpe when they arrived in T2. Lagerstrom and Tim O’Donnell – in his first race since that heart attack one year ago – were close behind.
Klamer was the first woman into T2, just over five minutes off the pace with Slupek a minute further back.
Royle continued to lead the way on the run and he would hand over to Stanford with the clock just past 51 minutes. Mignon (handing over to Pierré ) and Sharpe (handing over to Kasper) were close behind.
Leg 2 – Stanford brings it home
Stanford maintained the advantage through the swim though the gap was tight as they headed into T1 with Kasper cutting into her lead. Paula Findlay (following up a fine performance from partner Eric Lagerstrom) meanwhile was still very much in play along with Pierré .
Kasper would take over during the bike at the front and she headed into T2 with a 12-second lead over Stanford. Findlay was around 45 seconds off the pace and Pierré was 1:20 back. At this stage the first man Seth Rider was five minutes off the pace, just ahead of Richard Murray.
Now it was a question of who would prevail on the run – Stanford or Kasper – with $100k on the line. It was Non who proved the stronger, putting in a terrific performance to pass her rival and surge clear to claim that bumper paycheck.
Pierré , who had advertised her brilliant run ability on the big stage at CLASH Daytona last December, passed Findlay to claim the final step on the podium for her and Mignon.
Couples Championship Results 2022
March 6, 2022 – Tierra Verde, Florida (0.25m swim, 10m bike, 3.1m run)
- 1. Aaron Royle/Non Stanford ($100k)
- 2. Matt Sharpe/Kirsten Kasper ($20k)
- 3. Clement Mignon/Marjolaine Pierre ($10k)
- 4. Eric Lagerstrom/Paula Findlay
- 5. Justin Metzler/Jeanni Metzler
- 6. Roksana Slupek/Seth Rider
- 7. Sam Osbourne/Samantha Kingsford
- 8. Rachel Klamer/Richard Murray
- 9. Tim O’Donnell/Mirinda Carfrae
- 10. Danilo Pimentel/Vittoria Lopes
- 11. Jaryd Browne/Emma Pallant-Browne
- 12. Jess Broderick/Jason West
- 13. Andre Lopes/Rachel Olson
PPV or not to be?
It’s always good to see new formats and new investment in the sport of triathlon, and we were interested to see how the live PPV would play out on Sunday.
Greg Bennett and Heather Jackson in the booth did a fine job attempting to keep viewers up to speed with what was happening on course, but that was pretty hard at times.
The lack of timing splits (an overall timing clock was the only available data for viewers of the stream) was a big miss and made it difficult to really get a handle on the status of the race.
From a camera perspective there were issues too – Fort De Soto Park is a beautiful location but we probably saw a little too much of it here.
The focus on drone footage and static cameras meant we had long gaps between meaningful action. Throw in the fact all the athletes apparently wore matching Waterfall trisuits, and it added up to a difficult event to follow properly.
Bennett did reference some technical issues so it’s eminently possible things were set up to be better but the conditions did not allow it.
Concurrent viewers of the live stream appeared to hit around 500 late in the race – paying up to $9.99 or £9.99 for the privilege. We don’t have access of course to the official figures, but making the race free-to-air and instead gaining extra media exposure could have been an alternative approach.