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Time for PTO to mix up distances says Joe Skipper ahead of Roth showdowns

Joe Skipper believes the interest around Challenge Roth shows the demand for top long-distance races.

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Joe Skipper believes the quality of the fields at Challenge Roth this weekend – and the buzz around them – underlines there is a demand for top-class long-distance racing.

The PTO [Professional Triathletes Organisation] has stuck rigidly to their 100km formula – less mileage than even a half-Ironman – since introducing their lucrative PTO Tour races, despite initially suggesting they would feature at least one longer-distance event.

But Skipper is part of a men’s field in Roth which boasts an impressive 89.81 strength of field ranking [click here for an explanation of what that means] – and the women’s line-up is also in that elevated ballpark, featuring all the IRONMAN world champions since 2015.

‘Lot of buzz’ around Roth

And speaking to him ahead of Sunday’s events, which will be watched by an estimated 250,000 spectators on course as well as a global TV audience, the popular Brit told me: “This shows that people are interested in the full distance as well if you get a lot of the top guys, because this race has had a lot of buzz around it, people are talking about it and there’s a lot of media interest.

Joe Skipper press conference 2023 Roth [Photo credit: Challenge Roth]
[Photo credit: Challenge Roth]

“I think if the PTO did actually do a longer-distance race and everyone was there, like a World Championship, I think that would be even more amazing. I just wish they would.

“I think it would be fantastic if they mixed it up and did not just their middle distance, but some ‘two thirds’ races and a full-distance race. If you truly want to see who the best triathlete is, you should do a whole range of distances and it should be like a series with points – you could even throw a non-draft Olympic distance in there.

“Over the course of the season, you’d race a non-draft Olympic and you’d go all the way up to the full-distance and five or six races count. That would be good, because then you’d be testing people over a whole range of distances.”

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Roth runner-up in past

Skipper has been second twice at Challenge Roth – in 2016 and 2017 – and is looking to post another big result on Sunday.

And he feels that his training numbers suggest that’s possible, even if it’s been a mixed start to the campaign: “Yeah, it’s not been that good so far. At IRONMAN Texas I took the wrong turn and then I had the ITU Worlds two weeks later but that didn’t go to plan. I had just a terrible day in that.”

He’s become a father for the first time this year and he admitted: “Maybe that’s what took the edge off me at the start of the season as well, because there’s more stress, isn’t there? You don’t feel like it affects your training but it might just take the edge off when you do some racing, so it probably did have a bit of an impact.

Looking at some of the other pros that have been in the same situation, it seems like a few have struggled, especially after their first child.

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Ready for Sunday showdown

So how does his form stack up heading into Sunday?

He says: “The swim isn’t the best it’s been. It’s alright, I’ve hit fairly good times, but not my best. My best was in 2021, 2022, but before I got COVID, so I never actually managed to race while I was in that really good swim form.

“But the biking and running are decent. They’re probably at least up there with the best, if not better than I’ve ever been before. So that’s a positive and hopefully that shows on Sunday and I can do as well as what the training suggests.

Challenge Geraardsbergen 2023 - Photo Credit José Luis Hourcade

“It’s a really strong field – not quite what you’d get at Nice or Kona, where you’ve got, like, 25 amazing people but you’re still going to have to do an amazing performance to get the win. No one could win this with a 70 or 80% performance, could they? No chance.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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