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Money talks: Lionel Sanders on how PTO is shaping future of triathlon

No holds barred as 'No Limits' talks prizemoney, altitude training and trying to close the gap on Team Norway

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“This is the future for professionals so you’d better work out how to get good at this distance.”

That was one of the stark takeouts from the first-ever PTO Canadian Open – which had $1m of prize money at stake – from home favourite Lionel Sanders.

Sanders’ YouTube videos and other media channels are always enlightening and revealing as he takes the sport to a wider audience and his Edmonton recap, embedded below, is no exception.

‘No Limits’ finished what for him was a frustrating seventh, almost exactly five minutes behind winner Gustav Iden.

And his video, which was run in conjunction with a chat on Discord, covers everything from the Norwegians’ pre-race rituals through to his own challenges with training at altitude – and in amongst is his honest assessment of the new PTO Tour and the opportunities it brings.

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New world order

Of the race distance he says: “The PTO obviously had to come up with something unique, something cool in terms of the distance so it’s the metric 100km. Sort of 70.3 but different – so the 2k swim, an 80k bike and an 18k run – eventually I believe there’s going to be double of that.

“It’s definitely more balanced than the 70.3 distance [1.9k / 90k / 21.1k], so the swim specialists really like it.

“This is kind of where the future is in terms of if you want to make some real money doing triathlon, the PTO is kind of the only one putting up any real money.”

And he underlines that by comparing the prize money he won in Canada ($25,000) to his victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Mont Tremblant ($4,000) almost exactly a month before.

“To put it into perspective, I finished seventh [in Canada] and I made six times compared to winning 70.3 Mont Tremblant.

“This is the future for professionals so you’d better work out how to get good at this distance – and double the distance – because this is where, if you want to make a living, this is where you’ve got to do it.”

He even admitted that once he realised his chance of winning had gone, he reverted to “Plan B” to maximise the take-home pay.

Work to do

Next up for Sanders are two more PTO events – the flagship Collins Cup on 20 August and then the $1m US Open on 18 September, both at that 100km distance.

There’s lots more to mull over in the video – everything from the increased interaction between the pros at the new events, through to the Norwegians’ start-line rituals.

And on a more serious note, Sanders goes into massive detail about his training – and many of the frustrations he’s felt since an altitude block in Flagstaff.

And when asked if he’ll be taking a quick break before the Collins Cup, the answer is typically direct: “We take a break when we’re competitive with Team Norway – and only when we’re competitive with Team Norway.”

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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