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PTO chief on why the wait “will be worth it” as 2024 calendar reveal delayed again

We get the inside track from PTO CEO Sam Renouf.

News Director
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It’s been one of the big themes as the year draws to a close – when will the PTO finally announce their 2024 schedule?

Returns to Singapore (12-14 April) and Ibiza (28-29 September) have already been announced but we had been promised the full calendar “by the end of October”, but that date came and went.

So when we sat down with CEO Sam Renouf this week for an in-depth interview which will cover the wider triathlon landscape, including the PTO’s reaction to the IRONMAN Pro Series, the delay on unveiling their eagerly-awaited races had to be the first topic of discussion.

And Renouf didn’t duck it, admitting: “I think I personally have to own the first mistake. Probably the first mistake in planning things is to commit to a date. And I had said by the end of October we would have our season live.

“There was a very simple reason for that. We know that people plan their seasons and we wanted to give the community – pros and age group – a bit more time, which is why we were aiming for the end of October.

“But we found it harder to deliver the combination of pro plus age group racing than we thought. We’re still very bullish on it. We’re very encouraged by the progress. All of our locations are lined up but several are requiring further government approvals and just ironing out the details of road closures and timings has been a lot harder than we thought.

“This is a more complex process for the PTO versus most stakeholders in the sport as we mandate to all our host partners that we must have entirely separate racing for Professionals and Age Groupers, which we believe is essential both for athlete safety and to create a compelling broadcast product to grow the sport.”

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‘At least six races in 2024’

So what can he tell us at this point about the calendar, even at a basic level of how many races there will be? Renouf says the ambition is: “To double our calendar from three events to at least six races in 2024, as we strongly believe that is the way to create a cohesive, season-long narrative about the PTO Tour that will ultimately take the sport to a broader global audience and build a fanbase that drives more money into the sport.

“We had a couple of locations where we needed to get this out earlier which is why Singapore and Ibiza were announced. But we also had some cities that if we had gone live a couple of months ago, we wouldn’t have been able to include them.

“So we’ve been getting all of our government approvals and permits lined up so that we can announce the full calendar in early 2024.

The PTO's CEO Sam Renouf
The PTO’s CEO Sam Renouf [Photo credit: PTO]

“We are hugely excited with how things are shaping up and it’s going to be worth the wait. Each of the stops of the 2024 Tour will be at iconic locations that provide a backdrop worthy of the highest level of the sport.

So it’s actually all positive in the long run. Just a bit painful in the short run.

All of which was echoed by PTO Executive Chairman Chris Kermode who added: “I remain extremely positive about our direction of travel and the job the team has done to get things to where they are.

“We knew at the start of the year that we needed a plan to go bigger in 2024, which is what we’ll announce in the new year. But it takes time and, frankly, there’s usually a good reason why someone’s not done something before – because it isn’t easy.”

Singapore sets the standard

Renouf and the PTO have taken plenty of encouragement from their most recent event, the PTO Asian Open in Singapore, which has widely been acknowledged as their best yet.

He explained: “Singapore is an iconic location which kind of sells the sport for itself, it had a mixture of mass participation and professional racing. But also important was the fact it was the first time that we didn’t just do triathlon from a mass participation perspective. So we had triathlon, but we also had duathlon and we had running.

The pros and age groupers mix at the PTO Asian Open in Singapore in 2023
The pros and age groupers mix at the PTO Asian Open in Singapore in 2023 [Photo credit: PTO]

“Singapore was definitely our standout event and has become the kind of proof point for what we want to do next year, which was by design and we’re now going to roll it out in lots of different locations around the world.”

We’ll have to wait a little longer for those other locations but there’s no doubt that the quality of the pro fields at all three PTO Tour races this year has underlined their commitment to getting the best of the best tackling each other on a regular basis.

That’s something Kristian Blummenfelt, who will end the season as the PTO’s top-ranked male athlete for the second year in succession, feels is absolutely vital.

On a recent CNBC episode of The Score, which examines sport through the lens of business, the Norwegian star said: “They bring the best athletes together every time, not just once. And what they are doing with the sport marketing wise, they are creating more hype around the events with the atmosphere…and bringing the sport to another professional level.

“By getting more money into the sport, it makes it more possible to be a professional. It’s not easy to travel around the world without having the sponsors and for the sponsors to be able to pay you they need to be able to get marketing value, so to have races like this where you can really be showcased is important for the whole sport to grow.”

There are other encouraging aspects too.

The 2023 PTO Tour delivered on its goal of bringing long-distance triathlon to a broader audience, with a global dedicated TV and streaming audience of 24.6 million for its three races in Ibiza, Milwaukee and Singapore through multiple top-tier broadcast partnerships that saw it broadcast in 195+ territories around the world.

The PTO also says its social channels continue to make impressive headway, claiming the largest ‘share of voice’ on Facebook versus IRONMAN, World Triathlon and Super League Triathlon and they are now second only to IRONMAN on Instagram.

As the PTO’s social follower audience has grown – to above 300,000 at the last count – so has its engagement, which bucks the usual trend amongst social channels as they scale.

The bottom line

But there’s also lots to discuss and debate, which we’ll delve into over the coming weeks before the calendar is announced, including…

How the PTO were “taken by surprise” by the announcement of IRONMAN’s Pro Series and the challenges that presents in 2024 and beyond.

How scheduling is “like a Rubik’s Cube”, with the PTO’s Ibiza race already having moved a week to avoid a clash with the women’s IRONMAN World Championship in Nice.

Why they are working with athletes who might be able to race both the Olympics and the PTO Tour next year: “There is nothing in sport more mainstream than the Olympics and so for us to ignore that would be crazy,” Renouf told us.

He also revealed one race that won’t be on the 2024 schedule is the Collins Cup, but “there’s definitely a role for it in the future”.

And on the huge question as to whether the PTO are where they hoped to be in terms of their evolution, Renouf insists: “There is not a public path to profitability that we’ve shared, but we’re ahead of our investor metric so our investors are very happy. If anything, this is a double down and the investors have been supportive of the journey that we’re taking.”

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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