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‘It’s a bit of a Rubik’s Cube’ – PTO chief on 2024 calendar challenges ahead of big reveal

How have the PTO been impacted by IRONMAN's Pro Series?

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Tuesday will finally see the long-awaited full PTO Tour calendar for 2024 unveiled.

We know three events so far – the Asian Open in Singapore, the European Open in Ibiza and the Lake Las Vegas Open – with five more to be added.

It all means a packed – and potentially lucrative – calendar for middle and long-distance athletes. But has the delay in finalising it partially been caused by the PTO [Professional Triathletes Organisation] being wrong-footed by IRONMAN’s announcement of their new Pro Series last October?

Taking a step back

That’s a question we put to the PTO’s CEO Sam Renouf, who answered: “It certainly surprised us, rather than wrong-footed us, I’d say.

“It did allow us to take a step back and relook at the calendar from a scheduling perspective. And that’s one of the many reasons why we’ve been a little bit late, because you can appreciate it’s a bit of a Rubik’s Cube, to put it candidly.”

Already we have only a week between the women’s IRONMAN World Championship in Nice and the PTO European Open, with a similar gap between the PTO’s Lake Las Vegas event and the men’s IMWC in Kona.

The PTO will be contracting athletes – probably 20 women and 20 men – and are almost certain to stipulate a certain number of races.

But Renouf added: “Without doubt the athletes that do the PTO Tour will clearly be doing Kona and Nice. And we encourage that.

These are phenomenal events and certainly in the case of Kona, it is the legacy of the sport.

“We could say, hey, this is non exclusive, but then just schedule the events on top of each other. We haven’t. We’ve gone out of our way to do the opposite. So it allows the athlete to sort of pick and choose.”

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‘We’re doing our job’

And Renouf also insists that the increased choice, competition and prizemoney for the top athletes is good for the sport as a whole.

He told us: “We’re thrilled that the competition that we have generated caused Ironman to launch the Pro Series.

And as we very genuinely said when they announced it, this is a fantastic thing for the sport.

“We were set up to help professional triathletes and so if the things that we’re doing cause other people to put more media money and more prizemoney into the market, then we’re doing our job.”

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

Given the ‘Rubik’s Cube’ nature of the calendar we wondered how much co-operation goes on between the various organisations – and not just the PTO and IRONMAN.

Renouf explained: “Ironman, to their credit, they’re not just in triathlon anymore. They are almost as focused on trail running and like everyone else are very busy. But there is, I would say, a reasonably regular dialogue between the organisations, both at a management level from an operating side, and then at the athletes level.

“We’re also talking through how we can work with World Triathlon particularly. There is a close relationship there now for two reasons. One, we absolutely recognise their role as the governing body of the sport, that’s very important.

“And then secondly, with the creation of the PTO Tour as a world championship, it’s kind of an opportunity for long distance racing to come back under the fold of World Triathlon.

“Previously they’re focused very much on short distance – they might sanction a little bit of long distance, but they tend to leave it to the private operators. Whereas for us, it’s bringing it back under one banner, which we think is important because sports should all be co-ordinated.

“How are we ever going to get cut through if the whole sport is fragmented and talking in little pockets?”

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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