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PTO make key changes as European Open heads to Ibiza for 2023

Ibiza is confirmed at the PTO European Open venue - but will money be the biggest talking point from today's announcement?

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It’s been open news for a while – Jan Frodeno all but announced it last week – but the PTO have today confirmed that the first staging of the PTO European Open will take place in Ibiza, Spain on May 6 2023.

Held over the PTO’s 100km distance (2km swim; 80km bike; 18km run), the event will be co-hosted alongside the 2023 World Triathlon Multisport Championships.

What’s perhaps more interesting, are the updates that came with the press release announcement, which we’ll cover here.

Balearic backdrop

The two PTO races will be broadcast live around the world to 170+ territories, courtesy of the PTO Tour’s partnerships with Warner Bros. Discovery and a series of other regional and national broadcasters.

Commenting on the news, PTO CEO Sam Renouf said: “We’re excited to confirm that Ibiza will host the inaugural PTO European Open and kick off the 2023 PTO Tour. It continues the expansion of the PTO Tour and our journey to different continents, courses and climates and will be a fantastic way to start the season.”

José Hidalgo, President of the Spanish Triathlon Federation, commented: “In the Spanish Triathlon Federation we are very pleased with this agreement that will enable the PTO to hold their races in our country, in Ibiza, one of the events of its global PTO Tour calendar. We believe that this type of alliance also serves to make triathlon bigger.

“Spain has always been a pioneer country and we have always believed that the association of all the actors and organisers of this sport is paramount to make it bigger and more important. This agreement, with the celebration in Ibiza of one of the events of the PTO Tour is undoubtedly in keeping with that. In short, it is great news for the Triathlon world and great news for the Spanish triathlon.”

Alexandra Tondeur, Sarah Lewis, Alice Hector - Ibiza ETU Middle Distance Triathlon European Championships
Ibiza previously hosted the European Middle Distance Championships in 2018
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World Triathlon partnership extended

Last year the second edition of the Collins Cup was hosted on the same weekend at the World Triathlon Long Distance Championships.

World Triathlon President and IOC Member, Marisol Casado, said: “After the great experience of last year in Samorin, we are delighted to partner again with the PTO to work together on an event that will be a great spectacle for all the athletes and spectators as well as for Ibiza and the island.

“The partnership with the PTO is just natural for us, and it is great to see many of the world’s very best long-distance triathletes in action in this type of combined event, offering the athletes multiple opportunities to race. We are all ready to offer all the athletes the best experience possible and to make Ibiza an unforgettable event for all.”

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The big(ger) news?

Today’s Ibiza news also features updates that are perhaps more far-reaching and interesting than simply the location of the 2023 PTO European Open itself.

First up, the events themselves – more specifically, the number of athletes and slots available – has been reduced.

The PTO European and US Opens will focus on the top 30 women and men, who qualify from the PTO World Rankings; whilst the already-announced PTO Asian Open will feature the world’s top 20 female and male athletes.

With the PTO Asian Open falling a week before the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Finland, there was always going to be a strong chance of a weaker (relatively) field heading to Singapore, than Ibiza and Milwaukee (US Open), attracted by that IM 70.3 title. It’s something I referenced just last week when reviewing the new PTO World Ranking System.

This news though, could be interpreted by some as this major is not quite so ‘major’ as the other two. Perhaps?

Differences between 30 and 20 aside, it’s also a focus more towards the (very) top tier of the sport.

Money changes

Also different – in part I suspect, because the field sizes will be smaller – is that the headline $1million prize purses will now be $600,000 per event. Top-three results in 2022 at the US and Canadian Opens of $100k / $70k / $50k, will now become $100k / $50k / $35k, respectively.

Renouf explained: “We believe the steps we are taking in 2023 to increase the number of races and spotlight the very best athletes, whilst balancing prize funds, will help ensure we continue to grow in a sustainable way.”

Perhaps the biggest news however is the changes to the PTO annual bonus system. The total of $2million remains – but now rather than being split across the top-100 athletes, male and female, in the year-end rankings, it will now just be allocated to the top-50. The previous system – as shown by the graphic below – saw positions 51 to 100 earn $2,000 each. That $100k (male and female), will now be redistributed to the top-50, with a new allocation breakdown to follow.

Race For The Rankings 2022 PTO prize purse
Prior (2021 and 2022) PTO World Ranking bonus structure

It’s not difficult for forsee that, depending on what stage you are in your career or development, this changes will not be universally welcomed.

PTO Athlete Board members Skye Moench and Alistair Brownlee were quick to voice their support. 

“The PTO Athlete Board was unanimous in approving these changes for the 2023 season,” said Moench.  “While we understand the changes may not be popular amongst all athletes, we also understand the context of the changes and the direction the PTO is trying to go. We also appreciate the need to grow the PTO Tour and go to different markets, which sometimes means compromising on different elements like the number of athletes racing or the prize money.”

“I want to see more people watching top level long distance Triathlon, being inspired by seeing the top athletes racing. It’s crucial that the PTO Tour succeeds. We need to be focusing on the very best racing and stories on a consistent basis,” said Brownlee.  “I’m convinced that the PTO Tour’s success is Triathlon’s success. It’s tough to create something new but ultimately it will benefit every Triathlete.”

Alistair Brownlee run photo credit PTO Canadian Open
Alistair Brownlee run [Photo credit: PTO Canadian Open]

Having battled through the years of bringing the athletes under one umbrella and forming and establishing the PTO, difficult decisions are always going to have to be made. Reality and perception are sometimes hard to distinguish objectively – and in a period of financial uncertainty, will this be the PTO’s trickle-down economics moment?

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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