Australia’s Max Neumann just outshone some of the greatest-ever names in men’s triathlon as the first-ever PTO European Open in Ibiza more than lived up to its lofty billing.
Much of the build-up had surrounded all the Olympic champions since 2008 – Jan Frodeno (GER), Alistair Brownlee (GBR) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – and it was wonderful to see that trio fit, healthy and taking each other on.
And more than that, they were to the fore throughout the race with Brownlee leading starting the run and the other two just a minute back and very much within range.
But around the halfway mark in the 18km run it was Neumann – who it should be remembered is current #7 in the world rankings and was a fine fourth at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona last year – who pounced past the Brit and never looked back.
Blummenfelt closed tantalisingly, taking a few seconds back at each time check, but just had too much ground to make up and had to settle for second, 27 seconds back.
Magnus Ditlev (DEN) rounded out the podium (which featured the three athletes highest in the PTO rankings), with Frodeno and Brownlee fourth and sixth respectively as they returned to action after their injury frustrations. Jason West (USA) split them in fifth.
Swim – Royle leads way on Coronation Day
A beach start for a 2km wetsuit swim saw a few steps on the Platja De Ses Figueretas sand before the hitting the water and conditions were pretty much ideal, with virtually no current at this point.
Aussie Aaron Royle – second to exit the water at the PTO Canadian Open and first out at the PTO US Open last year – was many people’s favourite to lead the way and he duly delivered.
But he was just a fraction ahead of Frodeno and Brownlee in second and third respectively at the Aussie exit halfway through and that was how it stayed on the second loop in the water.
But there was a clear split in behind, with the first 10 all within 20 seconds but then a gap of more than a minute from the leader to the rest.
The other seven with Royle, Frodeno and Brownlee were Frodeno’s training partner Kyle Smith (NZL), Andreas Salvisberg (SUI), Florian Angert (GER), Tom Bishop (GBR), Daniel Baekkegard (DEN), Neumann and Ben Kanute (USA).
Reigning Olympic champion Blummenfelt was 12th at just over a minute back after the swim while last year’s Challenge Roth hero Ditlev was just a few seconds further back.
But a slow transition for Ditlev saw him closer to a minute and a half adrift starting the bike, while Frederic Funk (GER) had reason to be grateful to the tech team who noticed his rear tyre was flat before he made it out of the water and were able to sort it without him losing chunks of time.
Bike – Ditlev makes his move
It didn’t take long for the front group of 10 to be whittled down, with the big guns taking turns at the front of the race.
Salvisberg, Angert and Baekkegard were the ones to drop back first.
But two huge names would join the remaining front-runners by the halfway point, with uber-biker Ditlev cutting through the field and bringing Blummenfelt with him.
The 80km bike section also featured the debut of the RaceRanger draft detection system for the first time in a PTO event, with a 20m draft zone in operation – thankfully no penalties would get in the way of the action.
On the third of four 20km loops it started to splinter a bit, with Neumann, Smith and Brownlee putting a small gap between themselves and the rest.
Again though, Ditlev was the one to bridge it as three became four.
It was also a four-strong chase group now of Royle, Bishop, Frodeno and Blummenfelt as Kanute started to slip off the back.
And that was largely how it stayed coming into T2, with Smith leading the way by fractions, but not for long as Brownlee jumped past.
The other Olympic champions – Blummenfelt and Frodeno – would start the run side by side, almost exactly a minute behind. Game on!
Run – Neumann takes the glory
It all looked so good for Brownlee early on the 18km run as he opened up an advantage of close to half a minute.
But by the halfway point Neumann has moved menacingly up and he swept by and set sail for home.
Blummenfelt was always a threat though and he’d got the gap down to just under 20 seconds with 1.5km to go.
But as they saw each other after the final U-turn, Neumann kicked again to seal the win and actually put a few more seconds into the Norwegian superstar.
The Aussie earns the $100,000 first prize for a brilliant display in Ibiza and that performance in a field of this strength looks sure to push him further up the rankings.
Meanwhile in the women’s race, Germany’s Anne Haug produced a memorable run of her own to take the victory – click here for full report.
PTO European Open 2023 Results
Saturday 6 May 2023 – 2km / 80km / 18km
- 1. Max Neumann (AUS) – 3:13:47
- 2. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 3:14:14
- 3. Magnus Ditlev (DEN) – 3:15:37
- 4. Jan Frodeno (GER) – 3:16:03
- 5. Jason West (USA) – 3:16:06
- 6. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) – 3:17:04
- 7. Daniel Bækkegård (DEN) – 3:18:03
- 8. Ben Kanute (USA) – 3:18:09
- 9. Kyle Smith (NZL) – 3:18:33
- 10. Aaron Royle (AUS) – 3:18:54