The best women in middle-distance racing will come together in Ibiza on May 6, for the inaugural PTO European Open, kicking off their season as the first of three PTO Tour events held during 2023.
Amongst the start list are IRONMAN World Champions, IRONMAN 70.3 World Champions, PTO event winners and some of the most in-form athletes of the season so far, including Canadian Tamara Jewett and Brit Lucy Byram.
However, the 32-year-old will have her work cut out to extend her winning streak on the Balearic Island, as a number of big names look to claim some crucial world ranking points and a slice of the $600,000 prize purse.
The famous five
In addition to Ashleigh Gentle, the full women’s podium from the 2022 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona will be racing in Ibiza, with Chelsea Sodaro, Anne Haug and Lucy Charles-Barclay all set to toe the start line.
With Sodaro, Haug and Gentle all starting their seasons off on the podium in various events already, it will be an enthralling battle to see who comes out on top in Spain. Add in Charles-Barclay, plus the 2021 IRONMAN World Champion Daniela Ryf, and it truly will be a battle of the titans in Ibiza.
Having together dominated the sport for so long, Ryf, Haug and Charles-Barclay will want to prove to everyone, including themselves, that they can take on the best of the new crop of talent in the women’s ranks.
Last October was the first time someone other than Ryf or Haug has taken the women’s IRONMAN world title since 2014, and it will be interesting to see if their hold on the top of the sport still remains over this shorter format.
Sodaro, who broke through in Hawaii six months ago, will undoubtedly want to back-up a strong showing in Oceanside at the start of April against an even stronger field, with Gentle another who will be eager to come out on top against the very best.
Gentle, Sodaro, Ryf, Haug and Charles-Barclay alone would make for an incredible race, and if all five make it to the start line fit and healthy, then Ibiza could prove to be a great indicator of who looks to be in the best position to go on and win world championship titles in the latter half of the season.
In addition to the aforementioned five athletes, there is easily another group of five women who are just as capable of winning on their day in Ibiza, and, if they pull it off, could potentially propel themselves towards the top of the world rankings.
German Laura Philipp, who won IRONMAN South Africa in convincing fashion at the start of the season, is one such athlete, as is Kat Matthews, who was originally down to race the World Triathlon Long Course Championships, and also Canadian Paula Findlay.
Whilst Findlay might not have had the race she’d wanted in Oceanside at the start of April, she is the current world #3 for a reason, after a brilliant 2022 which saw her finish runner up at both the Canadian Open and the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in St George.
Matthews, the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship runner-up, will also be looking to gauge her fitness in Ibiza, but unlike Findlay, is not coming in off the back of a successful end to the 2022 racing season.
Matthews, who was hit by a car whilst training for the IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii, has staged a remarkable comeback, and her recent podium in Oceanside is testament to her courage and determination to get back to the front of races, which we are likely to see in Ibiza.
Between Philipp, Matthews and Findlay, there will be an enormous amount of bike power on the roads in Ibiza, with this trio boasting the ability to tear world class fields wide open out on the bike course.
Along with Ryf and Charles-Barclay, there is more than a handful of women who could potentially throw down some earth-shattering times for the 80km bike leg, and after what promises to be a choppy 2km sea swim, the run may be more of a test attrition rather than pure run speed.
Whilst the biggest names in the sport become the biggest names by delivering on race day, the PTO Tour has an interesting way of creating races that set the stage for an athlete to have a breakthrough race against world class opposition.
For the in-form athletes of the early season, such as Britain’s Byram, Canada’s Tamara Jewett and Australia’s Grace Thek, Ibiza may well provide the perfect opportunity to build on their early season success with some big scalps and a bumper payday.
Jewett, in particular, will be viewed as a threat by everyone, with her 1:13 half marathon split to win Oceanside on April 1st truly mesmerising, and her improvement on the bike and in the water since last season indicating that she is an athlete who is ready to take it to the best in the world on the biggest stage.
Byram, who proved that lightening does strike twice with two epic performances in quick succession at Clash Miami and Challenge Puerto Varas, will be looking to test herself against the best, as will Thek, who takes on a world class field for the first time this season after three consecutive podiums Down Under.
Holly Lawrence is another athlete with the potential to be in the mix, and whilst more experienced at the top level than the previously mentioned trio, she will be hungry for success after almost two years without a middle-distance win.
Just 33 years old, the Boulder based Brit has plenty of time to repeat the kind of performance that saw her take the IRONMAN 70.3 world title in 2016.
For a list of the 25 names announced in the women’s field, click here and keep your eye out for the announcement of the remaining wildcard names to be added soon.