Ashleigh Gentle roared to victory at the PTO Tour Asian Open of 2023 as Anne Haug saw her victory bid derailed by mechnical misery in Singapore on Saturday.
Gentle was peerless throughout in the brutal humidity, taking control of the race during the bike leg and leading for the rest of the way. Sadly though, that costly mechanical for Haug meant we never got the expected battle between two of the best runners in the sport.
Reigning IRONMAN World Champion Chelsea Sodaro produced a terrific run to surge into the final podium position ahead of Imogen Simmonds and Lucy Charles-Barclay.
Swim – Perez Sala leads LCB
We were treated to something of an unusual sight as the field started to exit the water with ‘the mermaid’ that is Charles-Barclay not leading the way. Instead it was Spain’s Sara Perez Sala who pipped her by a couple of seconds.
The front pair though had blasted their way to a nice advantage over the rest of the field. New Zealand’s Rebecca Clarke was third, some 54 seconds off the pace, with the other big guns further back. Gentle was 1:48 away with Haug 2:29 back.
Perez Sala, not wearing a swimskin, gained a few valuable extra seconds over Charles-Barclay in T1 as she set out on the bike leg in front. Haug meanwhile gained a few seconds with the fastest first transition of the day.
Bike – Gentle takes over as disaster strikes for Haug
Charles-Barclay cut the gap on Perez Sala to just 3 seconds by the end of the first bike lap, while behind them the other big guns were really starting to fire. Gentle was now third at 1:12 with Clarke next and then Simmonds and Sodaro just over 90 seconds away from the lead. Haug meanwhile was making real inroads, now 1:48 back in seventh place.
Lucy took over at the front early on the second bike lap and carried a narrow advantage over Perez Sala through it. Behind though the closers were cutting into the deficit. Gentle was now under a minute away in third with the flying Haug next at 1:19. Just behind her were Simmonds and Sodaro.
Gentle continued her surge to the front and by the end of Lap 4 she had passed Charles-Barclay and Perez Sala and opened up a 15-second gap. Haug was just 43 seconds off the pace and continuing to move closer to the leaders.
With just under 25km remaining on two wheels, Haug had now passed Charles-Barclay and Perez Sala to move into second spot, some 36 seconds behind Gentle. The two leaders were clearly relishing a bike course with plenty of tough climbing.
Starting the penultimate lap of 8 on the bike, the front five – Gentle, Haug, Charles-Barclay, Perez Sala and Simmonds – were separated by 1:18. There was then a big gap of almost another 3 minutes to Sodaro in sixth. Gentle’s lead at the front was 40 seconds.
Disaster would strike for Haug late in that penultimate lap as she suffered a mechanical (a spare inner tube caught in her rear wheel), which ultimately cost her more than 2 minutes before she was able to get back cycling again. That dropped her to fifth, now more than 3 minutes behind Gentle. It would ultimately ruin any victory hopes.
It was Simmonds who made something of a move on the final bike lap, moving into second and cutting the gap to Gentle down to 32 seconds by T2. Charles-Barclay was 1:06 back in third with Perez Sala at 1:24.
Haug finally arrived in T2 some 2:33 behind Gentle, with the Aussie now very much favourite for another PTO Tour victory heading out onto the 18km run.
Run – Gentle too good as she storms home
Gentle quickly set about stretching further clear early on the run, while behind her Charles-Barclay passed Simmonds into second place. In the space of 4km Ashleigh had built her overall lead to 1:49 over LCB with Haug at 3:01.
Haug quickly set about working her way back through the field, moving past Perez Sala (who had also picked up a penalty), Simmonds and Charles-Barclay and up to second. She still trailed Gentle by a shade over 3 minutes though at halfway on the run. Further back, Sodaro was now one of the fastest women still on course and now up to fifth position.
With 5km remaining Gentle still held a lead of 2:49 over Haug while the final podium spot appeared to be between Charles-Barclay and Simmonds, with the Swiss star passing the Brit into third position for now. Lucy would soon then lose fourth to the charging Sodaro.
Chelsea was now flying and she overtook Simmonds for the final podium position, but up front it was Gentle who reigned supreme as she claimed a hugely impressive victory by 2:15 and a bumper first prize of $100,000.
PTO Tour Asian Open Results
Saturday August 19, 2023
- 1. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) – 3:41:16
- 2. Anne Haug (GER) – 3:43:32
- 3. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) – 3:46:10
- 4. Imogen Simmonds (SUI) – 3:47:06
- 5. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) – 3:48:00