The Drive To Thrive: PTO set to build on triathlon’s ‘golden era’

Renouf provides his take on an exciting future for the sport of elite triathlon.

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In part one of our interview with the PTO’s CEO, Sam Renouf, we discussed the latest news released this week on the 2022 PTO Tour.

With new events announced – and two more to be added in 2023 – how does that actually change things, beyond more big cheques for athletes on raceday? How does that fit the wider PTO strategy of developing the professional side of the sport?

That’s the topic for part two, looking ahead to what Renouf believes is a “golden era” for triathlon.

Accelerating into the new year

Looking back on the past two seasons, the PTO has held one ‘big’ event in each year – the PTO 2020 Championship (Challenge Daytona), and The Collins Cup (2021).

As significant as they both were – by a long way, the biggest prize money events in the sport in both years – one high-profile event is difficult to build an annual narrative.

The addition of the PTO Tour events in 2022 – set to then jump from three to five in 2023 – is something Renouf sees as significant opportunity:

“For professional sport to operate well you need a consistent calendar where you can build a narrative over a season.

“We’ve seen that most recently in Formula 1, whether it’s the ‘Drive to Survive’, the story-telling which builds up the rivalries – but then they have had a consistent calendar to play it out. It’s impossible for us to do that with one event, obviously, and that was never the intention.

Team Europe Collins Cup Results2021
PTO looking to build upon Collins Cup debut in 2022

“It was more about can we make this exciting, get the athletes together in the right way and make it a cool product. I think we showed that.

“I think with the changes we will make, it’s now full steam ahead and if anything accelerating on the business plan to make that season-long narrative. Just like tennis, golf and the other major sports.”

Stories to tell

There have been notable changes to the media landscape in triathlon in recent years, especially around the quality of video content and shoulder programming for some of the bigger events and athletes, across all triathlon distances.

Indeed, when we did our own post-event analysis of The Collins Cup 2021, that behind-the-scenes work was one of our highlights. More PTO events should, in theory, allow more stories to be told – and not just those at the head of the results sheet. That is centre to the strategy for Renouf:

“The storytelling in this sport – and I completely agree with you that the market has woken up to a bit over the last few years – goes back to an example I’ve used before. In 2019, Ali (Brownlee) and Jan (Frodeno) were facing off for the first time in Hawaii and there was almost no coverage, certainly from IRONMAN, on that battle and yet to us that was the most obvious thing and the most exciting thing in the sport.

IRONMAN World Championship
Frodeno won that 2019 battle with Brownlee at Kona (Tom Pennington/Getty for IRONMAN)

“That’s really shifted over the last few years and we are very happy to be a part of that. It’s a reflection also of just the superhuman athleticism – you are right, that whether it’s the world #1 or #30, there are some incredible stories that need to be surfaced.

The future present is bright

“We are seeing some great stars rise up. Others are towards the end of their careers, we’ve got great youngsters too. Professional triathlon is in a really great spot.

“2022 is going to be a great season – I think we are entering a golden era.”

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