If there was a ‘best breakthrough athlete’ of the 2021 season, in the female ranks at least, it’s doubtful there would be too many arguments with that award going to Taylor Knibb.
Breakthrough… but not ‘new’
That’s not to say that the Cornell University Psychology graduate appeared suddenly and out of the blue. Far from it, she had a distinguished C.V. before the calendar reached 2021.
A three-time World Champion already at Junior (2016, 2017) and U23 (2018) levels, Knibb was already on the road to top-tier success, with a senior level World Triathlon Series podium on her record, back in 2017 (Edmonton). However 2021 would make the world take notice – of both her results and her bike…
Quite a year
With parallels perhaps to Lucy Charles-Barclay, what truly stood out from the Taylor Knibb results list in 2021 was a combination of the quality and versatility of her racing. From super-sprint distance draft-legal through to IRONMAN 70.3, she was racing with the best:
- Winning WTCS Yokohama – claiming automatic Olympic Games selection
- Silver medal for Team USA in the Mixed Team Relay in Tokyo
- Second in debut 70.3 event (Boulder) – on her standard ITU road bike
- A week later (super sprint distance) – second to Flora Duffy in Montreal
- Wins the WTCS Grand Final in Edmonton
- Sets the fastest time of the day at The Collins Cup
- Finished third at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champs – on that road bike again.
Taylor swift(er) with Trek…
Of course, much of the discussion – as triathletes love equipment – was the bike on which Taylor was mixing it with the best at middle-distance racing. Or more specifically, that it wasn’t a triathlon/TT-specific machine. Knibb rode her regular ITU road bike across all of her events.
Still just 23 years of age, and beginning in 2022 what will be only her second full season out of college, Knibb would seemingly have the potential to be one of the stars of the sport over the next decade. And with no bike sponsor in 2021, that made her surely one of the most in-demand athletes for a brand to link with moving forward.
When we spoke to Taylor in September 2021, ahead of her race in St George, she told us “but maybe and hopefully soon!” on her lack of a bike partner, to address that gap on her sponsor portfolio. Well, that’s now been filled by Trek, with the news that Taylor has joined the Trek Factory Racing Triathlon Team and, no doubt, the brand new Speed Concept SLR will be among her bike arsenal now for non-draft racing.
Having also recently signed another IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship medallist, Sam Long, Trek are showing significant and continued commitment to the future of triathlon.
“I wanted to create partnerships and relationships now that I could see lasting for the entirety of my career”, says Knibb of this new link with Trek, and while the passage of time will tell on that score, for both parties, that doesn’t feel an unreasonable goal right now. Look at Red Bull for example, they have made identifying the right talent and sticking with them for life their hallmark.
At 23, Knibb is certainly not the finished article – “…my run isn’t quite where I want it to be to win races if I’m coming off the bike with 30 other women” – but from her 2021 season alone, the triathlon world is seemingly her oyster at any distance and format over the next 10 years. Given her racing style, it’s fair to say she will be gaining plenty of airtime at the front of events for years to come too.
A partnership which makes sense
With quality bikes to cover all formats (even XTERRA, should Knibb want to further extend her repertoire), and a decades-long association with the sport, Knibb looks set to have ensured she won’t be left behind in terms of cycling equipment moving forward.
For Trek, linking up early with an athlete who has the potential to star in this sport, across multiple formats, for a decade or more (and happens to be one of the strongest cyclists already), is seemingly a very strong basis from which to ‘invest’.
All-in-all, a win-win situation for both Taylor Knibb and Trek I would say.
“I would really like to go back to 70.3 Worlds and improve my race, both from an execution standpoint and how I prepare for it”, says Knibb looking ahead to this season.
That’s a rematch with Lucy Charles-Barclay, we can’t wait to see. And this time she won’t be bringing a water pistol to a gun fight!