American Dream: Taylor Knibb and Sam Long on the PTO US Open

American stars Sam Long and Taylor Knibb believe the inaugural PTO US Open will raise the bar for triathlon, both in the USA and globally.

The Professional Triathletes Organisation this week confirmed details of their first-ever Stateside event in partnership with USA Triathlon, the Dallas Sports Commission and the City of Irving.

It will take place on September 17-18 in Las Colinas-Irving, Texas.

Speaking on a Zoom press conference, Sam Renouf, CEO of the PTO, stated: “Our ambition here is that this is not just another event on the calendar. Our intention is that this becomes THE event for long-distance triathlon in North America.”

The US Open will be the third race of a 2022 PTO Tour which also consists of the Canadian Open and the Collins Cup. From 2023 it will expand to five events, with the addition of the PTO Asian Open and the PTO European Open.

Renouf was keen to underline the long-term view – not just for the PTO US Open, but also the other events.

He explained: “We’re establishing the tour this first year but our intention is to not become a travelling circus. We’re looking to find permanent homes for our events in each part of the world – so the US and Canada, in Europe and in Asia. And part of the logic of that is that we’re able to help support the eco system of triathlon. 

“So we’re not just encouraging this event’s growth but also the entire community around it. We see such potential for triathlon to grow in the Texas area.”

Future of the sport

And two of the sport’s brightest young stars are relishing the chance to race in front of home fans, in an event that will carry a prize purse of $1,000,000.

Sam Long Unbreakable
Sam Long – excited for the challenges ahead and triathlon’s future.

Sam Long, last year’s IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder winner, is already up to #4 in the PTO rankings and responding to a question from TRI247, the fast-improving ‘Big Unit’ said: “I think 2022 is shaping up to be potentially the biggest year of racing we’ve ever had in the existence of triathlon.

“On the Ironman side we have two World Championships, there’s the 70.3 Worlds but I don’t think it’s any secret that the PTO events are going to be a real highlight and I’m definitely targeting them more in my schedule.

“And I think it’s really stepping up – the other organisations are going to have to follow the PTO in supporting athletes, providing appearance fees, providing bigger prize purses and setting an example with media.

“It’s really going to raise what’s required and what’s expected – and the level you need to take care of professionals.

“I see the PTO as being the future of this sport and setting the example with the two Majors they have this year as well as the Collins Cup. So those are all my most important events of the year.”

The best racing the best

Taylor Knibb is also at #4 in the female PTO rankings after an incredible 2021 campaign, her first full season out of college.

Taylor Knibb Collins Cup Finish 2021
Taylor Knibb of Team USA wins her race at the 2021 Collins Cup in Samorin, Slovakia.

It included a silver medal for Team USA in the Mixed Team Relay in Tokyo, winning the WTCS Grand Final in Edmonton, starring at The Collins Cup and finishing third at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champs

And the 23-year-old told us: “I’m so thrilled for the opportunity to hopefully do these big races. 

“With the money I think comes the sense that you know everyone is going to be there. And that’s a fantastic opportunity.”

And the good news for her is that they fit in perfectly with her WTCS plans: “I have to thank whoever co-ordinated the schedules! I hope to be at all three races,” she confirmed.

That theme of stacked fields in both the men’s and women’s races was echoed by Long and he was also keen to stress that the new event wasn’t just benefitting the elites.

‘Growing the entire sport’

“I also think the important thing is that this race doesn’t just create opportunities for the top athletes to make money and build the sport. It also creates a lot of opportunities for the middle, say B and C tier athletes.

“Because if all the A tier athletes are at these events then there’s still all these other races going on and those athletes are able to make money and get showcased and get some prestige.

“So while it might look like this event is just building up the top 40 athletes, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because it really grows the entire sport from the bottom all the way up to the top. And I understand completely, being someone who was not too long ago a C tier athlete. I’m really excited about how it presents opportunities to everyone.” 

The professional men’s and women’s races are each a 100km distance which comprises a 2km swim, 80km bike leg and a 18km run. 

The PTO US Open will also introduce age group racing over both the 100km and 25km distance, as well as a relay option, giving amateurs the opportunity to meet and race alongside the PTO professionals in the centrally located Las Colinas-Irving district, a short distance from downtown Dallas.

Athletes will swim in Lake Carolyn and the bike and run courses will take them on rolling hills through the main thoroughfares of Irving, including Las Colinas Boulevard, Lake Carolyn Parkway and Royal Lane.

Jonathan Turner
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Jonathan is Editorial Director for TRI247 and RUN247. He was previously Head of Digital / Comms for pro cycling's Team Sky and now spends as much time as he can running with his local club. Swimming is not yet on the radar.