2020 PTO Championship Field Preview

With Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Championships and ITU Long Distance Worlds canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Professional Triathletes Organization has filled the vacuum with a $1.15 million purse for its middle-distance PTO Championship this weekend at Challenge Daytona. The 2 kilometer swim, 80 kilometer bike and 18 kilometer run course -- 13 kilometers short of the traditional half Ironman distance – will be held at the famed motorsports mecca Daytona International Speedway.

In addition to the $1.15 million pro purse - $365,000 richer than the Ironman World Championship - the event has gained prestige and notoriety due to pent up desire for a premier race in 2020. As a result, the event has drawn a very deep, talented pro field from the ranks of Ironman, Ironman 70.3 and ITU. With the course slightly under the half Ironman distance, the advantage should tip slightly to the Olympic distance, then the 70.3 competitors, then the Ironman stalwarts. Across the board, cycling stars will thrive on the flat and fast racing surface, but the 80-kilometer distance will trim that advantage.

Before talking about who is racing, we must discuss the absences. Most notably, three-time Ironman World Champion and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno will be on the sidelines due to injury. Four-time women’s Ironman World Champion Daniela Ryf is also not participating. Andrew Starykowicz, U.S. überbiker and last year’s Challenge Daytona 4th place finisher, will be absent due to his anti-doping violation ban through January 1, 2021. And last year’s runner-up Lucy Charles-Barclay, a natural favorite due to her swim and cycling prowess, withdrew a short time ago. Other top athletes who ranked high on the PTO points list but who are not entered include Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway and two time ITU World Champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda.

What remains is still a deep and stellar field.


Alistair Brownlee, who in addition to his 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medals, has an Ironman 70.3 Worlds podium, two Olympic distance ITU World Championships, two yeo three regular season Ironman wins, and recent podiums at ITU World Cups. While excellent in all disciplines, Brownlee’s run is his ace in the hole.

Next is Canadian Lionel Sanders, who ought to compensate for an average swim with a bike that recently powered him to the Canadian one hour cycling record. Sanders has won bags full of 70.3s and took a gutsy second place at the 2017 Ironman World Championship.

Vincent Luisof France has an opportunity to answer question marks because of his focus on shorter course racing. Luis, the two-time ITU WTS World Champion, is coming into Daytona on a four-race win streak and with a reputation as a top ITU swimmer and runner and first pack cyclist.

Sebastian Kienle of Germany, überbiker extraordinaire, two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion, 2014 Ironman World Champion and 2016 2nd place finisher at Kona, comes in strong with a 3rd at the 2019 Ironman World Championship.

Gustav Iden of Norway, was the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, and finished 4th at the recent WTS Grand Final.

Alistair’s brother Jonny Brownlee has not maintained his peak form recently. But he took 3rd at the London Olympics, 2nd at the Rio Olympics, and won the 2019 Edmonton WTS.

Five-time ITU and WTS Olympic distance World Champion Javier Gomez of Spain, also won the 2014 and 2017 Ironman 70.3 Worlds and won the 2019 ITU Long Distance Worlds.

Top American hopes are Ben Hoffman, who was 4th at the 2019 Ironman World Championship and 2nd at 2019 Ironman Florida with a stellar 2:36:09 run; Timothy O’Donnell, who was second at the 2019 Ironman World Championship, and Rudy Von Berg, who was 3rd at the 2019 Ironman 70.3 Worlds.


Anne Haug of Germany, the reigning Ironman World Champion, also finished third at the 2018 Ironman World Championship, and won 2019 Ironman Copenhagen. She has a solid swim, good bike and killer run that can do the job in Daytona.

Nicola Spirig of Switzerland won the 2012 Olympics and took second in 2016 at Rio, is brushing up her strong bike and run for a try at the 2020-21 Olympics in Tokyo. Her latest fitness check was a second-place finish at the Valencia World Cup in November.

Lisa Norden of Sweden, who finished a fraction of a second behind Nicola Spirig at the London Olympics, has focused on her world class cycling skills recently. She won the Swedish national TT title and road title in 2019, and represented Sweden in the UCI World Championship in 2020 in both disciplines. Last year she finished 3rd at Challenge Daytona and took 2nd at 2019 Challenge Prague.

Holly Lawrence of Great Britain is in recent form with a win at 2020 Ironman 70.3 Cozumel. Earlier she took second place at 2019 Ironman 70.3 Worlds, won 2019 Ironman 70.3 Bahrain and jump started her career with a win at the 2016 Ironman 70.3 Worlds.

Paula Findlay of Canada ruled the ITU Olympic distance World Cup circuit with five wins in the early 2010s. Recently, she is back on top form with wins at the 2018 St. George 70.3, and the 2019 Indian Wells 70.3. She will be at home on the Daytona Speedway as she won last year’s Challenge Daytona.

Sarah Crowley of Australia is a solid threat for the podium with third place finishes at the Ironman World Championship in 2018 and 2019 and a win at Ironman Arizona in 2019.

U.S. top contender Heather Jackson is a solid bet with a win at 2018 Ironman Arizona atop a second at Ironman 70.3 Worlds, took third at the 2016 Ironman World Championship and is a four-time top 5 at Kona. Skye Moench of the U.S. hit the big time with a win at Ironman Frankfurt in 2019 and after time lost to injury is rounding back into form.

Picking favorites on a race-poor season will be made harder to find in form favorites, so long shots who have found race winning form training at home may take down the usual suspects.

Full Women's Field

Lucy Hall (GBR)
Jodie Stimpson (GBR)
Angela Naeth (Can)
Jeanni Seymour (RSA)
Amelia Watkinson (NZL)
Jackie Hering (USA)
Sara Svensk (SWE)
Gurutz Frades (ESP)
Emma Pallant (GBR)
Judith Corachan (ESP)
Meredith Kessler (USA)
Agnieszka Jerzyk (POL)
Lesley Smith (USA)
Carolin Lehrieder (GER)
Kimberley Morrison (GBR)
Manon Genet (FRA)
Michelle Vesterby (DEN)
Lisa Roberts (USA)
India Lee (GBR)
Pamella Oliveira (BRA)
Katrina Matthews (GBR)
Fenella Langridge (GBR)
Kristin Liepold (GER)
Rachel McBride (Can)
Jennifer Spieldenner (USA)
Elisabetta Curridori (ITA)
Danielle Lewis (USA)
Renee Kiley (AUS)
Alissa Doehla (USA)
Nikki Bartlett (GBR)
Kelsey Withrow (USA)
Amelie Kretz (CAN)
Anneke Jenkins (NZL)
Ruth Astle (GBR)
Emma Bilham (SUI)
Lisa Becharas (USA)

Full Men's Field

Cameron Wurf (AUS)
Henri Schoeman (RSA)
Bradley Weiss (RSA)
Andreas Dreitz (GER)
Michael Weiss (AUT)
Matt Hanson (USA)
Boris Stein (GER)
Joe Gambles (AUS)
Sam Long (USA)
Tim Don (GBR)
Chris Leiferman (USA)
James Cunnama (RSA)
Matt McElroy (USA)
Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) * 2018 Challenge Daytona winner
Sam Appleton (AUS)
Cody Beals (CAN)
Maurice Clavel (FRA)
Florian Angert (GER)
Daniel Baekkegard (DEN)
Andrew Starykowicz (USA) DNS
Philipp Koutny (SUI)
Matthew Russell (USA)
Igor Amorelli (BRA)
Andy Boecherer (GER)
Ben Kanute (USA)
Frederic Funk (GER)
Andy Potts (USA)
Eneko Llanos (ESP)
George Goodwin (GBR)
Kristian Hogenghaug (DEN)
Adam Bowden (GBR)
Jackson Laundry (CAN)
Ruedi Wild (SUI)
Nils Frommhold (GER)
David Plese (SLO)
Thomas Steger (AUT)
Magnus Elbaek Ditlev (DEN)
Thomas Davis (GBR)
Eric Lagerstrom (USA)
Taylor Reid (CAN)
Jesper Svensson (SWE)
Justin Metzler (USA)
Jason West (USA)
Kieran Lindars (GBR)
Andreas Salvisberg (SUI)
Andres Lopes (USA)
Morgan Pearson (USA)