Findlay & Long Coast to 70.3 North American Championship Titles

Paula Findlay swam in the front pack, broke away on the bike, and held it together on the run to secure her win. Findlay came out of the water in a lead pack of four with Kate Curran, Ellie Salthouse, and Jeanni Metzler. Findlay and Salthouse went to the front of the bike early and worked together to build a small lead. Findlay would ride away from Salthouse before the halfway point of the bike and extend her lead to 4 minutes by the time she got into T2. Findlay ran steady and in control from start to finish on the run. She maintained her lead to the finish line, crossing in 4:09:27. Findlay improved from her 4th place at T100 Miami and 3rd place at 70.3 Oceanside. Her 2024 campaign is off to a strong start.

Sam Long made his move biking up Snow Canyon. He moved around Maximillian Sperl with a little more than 10 miles to go. Sperl did his best to go with the pace but Long would continue to push the downhill back into town. Long clocked a 1:59:57 bike course record and got into T2 with a 41 second lead over Sperl, with everyone else in the field over 3:00 back. Someone would need a superhuman run to catch Long. Long attacked the run the way he attacked the bike. You would never know that he had a comfortable lead with the way he was continuing to open up his stride and increase his lead. It looked like he was on a mission to run someone down but it was only a battle between him and the clock. Long broke the tape in 3:39:17, setting a new course record. He split 1:10:46 on a run course with more than 700 feet of elevation that goes through a grass golf course section twice. This was a truly world class and dominant performance. Long continues to impress in 2024.

Women’s Race

The women were strung out just a couple of minutes into the swim. Kate Curran (GB), Jeanni Metzler (RSA), Ellie Salthouse (AUS), and Paula Findlay (CAN) made up the front pack. Curran came out of the water first, closely followed by the others. Hering, doing a lot of work in the chase pack, came out a little less than 2 minutes down in 6th. Danielle Lewis came out in 19th. Curran was almost 2 minutes slower than Haley Chura’s swim CR. Some of the usual front pack swimmers, like Chura and Lauren Brandon, were not in St. George for this race. That allowed athletes like Salthouse and Findlay, who might usually be in the chase pack, to swim at the front of this race.

What this race might have lacked on the swim in terms of firepower was more than made up for on the bike. Salthouse and Findlay got away early on the bike and began pushing the pace. These two women worked together to build up a 1:00 lead by the 22 mile mark. By the halfway point, Findlay was on her own and had gapped Salthouse by 1:00. Findlay, similar to Long, dominated the climb up Snow Canyon and the descent back into town. Lewis and Hering caught Metzler and Curran on the climb. Findlay would reach T2 with a 4:00 lead over Salthouse, after riding 2:16:41. Salthouse would enter with a 1:00 lead ahead of the chase pack. Lewis took off out of T2 in 2nd but was quickly reeled in by Hering, Metzler, and Curran. Findlay, never challenged seriously on the run, cruised to victory. Salthouse chipped away at her deficit but had to settle for 2nd, finishing 2:30 behind Findlay. Hering broke away from Metzler (4th) and Curran (5th) to finish 3rd. Lewis faded to 6th but is coming off of IRONMAN Texas last week and secured another strong Pro Series finish.

Findlay praised the St. George community after the race saying, “The city loves triathlon and gets behind it.” You could see the joy she ran with in the closing stretch, high fiving an AG racer and plenty of fans in the finishing straight. She said that she will be back at this race year after year. With two 1st place finishes, two 2nd place finishes, and one 4th place finish here, who can blame her. Findlay, always a class act, celebrated the other women podium finishers. She was happy that many of her friends had good races today. She said that the 70.3 World Championships is a big target for her this year. She did, however, add that there is no full distance race in her future this year. We might see that at some point but for now she is content with the half distance.

Men’s Race

With around 70 male pros competing, it took about 5 minutes for the lead pack and chase pack to materialize on the swim. Nicholas Quenet (RSA) came out of the water first in 22:46. That’s about 45 seconds faster than Marc Dubrick took out this race last year. Quenet is coming off of a 3rd place finish at St. Anthony’s last weekend. Magnus Manner (GER) came out right behind Quenet, with Dubrick 12 seconds back. A trio of Canadians (Brennen Smith, AJ Desroches, and Josiah Ney) followed 30 seconds back. Antony Costes (FR) came out 9th. Ben Hamilton (NZ) was 22nd. Jackson Laundry (CAN) was 26th. Sam Long was 33rd, 3:17 off of the lead.

Quenet, Manner, Sperl, and Costes worked together at the front of the bike early on. Sam Long, after having the fastest T1, began to chip away at his deficit. Long would reach the front pack of the bike before the halfway point. The racing really got going up Snow Canyon. This famous climb runs from about mile 42 to mile 46 and gains 1000 feet. Long and Sperl broke away from the others. Long made a hard move towards the end of the climb and gapped Sperl. Laundry got into some trouble a little further back, apparently dropping his chain. After the race Long said that he realized that he could break 2 hours on the bike when he got to the top of Snow Canyon but knew he needed to keep on the gas for the descent. Before the descent, the main chase back was 2:30 behind Long. By the end of the descent, Long had gapped Sperl by 41 seconds and the closest chase rider was 3:26 down. Long snuck under the 2 hour barrier, biking a 1:59:57 course record.

Long was not content to coast it in on the run. He continued to increase his lead over everyone else, putting together his fastest 70.3 run split ever. He clocked a 1:10:46 on a very honest course. Hamilton, recently 3rd at IRONMAN New Zealand, was the best of the rest and took 2nd. Costes held off Laundry by 2 seconds to round out the podium. Hamilton separated from Quenet and Sperl in the last 5k. Costes and Laundry came from further back. After winning this race last year, Long is now your 70.3 St. George back to back champion. He would say after the race, “That back to back title sounds pretty good to me.” On the bike he added, “The bike was fast and ferocious…I was thinking at some point it would settle down but it never really settled down.” Long put together one of the best bike-run combos this sport has ever seen today. After finishing 2nd at his last three races, he is back on top.

Quick Take #1: If you want to beat Sam Long in 2024, you need to bury him on the swim. He finished 2nd at both PTO Miami and PTO Singapore, after being down 3:30 and 4:00, respectively. 3:17 today was never going to get it done. Sam’s run was almost more impressive than his bike. We all know what he is capable of on the bike. He broke 71:00 solo on a hilly course after biking sub-2 hours. His run is something his competitors need to be worried about.

Sam’s 2023 win in St. George was his first race after he made the decision to coach himself. He has progressed at this race throughout his career, finishing 9th, 5th, 2nd, and now 1st the last 2 years. What can you say, other than Yo, Yo, Yo!

Quick Take #2: How great is this venue? You cannot ask for a better backdrop for triathlon. You start with a 1.2 mile swim at Sand Hollow State park and embark on a 56 mile bike that culminates with a picturesque climb up Snow Canyon. While slight changes were made to the run course this year, it is similar to last year’s layout and is still plenty challenging. Everyone racing in St. George more than earns their finish line medals.

Quick Take #3: There was a long DNS list of athletes for today’s race. Some dropped out after Texas. Some picked up injuries. On the men’s side, we missed Sanders, Currie, Foley, Wurf, Magnien, and Klau. On the women’s side, we missed Moench and Thek.

Quick Take #4: It looks like picking up points at IRONMAN races will dictate end of year Pro Series standings. Some thought that 70.3 specialists might be able to get by with really strong results at 70.3 Worlds. After looking at the standings after Texas, it’s clear that the full distance races provide a great opportunity to position yourself towards the top of the standings.

Quick Take #5: Connor Weaver ran 1:08:34 today. Weaver ran the Olympic Trials marathon in February. He had the fastest run split in Oceanside but rode 2:30:10. He finished 15th today and rode 2:18:55. His progress in the sport will be something to keep an eye on.