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#45: Road to winning
Dust off your sports metaphors and gear up.
issue #45: July 26, 2023
OK, hi, yes, I’m back from vacation. But my brain isn’t fully back. My brain is still sitting in a bar somewhere in Alaska, while my body is trying to slog through a pile of emails and triathlon gossip. So, we’ll see how today goes.
I’m only home for about a week now before we head to Milwaukee for the PTO U.S. Open & USAT Age Group Nationals. And then it’s (hopefully) off to Paris for the Olympic Test Event. Two quick things:
We’ll be doing a live podcast show in Milwaukee, on the main stage on Thursday, Aug. 3 at 12:15 p.m. (right after the pro panel)
I’ll probably send out Sunday newsletters for paying subscribers with some tidbits from Milwaukee and from Paris; we’ll see if we do any other extra newsletters from France, too. Let me know what questions, content, things you want to see from each event.
And one last thing for my amazing paying subscribers: Sorry, sorry, there was no Sunday newsletter this past weekend. (I have a fun story 95% done, but internet service didn’t let me get it finished.) However, we do have BOOK CLUB this Friday. Don’t forget to join the author of ‘The Race That Changed Running’ for a Q&A on Friday, July 28 at 9 a.m. PT—Zoom link here—and we have a chat thread about the book going right now!
OK, that’s all, here’s a photo from Alaska before we get going.
Let’s start at the start
I think it’s official: Once July ends on Tuesday, Championship Season begins. Here’s the schedule coming up:
Aug. 4-5: U.S. Open
Aug. 17-18: Paris Test Event
Aug. 19-20: Asia Open
Aug. 26-27: 70.3 World Championship
Then it’s Men’s Nice and Women’s Kona, and whew. So let’s talk about the start lists that are now semi sorta kinda getting finalized.
Also known as The Race in Which All The Europeans Had to Google Milwaukee. We’ll do one of our classic maps next week to help you all out.
The women’s start list is as crazy as ever (with a slight lean towards N. Americans): Ashleigh Gentle, Paula Findlay, Taylor Knibb, Holly Lawrence, Tamara Jewett, Kat Matthews, Chelsea Sodaro. I also love that they gave a wildcard to a Milwaukee local and up-and-coming pro. Personally, I’d probably put odds on Ashleigh, just because it’s her distance and her kind of conditions, but any of those names could win.
In the men’s race, they threw wildcards at Jan Frodeno, Marten van Riel, and Tim O’Donnell. Which is then on top of the usual: Kristian Blummenfelt, Alistair Brownlee (though has anyone confirmed if he’s healthy?), Magnus Ditlev, Ben Kanute, Sam Long, Lionel Sanders. I don’t know if I actually have a pick here, though it feels like it could be Ditlev or Baekkegard….?
And then, everyone will party hard with the Brew Crew. Or, you know, not, because they all have more races.
Two weeks later, a much smaller start list, but many of the same names then head to Singapore—except everyone’s trying to balance various schedule conflicts over the next month with prize money opportunities. That means some of the Europeans are hitting up Asia Open as an opener before 70.3 Worlds or before Nice, while others are using it as a bit of a recovery/break.
The added names that stand out to me are Anne Haug and Lucy Charles-Barclay (of course), plus Max Neumann and Gustav Iden.
It’s a bit hard right now to know who of the 70.3 Worlds qualifiers will actually be heading to Finland. In large part that’s because there’s so much overlap between 70.3 races and PTO 100K distance and even overlap with some of the athletes who are looking to lock down an Olympic qualification in Paris. That means many of them will probably make the call in the next week or two.
But, for that other big world championship this fall, we can predict the majority of athletes who took spots will line up. Since the Ironman World Championship-Nice Edition qualification deadline has now passed, we now have our final list of qualifiers. (Scroll down in that link to the bottom for qualified WC athletes.)
Triathlete did a first look and put it all in a chart—but it’s all the big names you’d expect at this point.
Except, notably, since Alistair Brownlee didn’t start Ironman Lake Placid, he won’t have a spot in France. And I don’t think Ironman does wildcards anymore.
The pathway to Paris, road to rings, and other cliches
It feels kind of weird that we’re already back in an Olympic cycle, but here we are. And the big race, the race everyone who is looking at Paris next year has circled, is now coming, the road has started: The Paris Test Event.
I summed up before how the U.S. will do Olympic qualification, but in short: Athletes can auto-qualify in Paris or at the World Grand Final in Pontevedra in September. (Para qualification is way more complicated.) If they don’t qualify by nabbing an automatic spot (top 8 in France, top 3 in Spain—with a whole bunch of caveats), there will be one last qualifying event, and then it goes to the selection committee. No one likes to leave things in the hands of a selection committee; it’s a miserable experience for anyone involved.
A lot of other countries are also using Paris as their auto-qualifier. And even those countries who don’t do auto-qualification will still be focused on Paris as a key race for selection. So, in short: Everyone who wants to be there next year will be there in three weeks.
Notable things to call out:
Georgia Taylor-Brown is still on the start list but has torn her calf and will not be racing; I am not yet clear who this will open up a spot for.
Flora Duffy is on the start list and has said it’s her goal to be ready in time, but has also said she’s dealing with some lingering issues.
Gustav Iden is off the start list. I know everyone was freaking out about ProTriNews reporting his spot filled with another Norwegian, but those are just facts. He’s had a rough year, his mom passed, he probably needs to build back a block of training now, let’s chill out.
For our Americans: Morgan Pearson is not currently on the start list. And, neither is Gwen Jorgensen. Gwen is not on the start right now because the U.S. women only get five spots and there are athletes who have earned spots ahead of her (Taylor Spivey, Taylor Knibb, Summer Rappaport, Katie Zaferes, Kristen Kasper).
The U.S. women’s Olympic qualification is hands down really stressing me out, and all I think any of us are hoping is that it’s all clear-cut auto-qualifying and doesn’t come down to selection, because ugh.
Rest of the best
Ironman Lake Placid: Joe Skipper held off Ben Hoffman and Matt Hanson—and had one of the funnier finish line videos. (Everyone said people were giving him shit in the comments for not smiling, but all I saw was people yelling at the people who said he didn’t smile. Which I feel like is how every “controversy” goes: I only see the people complaining about the original complaining.) And, on the women’s side, Alice Alberts got her first ever Ironman podium and it was a win, and I did some Googling: She started triathlon two years ago and went pro last summer. Seems like it’s working out.
Oregon 70.3: Lionel Sanders logged his first win of the year at the downhill swim. And Danielle Lewis repeated her title there from last year.
Mark your calendar
Coming up this weekend (and stay tuned for the U.S. Open next weekend)…
WTCS Sunderland: Honestly, a lot of the biggest names are holding off to be ready for Paris—with so much on the line in France (though Gwen Jorgensen still needs points, so she’s there). And I’d be shocked if Hayden Wilde doesn’t win.
Maine 70.3: A number of the women who raced Placid are backing it up in Maine, and it’s good to see Bec Wassner back (even if she says it’s just a training race for bigger events this fall). It’s also a pretty long men’s start list, with Tim O’Donnell, Trevor Foley, and Matt Sharpe topping it.
WATCH: On Outside Watch (free live & replay for members), on Sunday, July 30 @ 5:30 a.m. ET/2:30 a.m. PT
See all the past week’s results and this weekend’s races on our Results page.
Things from around our sports this week that you should know about.
Victoria, Australia has pulled out of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games—which is not so great for the triathletes from those countries that care a lot about the Commonwealth. Britain could step in with a bid to host, but no one seems to know what’ll happen. (New York Times/The Guardian)
The UK will NOT be hosting any WTCS races next year, though. Because, apparently, it costs around $500K—which includes a $150K hosting fee + $250K on broadcast. (Tri-Stats)
Sean Conway set a new world record of 102 “iron-distance triathlons” in 102 days. If he could just come up with a good marketing handle, like, I dunno, Iron Cowboy. (Runner’s World)
Alicia Monson set an American record in the 5,000m (14:19) and Faith Kipyegon set a new world record in the mile (4:07!!). The mile isn’t run that often at the elite level, and this one is absolutely a race worth watching. (Runner’s World/Youtube)
Katie Ledecky has now won 15 world titles—tying Michael Phelps’ record—including winning the 1500m by 17 SECONDS! (Honestly, given her time, I would be thrilled to be within six minutes.) (NBC Sports)
Paula Findlay is the latest triathlete to jump into pro cycling: She’ll be representing Canada in the time trial at the UCI World Champs in two weeks—and then will stay in Europe for 70.3 Worlds. (Tri247)
Whenever someone puts a mic in front of Lionel Sanders, it’s worth listening to—and the new Super League podcast has been excellent. (Apple Podcasts).
Also worth listening to: The rise and fall of Wim Hof. (Spotify)
Triathlete did a whole series of stories on doping—some of which you probably don’t need to read if you know how WADA works, but it seems like a lot of you don’t know how WADA works, so. The story that caught my attention and I think the attention of most people: Joe Skipper details how to cheat the doping system. Except, the thing is, he didn’t really explain how to cheat; he just explained how the rules work, and that there are obviously many times of the day where people are not being tested. And, I dunno, but, that’s not a secret, it’s just logistical fact and also it preserves the rights of athletes, because athletes do have rights. (A funny thread on some oddities that happen when you get tested regularly.) Think about it this way: We also don’t have police patrolling and knocking down doors on every block every hour of every day—because it’s simply not possible or a reasonable way to prevent crime. And, yet, somehow, most people still don’t commit crimes. My point is: A system can not be solely built on simply scaling enforcement to cover all possibilities, it’ll never work, it has to also be built on targeting and education and plugging holes and creating other incentives and disincentives and culture. (Triathlete/Threads)
I’d also like to re-recommend my explainer on doping in long-course. (Triathlonish)
The New York Times gets into the whole super shoes thing and comes to the conclusion I thought we already knew: one big real benefit may really come in recovery and training, but also the shoes can cause injuries. (New York Times)
The one event I actually get super classic sports fan about is the Women’s World Cup and it has been a great one so far (Jamaica tied France!! New Zealand won its first game in almost 30 years! then the Philippines beat New Zealand 1-0! Nigeria tied Canada in what has to be the save of the goddamn tournament!). And so it is my responsibility to remind you that the U.S. women play their second group match tonight at 5 p.m. PT on FOX. You’re welcome.
One last thing
I appreciate the fact that none of us have any idea what’s going on in the moments after an Ironman. Click the video.