Wattie Ink. Professionals Rock the PTO Championships
by Chris Bagg
Ed. Note—this past weekend saw history in action, as the Professional Triathletes Organization hosted their championship event at Challenge Daytona. Eight Wattie Ink. professionals contested the race, with the two Sams (Sam Appleton and Sam Long) cracking the top ten. We caught up with Cody Beals after the race to find out what it was like from his perspective.
Beals has been outspoken in his approval of the PTO Championship, applauding its decision to pay every athlete that managed to quality. "It gives all qualifiers an incentive to race, leading to one of the deepest elite fields ever assembled,” Beals said in a PTO press release. “This, in turn, elevates the profile of triathlon and the opportunities available to professional triathletes.” Indeed, the trappings of the race this past weekend felt more like big time sport, helped along by the grandiose setting of Daytona International Speedway.
"I was fortunate to have some local pro racing opportunities in Canada over the summer and IRONMAN Florida a month before the PTO Champs," Beals said a day after the race. "I actually felt less pressure and expectation than usual. Just making it to the start line felt like an unexpected bonus after a tough year." Cody finished 21st, no small feat in the deepest field ever assembled for a triathlon. The Canadian professional had what he described as "subpar" swim, and then steadily moved up, logging the 9th-fastest run among the men in 1:00:52 (5:39/mile, for those of you keeping track at home).
"As with any major race, it wasn't surprising to see athletes make risky plays rather than playing it safe," Beals told us. "The pacing of the swim and bike were ferocious and, predictably, there was carnage on the run. It also wasn't shocking to see some race favorites struggle racing a new distance at the end of a long and unusual season." Indeed, watching from the sidelines, many commentators guessed correctly that the racing would be quick and the attrition rate high. The championship assembled the deepest, but probably most-uneven field in history, athletes arriving with different levels of race seasoning in their legs. The sport won't forget Magnus Ditlev's siege on the front of the race during the bike leg, but they probably won't forget the hamstring cramps that resulted at least in part from that effort. The racing was wild and aggressive on both the men's and women's sides. "One of my only disappointments about the race was some lax officiating," Beals reported. "With new rules featuring a 20 meter draft zone and two-to-three minute penalties, I expected to by-the-book enforcement and more penalties handed out. Instead, some athletes were permitted to get away with fairly blatant drafting and 'slotting in' violations. I expected better from such a high caliber and well-televised race."
Despite the fireworks on display during the racing, Beals reported a "Fun, grateful, and celebratory vibe. Professional triathletes are a tight-knit group and generally support and encourage one another." Beals also expressed hope for the continued growth and development of triathlon, saying "It takes a monster prize purse like this to entice such a stacked field, but epic showdowns featuring deep fields are more exciting for fans, more enticing to business partners and media, and more conducive to athlete development. All this attention elevates the profile of triathlon and the opportunities available to triathletes."
Beals late in the run on race day
Beals and fellow Canadian Wattie Ink. professional Rach McBride during pre-race riding
The professionals were afforded several runs at the course in the days before the race
The scope of Daytona International Speedway fit the caliber of the field