by Chris Bagg

Ed. Note—earlier this week, we caught up with Cody Beals who gave us some in-depth thoughts about the PTO Championships. Today we're back with images from @tzaferes and @professionaltriathletesorg and more words from the eight Wattie Ink. professionals who contested the event.

"More than ever this race felt 'bigger than me,' said Rach McBride. "It felt like this race provided triathletes around the world the inspiration and motivation to keep at it. To look forward to a future of racing again!"

The swims were brutal and unrelenting, with Lucy Hall and Wattie Ink. pro Lauren Brandon stringing out the women's field and breaking it quickly into distinct packs.

"The pre-race tension in T1 was pretty high," said Joe Gambles. "With the lack of racing and the huge prize purse I think we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform. I felt very fortunate, however, to have the opportunity to race and bring closure to a very difficult year. The quality of the field assembled was incredible, and it was an honor to race alongside some of the best athletes this sport has produced." 

Sam Appleton animated the race from start to finish, moving up through the field and then running strong for the best Wattie Ink. finish (6th).

"This was my first and last race of 2020," said Lauren Brandon. "Which made it extra special. I was definitely more nervous than I usually am because I haven’t raced in over a year and it was a world championship-type event. Once I got out on the race course though, I just felt so happy and grateful to be out there racing again. The Professional Triathletes Organization and Challenge Family did such a wonderful job taking care of the athletes all week and ensuring that we had a safe race week and an amazing race day." 

"This was my only triathlon of 2020," Andy Potts told us. "It had been over a year since I last competed. The event was special because it gave me some purpose during what has been a trying time. I looked at the race as only having upside if I performed well. That is how I am going to approach a lot of my races going forward because I think it is a good mindset and puts a positive spin on something that could be daunting." 

Heather Jackson mowed through the field on the bike and the run, finishing 20th in the best field of short-course and long-course triathletes ever assembled.

"The race was exceptional," said Sam Long, who upended the field and ran through it to 9th place. "A world class field and the tactics were thrilling. The biggest surprise however was the crowd. With COVID-19 I expected nobody to be there. It was so fun to have an engaged crowd and I just tossed myself into it." 

"I think one thing that is unique about this event is the shorter-than-normal distance, the mixed field of short and long distance athletes, and the brutal 20-lap bike course," Rach McBride said. "I think the relentless 2 hours on the bike caused carnage on the athletes' bodies that you really saw manifest on the run."

Sam Appleton passing Thomas Davis on the run.

Heather Jackson on the run.

"The biggest thing for me was feeling the pressure to perform," said Sam Long. "The number of people expecting something from me and just wanting to hide. But knowing I had no choice...I had to back it up." 

Lauren Brandon finished in 27th place, right ahead of her swim partner Lucy Hall.

Andy Potts finished in 22nd place, right behind fellow Wattie Ink. pro Cody Beals. "I’ve raced on this course before and it went as expected. It was fast and gnarly right from the start—full tilt the entire race. Good times and now I’m really sore. I hope that this event shows how motivated the professional athletes are to have a sport that is exciting and dramatic. There are a lot of people interested in triathlon all around the globe and hopefully we gave them a weekend highlight," the American legend said after the race. We asked what was surprising about the event and, ever the triathlon fan, he replied "It is hard to know how fast we go in each discipline unless you see it up close. When you are at your maximum effort, the speed of the sport is super exciting." 

Sam Appleton, spent, at the finish line.