Any debate over ‘Who rules triathlon?’ will finally be decided with the inaugural Collins Cup on Saturday as teams from Europe, USA and Internationals go head-to-head over a 2km swim, 80km cycle and 18km run in Slovakia.
The flagship event for the Professional Triathletes Organisation is hosted at Samorin’s purpose-built sporting complex of the x-bionic sphere and promises plenty of excitement for triathlon fans in the UK with Brits making up five of the 12-strong European team who are overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy.
Joe Skipper is part of a fearsome looking men’s squad that also includes three German Ironman world champions in Jan Frodeno, Patrick Lange and Sebastian Kienle, plus reigning Ironman 70.3 world champion Gustav Iden.
On the women’s side, captains’ picks Kat Matthews and Emma Pallant-Browne join automatic qualifiers Lucy Charles-Barclay and Holly Lawrence on the starting pontoon, alongside two more Ironman world champions, four-time winner Daniela Ryf and current champ, Anne Haug.
We caught up with the British women directly after the match draw (the full match draw is posted below) and ahead of the showcase event – and found them all in confident mood.
The draw has just been made, what’s your immediate reaction to the match-ups?
Emma Pallant-Browne (racing Sarah Crowley, Internationals v Chelsea Sodaro, USA): I’m happy. It’ll be a fun race, we swim pretty much to the same level, we all like to run, and anything can happen on the bike.
Kat Matthews (racing Carrie Lester, Internationals & Jocelyn McCauley, USA): I see it as an opportunity to get as many bonus points as I can! Going last for Europe means hopefully I’m finishing off an already gold-winning streak with a win and another three bonus points.
Holly Lawrence (racing Ellie Salthouse, Internationals & Skye Moench, USA): I saw this match-up coming! I’ve raced Ellie so many times before, I feel I’ve probably got into her head more than she’s got into mine. Skye is solid but if I have the day I can it should be ok.
Lucy Charles-Barclay (racing Paula Findlay, Internationals & Katie Zafares, USA): I felt like I was going to get one of the tough rounds and I have. I knew I was going to get one of the World Triathlon girls or Katie Zaferes or Taylor Knibb. I’ve obviously dipped my toe into the short course racing at Leeds, so everyone wants to see a bit more of that type of match-up – and Katie is an Olympic silver medallist. I’ve raced Paula before as well, and we’ve both come out on top on different occasions.
How do you feel about the event as a whole?
EPB: To bring everyone together for this is very unique and it feels like a world championship. It all seemed to come together when we lined up as a team at the opening ceremony. For the other European girls to go from close rivals to team-mates is just cool – everyone is having fun and looking forward to it
KM: As a relative newcomer – and I can only say that for one more year – to be team-mates with athletes we always race against is great. No-one is thinking about the Ironman 70.3 worlds, and it’s all about the weekend.
LCB: Normally we all sit separately at dinner pre-race. We don’t want to give our tactics away nor show anyone what mindset we’re in. Here everyone is sitting together and chatting. There’s definitely that team vibe.
With only three triathletes per team, will the race tactics be any different from normal?
LCB: I don’t like having anyone on my feet in the swim, so my tactics will be to just swim away. I will back my bike leg as it’s going to be a TTers course. I want to establish a gap and if it’s big enough I’d push it more to try and gain maximum points.
HL: I think Ellie will try and sit on me in the swim, and I’d prefer to have someone to close on to because I feel as if it lifts my swim a little bit. Having a good swim is key for me to try to get away, but not getting stressed if she sticks on me. Ultimately, with middle and long distance, you only have your cards to play.
EPB: Swim as hard as you can, have a really solid bike, and have a good run off it. It’s pretty standard.
KM: I hope to gain time on the bike and then consolidate on the run. I feel I’ve got some speed over the other two girls. Both of whom have recent full distance races in their legs.
What does having four British women in a European team of six show?
LCB: We’ve got so much talent in this country we could have our own team in the Collins Cup and be really competitive.
KM: We came through different pathways. British Tri has squared away their elite junior pathway, but they are also facilitating the age-group entry to this level as well. Lucy’s path is different to mine, which is different to Emma’s.
EPB: It’s not just us, it’s across the Olympic distance as well. Look how many GB girls could have got into the Olympic team. I was that era after Kelly Holmes on the track. The middle distance girls were really raising the game after her double-Olympic gold and look how long that has lasted. Two of our track medals were from middle distance women in Tokyo, and I see the same happening in triathlon.
Collins Cup Match Draw
Daniela Ryf (Europe) v Taylor Knibb (USA) v Teresa Adam (Internationals)
Lucy Charles-Barclay (Europe) v Paula Findlay (Internationals) v Katie Zafares (USA)
Anne Haug (Europe) v Jeanni Metzler (Internationals) v Jackie Hering (USA)
Holly Lawrence (Europe) v Ellie Salthouse (Internationals) v Skye Moench (USA)
Emma Pallant-Browne (Europe) v Sarah Crowley (Internationals) v Chelsea Sodaro (USA)
Kat Matthews (Europe) v Carrie Lester (Internationals) v Jocelyn McCauley (USA)
Jan Frodeno (Europe) v Sam Appleton (Internationals) v Sam Long (USA)
Gustav Iden (Europe) v Kyle Smith (Internationals) v Rudy von Berg (USA)
Sebastian Kienle (Europe) v Lionel Sanders (Internationals) v Andrew Starykowicz (USA)
Patrick Lange (Europe) v Braden Currie (Internationals) v Matt Hanson (USA)
Joe Skipper (Europe) v Jackson Laundry (Internationals) v Justin Metzler (USA)
Women’s matches start at 1pm (CEST) (12pm UK) with the men following at 3pm (CEST) (2pm UK).