PTO comes through to support another last-minute pro field.
At long last, a pro race happened in the U.S. And how it happened was as much a story as the race itself, which certainly dished out a challenge to match the year.
In the fall of 2019 a group of top level current and retired pro triathletes got together and formed the Professional Triathletes Organization which had plans to put on races and support athletes in other ways as well. In January they acquired an angel investor with very deep pockets and everything appeared to be on track. Then the pandemic hit, of course, and most triathlons were cancelled like a chain of dominoes traveling around the globe.
The PTO board, with the backing of its patron, Welsh businessman Mike Moritz, stepped up and did something that was both shocking and unexpected: it paid over two and a half million dollars to 200 triathletes around the world just to help them get through the year. No strings attached, just the top 100 men and women according to their own internal rankings. Then as a few races began to be pulled off in the last few weeks and with some coming up early this fall, they set about adding pro purses to them and padding existing ones. Gold medalist Alistair Brownlee got them hooked up with the brutal Helvellyn Triathlon to which a $15K prize purse was attached, and Canadian pros Jackson Laundry and Taylor Reid came up with a Canadian Pro Championship from scratch that the PTO funded with $20K in winnings.
So pro triathletes Skye Moench and Nick Chase, out of Salt Lake City, decided they were going to find a local race that was planning on still happening and see if they could do what Brownlee did. The Bear Lake Brawl fit the bill and the PTO signed on. Well pretty much the whole crew of Boulder male pros, or at least the young and hungry ones, were psyched to have their first race in many months, some since 2019. Interstate 80 carried the likes of Chris Leifermann, Sam Long, Justin Metzler, Justin Daerr, Steven Zawaski, women Rachel Olsen and Kimberly Goodell, and more out to Idaho for what turned out to be the coldest triathlon any of them had ever experienced.
September 25th is full fall in the mountains and Bear Lake handed out driving rain and buffeting winds with its glacier-cold water. This race is a serious mountain triathlon with a very cold lake even on a warm day, steep climbs and descents on the bike and a run with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. All in all a good race for Colorado athletes but not when they’ve just come off a hot Boulder summer.
They toughed it out and Sam Long took second in 3 hours 40 minutes 25 seconds, a time exemplifying the tough course and day. It was also his first race since winning the Chattanooga 70.3 a full year earlier. Justin Metzler and Chris Leiffermann got a payday with their fourth and fifth place finishes, and Rachel Olsen and Kimberly Goodell came in seventh and eighth, respectively.
Jesse Vondracek of Arizona and Danielle Dingman of nearby Boise took the wins.