By Bill Plock
BOULDER–Aug 7th 2021–Through the haze and smoke in Boulder emerged a clear winner—the sport of triathlon. The male winner, Sam Long who grew up a few miles away, capped a perfectly imperfect day by setting a new course record. The temperature, cooler than predicted, helped keep the day from blowing up. The winds and smoke played havoc with some, but they ushered in many stories and memories on a course shared by a recent Olympian, top pro’s and 2,500 age group athletes from all over the country.
Emma Pallant-Browne won the women’s race and moved up six spots in the PTO rankings making her an almost shoe-in for a captains pick (to be announced Thursday) for the upcoming Collins Cup. Not only did she take home $7,500 for winning Saturday, she will make at least $18,000 by making the European Collins Cup team.
Olympian Taylor Knibb’s debut performance at a 70.3 could hardly be called beginners luck finishing second, but she did learn a few things like needing to master the water cup grab; check out this interview with her. It will be interesting if she might be a captains pick for the Collins Cup even though her ranking puts her far out of the field (because she has been racing short, ITU races). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgPCrcBc7eQ
Another fun story in the pro field was the return to racing for Chelsea Sadaro only a few months after giving birth. Due to the PTO holding rank for maternity leave, with her 6th place finish she secured a spot in the Collins Cup, so again a nice pay day for the new mom.
In the mens field, Sam Appleton took an early lead and held on until part-way through the bike when Sam Long overtook him and widened the gap on his way to the win and setting the course record. Long called this his “redemption race” after not having his best races in his hometown.
Said Long, “Winning at home was just extra special. It was my first IRONMAN and where my journey started. It feels like I have come full circle now. It’s more fun to win at home as I know everyone, and where to party after!” When asked about the upcoming Collins cup and being the number one ranked American, “I’m not feeling that much pressure, nobody expects me to beat Jan, although I’m excited to try! I think it’s going to be an amazing event and I’m looking forward to the battle format. The lack of drafting will suite me!”
The surprise in the mens field came from Collin Chartier who finished 3rd. Colin has moved up in the rankings over a 100 places in the last year. Currently he sits at 52nd having moved up 59 places this season! He is clearly coming on having finished 2nd in Des Moines just a few weeks ago.
The wall of smoke erased the views of majestic mountains and the Flatirons and Boulder Reservoir felt like a deserted island with a few thousand people milling around waiting for the athletes to emerge from the outlying course. With food trucks and lots of tents it felt like a long picnic in the hazy sky.
The smoke didn’t dampen the energy and enthusiasm to be racing again and many commented how excited they were to be on the same course with Taylor and so many pro’s.
It’s truly what makes triathlon unique, age groupers racing with the best on the same course at the same time in the same conditions. Add in the presence of a recent a Silver Medalist, the atmosphere felt unusually motivating.
Here is a good video from Sam Long sharing some details of how his race went. Fun to hear him share his strategy!