The Professional Triathletes Organisation are on a mission to make triathlon a more mainstream, spectator sport. And their weapon of choice? The recently announced T100 Triathlon World Tour, which will see top elite triathletes go head-to-head multiple times across the season with an eight-stop series of races around the world.
The PTO’s 100km format was created to offer up a distance which can bring together the biggest names in short and long course triathlon. With a ‘made for TV’ spectator-friendly style of racing, the hope is that by taking this already exciting format and now developing it into a season long narrative – the PTO can elevate the sport far beyond the existing triathlon bubble.
And given the bold claim from PTO Executive Chairman Chris Kermode at the T100 launch event that the series would ‘become one of the biggest sport entertainment products in the world over the next 2-3 years’, it’s clear the athletes’ organisation aren’t messing around when it comes to their aim of taking triathlon to the next level.
But from an athlete’s perspective, why is that consideration of spectators and the broadcast potential important? We recently caught up with former Olympian and Australian triathlon star Ashleigh Gentle – a dominant force on the 100km distance who we can almost certainly expect to see at the pointy end of the T100 series this year. And according to the nicknamed ‘Queen of the 100km’, that spectator consideration is about more than just entertainment. It’s also about inspiring people of all abilities to get involved with the sport and be part of the triathlon community.
The influence of crowd support
Asked which PTO race she enjoyed most in 2023, Ashleigh chose the PTO Asian Open in Singapore. But not for the reason you might think. Despite taking the win in Singapore, it was the added buzz of the crowd support that made this race a firm favourite for Gentle.
“[All the races] were so different to be honest. They all had different elements that I really enjoyed. Overall I think Singapore was my favourite, not because that was the one that I won or anything. I don’t think the crowds were shown on TV as much as they could have been. But for the women’s race we coincided with a huge mass of age group athletes who were registering for other events going on over the weekend. So the crowds were absolutely incredible, it was super well supported and it was really entertaining to be able to do the run through Marina Bay with that many people.”
Reflecting on what helps to make the races more spectator-friendly, Ashleigh said: “We have multi-lap courses, which creates excitement. Being able to use locations to their fullest, in a way where spectators can see us multiple times – even on the bike.”
“In Milwaukee [the PTO US Open], people were able to walk up the hill and get a good look at all the pros.”
With the PTO introducing several age group racing opportunities as part of the T100 race series, those opportunities for triathlon fans to race and spectate alongside the pros are only going to get better.
‘It’s really important for triathlon to be out there and to be on TVs’
Creating an engaging broadcast product through their race format has been a strong target for the PTO. And for Gentle, she believes that’s an important factor in growing the sport of triathlon.
“It creates a lot of opportunities. For me as an athlete, doing the sport as a young junior some of my best memories are of being able to watch some of the people I looked up to on TV… I was able to be really inspired by those people.”
“I think it’s really important for triathlon to be out there and be on TVs, because young kids can actually have a choice and say ‘what is that on TV? Maybe I can do that.’”
“I think that sport plays such an important role in society…”
“Sport keeps people fit and healthy, gives people a sense of community and friendship. I think those things are at the core of what we need as human beings. Life isn’t always easy, but if you have community and you’ve got a routine, and exercise and health as a focus – that can really help people.”
“Yes [the PTO broadcasts] might be showcasing pros, but there’s a huge trickle down effect in that. It’s an inspiration and a way for people to find triathlon if they can see it when they turn on their television.”
If you’re inspired to be part of the PTO’s T100 action this year, check out some training tips from Ash Gentle and Alistair Brownlee for stepping up to the 100km from short course or stepping down from the IRONMAN distance. Or head over to SBRX to find training plans from Brownlee Fitness for sprint and Olympic distance triathlon – the perfect starting point to get you on your way to taking on the 100km.