Photo courtesy 

By Kent Gray/Tri NZ
Rebecca Clarke’s countdown to Kona continues to trend upwards with the Kiwi ironwoman emerging from Sunday’s sweltering PTO U.S. Open with an encouraging top 10 finish.

The 33-year-old Aucklander finished the 100km race in Dallas, Texas in 3h 47m flat to claim eighth place as Aussie Ashleigh Gentle added the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) Dallas title to her earlier victory at the Canadian Open in Edmonton.

Gentle made light work of the 33-degree conditions to run down Taylor Knibb after the American started the 18km run with a near four minute buffer over second-placed Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay and close to seven minutes over Gentle.

Knibb looked strong until the 11km mark when she slowed down to a walk for the second time after a slow refuel at a feed station moments earlier. By this time Gentle had mowed down Charles-Barclay and was on her way to swamping Knibb too.

Ashleigh Gentle celebrates in Dallas. Photo: @Professionaltriathletesorg

Gentle won in 3:37:17 with Knibb finishing in 3:38:32 and Charles-Barclay claiming bronze in her first race back from a stress fracture in 3:40:31.

Clarke departed the 2km swim in 3rd place in 28:02, a whisker over a minute after Barclay-Charles. The Kiwi then recorded a 2:02:22 split to slip back to ninth after the 80km bike before gaining a place with a 1:14:24 time for the 18km.

The result will likely help Clarke, currently 51st, into the PTO top-50 rankings with all the associated big-money race invites in 2023. More immediately, it served as a heartening hit out to the October 6 Ironman World Championships in Kona where she’ll debut at the legendary full ironman.

Writing on social media, Clarke said the result was “Still sinking in”.

“With a stacked field of ladies  a top 10 seemed a dream result so just pinched myself to check it’s real.”

She had earlier dedicated her race to fellow Kiwi long-distance triathlete Emily McNaughtan who tragically lost her life in a mountain bike accident last week.

“More on race later but thanks to everyone who supports me, I aimed to enjoy the race, the experience & race for those that can’t, for the ones who are forever in our hearts.”

The PTO-Dallas men’s race, featuring Kiwi Kyle Smith, is live on Sky Sports Select (Channel 59) from 7.30am Monday.

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