File Photo: Kyle Smith (Images courtesy

By Kent Gray/Tri NZ
American Collin Chartier has emerged as a now not-so-dark horse for the Ironman World Championships with his breakout victory at the PTO U.S. Open in Dallas. Another looking forward to Kona is Kyle Smith after the Kiwi suffered late in the Texas heat on Sunday (Monday NZT) with another PTO top 10 seemingly in his grasp.

Smith completed the 100km race 24th of the 33 finishers in 03:29:28 – 12mins 10sec adrift of Chartier (03:17:17) who powered his way to the US$100,000 first prize ahead of Dane Magnus Ditlev (03:17:59) and compatriot Sam Long (03:18:09).

Ranked 25th in the PTO rankings and fresh from a 9th place finish at the PTO Canadian Open in July, Smith had been mentioned as a podium potential in Dallas by the PTO’s on-site “secret pro”. It didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility given the Taupo 25-year-old had described Edmonton as “not my best day at all…considering lots of shit hitting the fan. And me hitting the deck briefly.” 

Out of the water 13th, Smith gave further credence to the pre-Dallas prediction when he rode to as high as fifth with 32km of the 80km bike leg to go before eventually recording the 11th fastest cycle split of 1:50:49.

Sadly, the 35-degree heat and 51 percent humidity caught up with the Girona, Spain-based New Zealander on the 18km run, his weakest discipline according to the PTO ratings. 

Smith’s 1:10:05 split was the fifth slowest of the finishers, 11mins adrift of Jason West’s blistering best-of-day 00:58:55 which saw the American surge home for 12th place, and 10mins slower than Chartier.

It was one of those days Smith will be pleased to park, after some important analysis with his coach Tim Brazier no doubt, as the October 8 pro men’s race at Kona looms. Smith was 11th at last year’s world championship in 8:08:08, the second Kiwi home behind bronze medallist Braden Currie (7:54:19). 

Aucklander Rebecca Clarke is also Kona-bound after her impressive 8th place finish in the PTO U.S. Open women’s race on Sunday (NZT).

Chartier, meanwhile, wasn’t spoken of as a contender pre-race with the PTO stats team giving him a 0.06 percent chance of winning. The American, battling a hip issue, is also in the midst of a gruelling Kona training block that included a full ironman swim and bike, plus a 32km training run “at ironman” pace last Sunday.

Somehow through the fatigue, he still managed to produce the fifth fastest bike split and ran into the podium positions within 6km of the run. He then powered past first Ditlev with 7.5km to go and then Long with 5km remaining and finished strong.

“That’s definitely the race of my life,” said the 28-year-old Californian moments after crossing the finishing line and looking remarkably fresh.

“I believed I had a chance of winning today. Like I knew if the fatigue kind of settled down…if it was all good, I knew I could win today.”

The American lost his watch in the swim and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he listened to his body in the Kona-like conditions.

“Yeah, it felt really relaxed. I was really focussed,” Chartier said of his race strategy.

“You know, you could see here [pointing to his untanned wrist] I typically have a watch, it fell off in the swim, so I was blind for pacing. I really honed in on how I felt. I was like, patience, patience. Just relax. And then that last lap [of the run], like, boom, had to go. And I had the energy because I just had patience all day.”

Chartier was again asked if this was the “biggest win of your life?” “Yes,” the American said before catching himself with an ominous pre-Kona warning shot. “But not yet because there is Kona coming up.”

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