Images courtesy PTO

By Kent Gray/
Kyle Smith drew parallels with Ferrari’s recent F1 struggles to describe his gritty top 10, Rebecca Clarke went “full gas” too only to splutter home as well while Amelia Watkinson accentuated the positives despite being “disappointed” with her race to “say the least.”

All three Kiwis had their moments in the inaugural PTO European Open on Saturday but ultimately finished well off the pace in the 100km races in Ibiza won by Brisbane’s Max Neumann and German Anne Haug.

Smith was an early pacesetter to exit T2 in P1 but faded on the run to finish 9th in the men’s field, 4mins 46s behind Neumann and just under three minutes shy of the podium rounded out by fast-finishing Kristian Blummenfelt and lanky Dane Magnus Ditlev.

Rebecca Clarke

Like Smith, Clarke was an early race provocateur, third out of the water and right in the mix on the bike before also going backwards on the run to finish 17th, a place behind Watkinson.

Watkinson made up for a tough swim in the increasingly choppy conditions with the 9th fastest 18km run split to finish 16th. However, the Sunshine Coast-based Kiwi crossed the line nearly 13 minutes adrift of Haug who belied her 40-years to run away with the title from Aussie Ashleigh Gentle and trademark race pacesetter Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Smith was 4th out of the water with a 22:45 split for the 2km and then traded the front of the 80km bike with Alistair Brownlee, Neumann and Ditlev, the latter impressively surging through the field after exiting the swim over a minute down on the leaders.

Kyle Smith

The Taupo 25-year-old went with Brownlee early on the run but the early pace proved too much with Brownlee slipping to sixth and Smith 9th with 1:02:26 and 1:03:52 18km splits respectively. That was well off the Neumann’s winning 58:56, Blummenfelt’s 58:29 and further still adrift of Jason West’s race best 57:02 as the American hauled himself up to 5th, a spot behind Jan Frodeno who was impressive in his first race in 616 days.

“P9 in Ibiza,” Smith wrote on social media, employing F1 parlance to succinctly sum up his race.

“Had a good first 2 stints but degradation was higher than expected on an aggressive strategy. Then wheels fell off. A Ferrari tactical masterclass at work.”

Clarke reaffirmed her swim prowess, out of the water on the heels of Lotte Wilms – just under 30 secs behind Charles-Barclay who produced another of her signature swims and then went solo on the bike. The Brit hung tough until being hauled in by Haug with just 10km of the run to go.

A 1:16:07 split for the 18km – the 20th best time – saw Clarke fade. The Aucklander was passed near the end by Watkinson whose overall time of 3:50:46 was just 16sec faster than Clarke.

Anne Haug

“Choppy swim played to my strengths and I exited T1 in 3rd, struggled with the red hot pace at start of bike but hang tough, got onto the run in 7th, started off well but legs had nothing from 10km,” said Clarke.

“Some quad cramps & feeling dizzy meant I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other …17th at finish.

“Disappointed I couldn’t finish strong but proud of the way I kept myself in the race and kept fighting on a day I didn’t feel great, the level of the top women is insane and well done to all the strong ladies racing.”

Watkinson entered Ibiza fresh from victory at Challenge Taiwan but struggled to get into the race.

“Many elements contribute to a great day. And to perform in a World Class field like this, there isn’t room for any short fallings. 16th place after 3.5hrs of emotional digging and ‘its not over till the finish line’. Thank you for all those cheers, the run course was epic,” Watkinson said before looking forward to her next scheduled race, the Challenge Championship in Slovakia on May 21.

Amelia Watkinson

“Disappointed to say the least, but, so grateful to be on the start line. Congratulations to the ladies up front. Now head back in the game, get healthy, excited for another opportunity at @challengesamorin the @challengefamily Championships in 2 weeks time!”

Reigning Ironman world champion Chelsea Sodaro and Swiss superstar Daniela Ryf were two of four notable DNFers in the 26-strong women’s race.

The next PTO race is the U.S. Open in Milwaukee on August 4-5 ahead of the inaugural Asian Open in Singapore on August 19-20.

Winner Max Neumann flanked by Kristian Blummenfelt and Magnus Ditlev

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