How Paula Findlay beat the best in the world
Sunday’s PTO Championship at Challenge Daytona took on even greater significance in a year when the most prestigious triathlon events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The best triathletes in the world showed up to vie for a $1.15 million purse on a middle-distance course that served as one of the few major triathlete showcases of the year.
Paula Findlay wasn’t the favorite to win, despite taking Challenge Daytona in 2019. She has struggled with injuries throughout her career, and hadn’t raced in 2020. But she was easily the strongest competitor Sunday. She hopped off the 80-kilometer bike at the front of the field and never once was threatened along her 18k run to the finish. She finished 2:36 ahead of Germany’s Anne Haug, the reigning Ironman World Champion, and took home a $100,000 prize.
After the race, Findlay called her performance “one of those perfect days that never happens … but it did today.”
Just look at the joy
"She knows what she's accomplished…"
— PTO (@protriorg) December 6, 2020
Feel free to watch that video on repeat.
Findlay seemed to be in disbelief as she took down the finish tape, looking behind her only to find no one in sight.
She may have cruised to victory, but she had to survive several battles until that point. Findlay was just inside the top 10, approximately 45 seconds off the lead, after the 2k swim. She nailed her transition to the bike, however, and picked her way up the field. By the midpoint of the ride, Findlay and Sweden’s Lisa Norden had established themselves at the front, jostling for the lead.
Findlay wouldn’t have to look back again after yet another brilliant transition. Norden was forced to drop back due to a calf injury early in the run, leaving Findlay the task of finding a comfortable rhythm and enjoying an impressive performance to cap a long year.
Big day for Trek triathletes
In addition to Findlay’s headline performance, Trek triathletes filled the women’s top 10. Holly Lawrence took fourth at 6:14 back with a strong swim and run. Skye Moench was sixth at 7:34 back, and Sara Svensk was eighth at 10:04.
Rudy Von Berg finished fifth in a tight men’s race, coming across the line 1:10 behind winner Gustav Iden after hopping off the bike in first place. Tim O’Donnell came in 16th on a difficult course for a long-distance specialist. Ben Kanute finished 20th after exiting the water near the front.
Sunday gave us one great day of racing and stories in a difficult year. For Findlay and company, it couldn’t have been much sweeter.