Taylor Knibb stormed to the front on her bike and never looked back
Taylor Knibb added to her decorated triathlon career with a commanding win in Saturday’s PTO US Open in Milwaukee. The field was made up of a who’s-who of the best triathletes in the world. Knibb won by building a big advantage on her Speed Concept over the course of a 50-mile bike leg, then holding off a fast-charging Ashleigh Gentle, the No. 1 women’s triathlete in the PTO World Rankings, on the run to win by 51 seconds with a time of 3:32:58.
“I was not quite sure what expectations to have heading into this race with such a competitive field,” Knibb said after the race. “I wanted to execute the best race I could on the day across swim, bike and run. I knew that compared to last year I had a lot more running fitness and hopefully capability. But the other women are fantastic racers and you can’t quite ever be 100 percent certain until the race happens.”
In 2022, Knibb took second to Gentle in the event. She stormed to the front of the race on the bike leg then, too, but couldn’t hold off Gentle during the run on a scorching hot day in Dallas. Knibb avenged that performance on Saturday, coming off the bike with a 1:27 advantage over second-place Lucy Byram, and a 2:48 advantage over Gentle, then posting the third fastest run (Gentle was first) to salt away the win.
“Last year I entered the run with a much bigger buffer on Ashleigh, and we all know that I fell apart and it was not enough,” Knibb said. “So having under three minutes definitely was not a confidence boost at first. I had a lot of people out on course giving me splits. The fact that the gap was not closing fast enough given the distance covered so far and distance remaining in the race was motivating.
“I really have to thank Ashleigh for making it a race and I hope we both brought out better performances in each other with the other one there. That’s the goal of competition, stemming from its roots: cum ‘with, together’ + petere ‘to strive, seek, attack.’ It’s about bringing out the best in each other— or at least something better than anyone would be able to on their own.”
The win added another bullet to Knibb’s increasingly impressive resumé, alongside the 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George, an Olympic silver medal, and World Triathlon Championship Series wins in Yokohoma and Edmonton. This year, she also signed as one of the newest members of the Lidl-Trek women’s team, with whom she’ll be taking on an increasingly important role.
Knibb will quickly reset her sights on two events in August: A test event for the 2024 Paris Olympics on Aug. 17, and Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Finland on Aug. 26. Knibb could secure a spot on the Olympic team at the test event if she’s the highest placed American among the top eight finishers, or if she’s the second fastest American in the top eight, as long as the best American places in the top three.
Another World Championship would be the cherry on top of an already excellent year.
“Five-time World Champion at the distance, Daniela Ryf, has announced that she’ll be there,” Knibb said. “It’s a different year, course and race: I’m excited for the opportunity to line up and see what I can do.”
We should remind you that 2021 was Knibb’s first year as a pro athlete, and her first full racing season out of college. Her performance in Milwaukee was yet another reminder that the 25-year-old is on a fast upwards trajectory. No matter where she lines up — whether at a triathlon, road race or time trial — you’ll definitely want to keep your eyes Knibb.
A big weekend for Trek triathletes
Knibb’s win led the way for a great weekend for Trek’s triathletes, both men and women. Behind Knibb, Holly Lawrence took fifth, Ellie Salthouse took sixth and Skye Moench took 11th, all riding Speed Concepts. In the men’s race, Sam Long took fifth the same week his wife gave birth to their first child, capping what Long called “the most memorable week of my life.” Matthew Marquardt, the triathlete/med student wunderkind, finished 14th, while Ben Kanute finished 23rd.
Elsewhere, Fenella Langridge dominated the field at Challenge London 2023, emerging from the swim with a 48-second lead that she never relinquished. She won by 6:22 over South Africa’s Magda Nieuwoudt. The two-time Top 10 finisher at Ironman World Championships is finding her stride in 2023, and all the while having way more fun than just about anyone else in the game.