The lowdown on the Collins Cup, the PTO’s flagship pro triathlon race featuring USA, Europe and Internationals teams doing battle for glory.
The Collins Cup is a pro triathlon race organised by the PTO to bring the world’s best triathletes together in teams of 12 representing the USA, Europe and Internationals. Backed by legendary team captains, there will be 12 head-to-head-to-head races over a 2km swim, 80km bike and 18km run – all in a bid to see ‘Who Rules Triathlon’.
Named after John and Judy Collins, who brought the very first Ironman to fruition, the Collins Cup draws inspiration from golf’s Ryder Cup – bringing in regional representation to create a sense of team camaraderie, fierce rivalries, unique dynamics and swift-changing strategies.
Check out PTO’s explainer on the race format below, then read on for loads more information on the Collins Cup.
In a totally different format from any other pro triathlon race, the Collins Cup pits three regional teams against one another.
USA, Europe and Internationals (the rest of the world) athletes will fight it out for the pride of being the team to hold the race’s titular trophy. Meanwhile, the lowest-scoring team will be sent home with the Broken Spoke trophy – a year-long reminder of their losing position.
Each team will have 12 athletes – six women, six men. Four men and women on each team qualify automatically through scoring the highest PTO World Rankings points in their region. The remaining two women and two men are wildcards – selected through captain’s picks.
For the 2021 race, an athlete’s overall qualification points are determined by the average PTO World Ranking points they’ve earned from their two highest point-scoring races between 1 December 2020 and 9 August 2021 – plus – their three highest point-scoring races between 1 December 2018 and 31 December 2020.
You can take a look at the current rankings on the Collins Cup website.
Each team has triathlon royalty at its helm, true legends of the sport who’ve been there, done that and know every trick in the book. They’ll also be in constant contact with their own athletes via F1 pit-lane style comms to keep athletes up to date, give advice or bark orders.
Team USA – Karen Smyers and Mark Allen
A member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame, Smyers is a double ITU World Champion and a six-time USA national champion. Her second ITU worlds victory was in 1995 and she followed this by winning in Kona the same year.
Mark Allen is one of the all-time greats. Well known for beating Dave Scott in the 1989 ‘Iron War’ to take the first of six Ironman Hawaii wins, Allen also went undefeated for 10 consecutive editions of the Nice International Triathlon and won the first ever ITU World Championship in 1989.
Team Europe – Chrissie Wellington and Normann Stadler
A four-time Kona winner, Wellington was undefeated over her entire iron-distance career of 13 races and also holds the iron-distance record of 8:18:13, set at Challenge Roth in 2011. Though her time as a pro was short, the Brit single-handedly raised the level of performance in long-course racing.
Known as ‘The Norminator’, Normann Stadler won Hawaii in 2004 and 2006. A racer who wore his heart on his sleeve, Stadler is as well known for his 2005 puncture-induced meltdown in Kona as the uber-biking performances that saw his 2006 bike course record stand until 2017.
Team Internationals – Erin Baker, Craig Alexander, Lisa Bentley and Simon Whitfield
Kiwi Erin Baker was one of the sport’s most fearsome competitors and strongest personalities, attributes that took her to two victories in Kona as well as the first-ever ITU World Championship title.
Australia’s Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander is a three-time Hawaii champion and the first athlete to win both the Ironman 70.3 and Hawaii titles in the same year. He also won the first-ever 70.3 worlds in 2006
Canada’s Lisa Bentley is an 11-time Ironman winner, taking victories all around the world despite being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1988. Bentley also had five top-10 finishes in Kona and in 2006, she finished third in Hawaii and second at the 70.3 worlds.
Simon Whitfield might never have tested his strengths against long-course racing, but his experiences in winning gold and silver Olympic medals from the 2000 and 2008 games – as well as his status as a four-time Olympian certainly makes up for that.
The Collins Cup will feature 12 match-up races, staggered 10-minutes apart, with a single athlete from each team going head-to-head-to-head over a 2km swim, 80km bike and 18km run. This unique distance features a slightly longer swim than Ironman 70.3 but a shorter bike and run.
Matchups will be selected on race week by the team captains, using the draft system. The USA picks for match one, Europe the second, Internationals the third and so on.
Winning a race earns three points, coming second nets two points while the third-place finisher gets one point. There are also bonus points on offer based on the margin of victory with teams picking up an extra ½ point for every two minutes they win by – up to 1½ points for a six-minute domination.
The Collins Cup has been designed with television in mind and the PTO has promised the best coverage ever seen in triathlon.
This will mean at least 12 moto cameras – one for each race – plus heli-cam and drone coverage from the air. The army of cameras will also include jibs, steadicams, pole-cams, buoy-cams and handhelds. There will also be a Bolt-X robotic camera that will capture every athlete in advance for use in athlete intros, as well as in-race through transition.
Team captains will have live comms to their athletes, so we’ll be able to hear every race update and tactical call in real-time. Meanwhile, the athletes themselves will be equipped with wearable tech, giving instant biometric data to let us know who’s racing within themselves and who’s about to pop from the effort.
We’ll also be treated to Ryder-Cup style predicted match scores and picture-in-picture pre-records, getting us closer to athletes and their strategies.
The Road To The Collins Cup
Originally announced in September 2016, the Collins Cup was devised as a way to draw new audiences to the action and excitement of pro triathlon racing.
Early in the life of the PTO, it was touted as a flagship event that would combine the incredible athleticism of the world’s best athletes with a compelling TV-friendly race format.
The race was first scheduled to be held alongside Challenge Roth in 2018 but was postponed and moved to the x-bionic sphere with a new date of May 2020. While COVID meant another delay, the PTO has gone from strength to strength in 2020 and 2021, giving the Collins Cup even greater prestige for its inaugural running on 28 August 2021.
To highlight the journeys of athletes towards the Collins Cup, the PTO has commissioned the Beyond Human documentary, which follows Lionel Sanders (Internationals), Heather Jackson (USA) and Sebastian Kienle (EUR) as they attempt to secure qualification.
There is also the PTO’s Greater Than One web series, which follows Chelsea Sodaro’s quest to go from expectant mother to world-class performance in just three months.