THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM FOR ASHLEIGH GENTLE WHO WINS 2023 PTO ASIAN OPEN WITH COMMANDING PERFORMANCE IN SINGAPORE
After two consecutive runner-up finishes on the 2023 Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) Tour, the third time was the charm for Australian Ashleigh Gentle who blew her competition out of the water and win the inaugural PTO Asian Open on Saturday (19 Aug).
The PTO world No. 1 finished the 100km Pro Women’s triathlon in 3hr 41min 16sec, ahead of Germany’s Anne Haug (3:43:32) and American Chelsea Sodaro (3:46:10) at the Marina Bay course.
It was third time lucky for Gentle who, after winning both PTO titles in 2022, had to settle for second place at the 2023 PTO European Open in May and the US Open earlier this month. She said: “It feels very, very good. I’ve had a couple of second places this year so it’s pretty much a dream way to end my season. There was a big group of us in the swim that were swimming at a similar pace. But once I got out of the swim, I kind of accelerated and had a really good
transition, so I found myself at the front very quickly. I realised that no one came with me on the bike, so it was about focusing on my effort and doing the best that I could myself. Fortunately, I was able to catch Lucy and Sara and once I realised that they also didn’t come with me, it was just about putting my head down, trying to do consistent laps on the bike and just really focus on my effort then do as best as I could on the run. Today was probably my best race of the year and I’m really happy.”
Gentle was seventh after the 2km swim in the Marina Bay but was quick to transit to the bike course. She quickly caught up with leaders Sara Pérez Sala and Lucy Charles-Barclay to dominate the 80km bike leg before surging ahead to the 18km run, where no competitor came close to challenging her.
The happiness Gentle felt was evident as a wide grin emerged on her face as she approached the finish line, high-fiving cheering spectators along the way before triumphantly pumping her fist in the air as she effortlessly sealed her victory. She then shared a celebratory embrace with husband and fellow professional triathlete Josh Amberger, who was waiting with a bottle of water and even stayed to hand out water to the other finishers and congratulate them for completing the race.
PTO world No. 3 Haug saw her hope of a win in Singapore dashed when she had to stop to rectify an issue with her bike, causing her to drop from second to fifth. The 40-year-old hailed Gentle’s dominant race, saying: “Ashleigh was unbeatable today, so I made the best out of the day and that’s what I always do. It’s sport, things happen that are out of your control. You always go for full gas, you’re always aiming for the perfect race and it will never happen. If you stop every time it’s not perfect, then you would never finish a race. So I always want to cross the finish line saying I have done everything I could. Second place is nothing you have to be ashamed of, so you can say I’ve given my everything today and I have to be happy with 2nd place.”
How the race unfolded
As the race got underway with Singapore’s stunning skyline as its backdrop, PTO stars got the unique opportunity to swim in Marina Bay.
Despite the warm conditions, it was no surprise to see PTO world No. 4 Charles-Barclay leading at the 1km split, but from there it was Perez Sala who took charge – making this the first long course event where Charles-Barclay hasn’t been first out the water.
The two had a gap of almost two minutes to Gentle with PTO European Open winner Anne Haug 2:30sec back.
Leaving transition in the shadow of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the athletes sped out onto the 80km bike course. The terrain proved more challenging than initially expected with multiple ascents of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge testing the athletes’ legs while giving us spectacular views of Singapore.
Gentle and Haug were the biggest movers early on, picking up the pace to catch Charles Barclay who was back in her usual position of 1st place early in the bike leg.
The Australian took the lead with around 45km to go and before too long, Haug was in second – when bad luck struck hard. A spare inner tube got wrapped around the German’s rear wheel, costing her around 2:15sec as she dropped back to fifth place.
Ahead, Gentle continued to press her advantage ahead of a late-charging Imogen Simmonds, who’d flown through the pack. The Australian also had 1:06sec to Charles-Barclay with Anne Haug – back up to 4th place – 2:33sec behind.
Following her 2nd place at the PTO US Open just a couple of weeks earlier, Gentle looked even stronger in Singapore, striding imperiously through the Gardens By The Bay – out of sight and out of mind.
Behind, Haug was the only athlete running similar paces to Gentle early on and eventually flew past Simmonds and Charles-Barclay. Halfway through the run, Sodaro emerged the preeminent runner on course, having come off the bike in 9th place to power through the pack.
Never looking under pressure, Gentle underlined her PTO World #1 status, taking the win and $100,000 with a comfortable 2:15sec margin. Haug recovered from her setback in the bike leg to take second and $50,000, while Sodaro clinched third and $35,000.
The top five are as follows:
- Ashleigh Gentle – 3hr 41min 16 sec
- Anne Haug – 3:43:32
- Chelsea Sodaro – 3:46:10
- Imogen Simmonds – 3:47:06
- Lucy Charles-Barclay – 3:48:00
Gentle will now turn supporter for Amberger tomorrow who will compete in the Pro Men’s Race at 3.15pm alongside a star-studded field led by reigning Olympic triathlon champion Kristian Blummenfelt. She is then looking forward to returning home to Brisbane after four and-a-half months on the road.
Reflecting on her time here, she said: “I really love Singapore. I have very much enjoyed my time here. Everyone is very lovely and very welcoming. And I feel like when you’re in a good environment with nice people, it makes it a good place to race and I had good vibes before the race.”
Following the exhilarating Pro Women’s Race, over 4,000 avid runners then took to the course for The Music Run, the signature 5km fun run that encourages everyone to work out while listening to their favourite hits, including Moves Like Jagger and Flowers.
Broadcast of the men’s race starts at 3pm tomorrow and will be broadcast live to over 195 territories worldwide, courtesy of the PTO Tour’s partnerships with Warner Bros. Discovery. In Singapore, the PTO Asian Open will be shown ‘live’ on mewatch, Mediacorp’s digital streaming platform. For more details visit https://protriathletes.org/events/how-to-watch.
Alongside the 100km professional races, experienced amateurs will be getting their chance at the 100km distance in Singapore tomorrow, when they will be the first amateurs to swim in Marina Bay. There will also be two duathlon races over a standard 4.5km Run/32km Bike/4.5km Run and a longer 9km Run/64km Bike/9km Run. For more information, visit https://protriathletes.org/events or https://themusicrun.com.sg.