What You Should Know about the PTO’s Collins Cup

What you should know about the Collins Cup: it’s the triathlon world’s version of the PGA’s Ryder Cup. What does that mean? Match play, boys and girls.

I want to take a real quick break here to give you some graphic design insights. You see the Collins Cup logo on the top of the page? Do you see how the “O” in Collins is a trophy enclosed in tiny leaves? Fun fact, a lot of people will think anything you put in between those tiny leaves is official. No joke, it doesn’t work on everybody but it does work well on a lot. Now every day for the rest of your life you’re going to notice these tiny leaves everywhere and pay attention to the kind crap they put them around (they show up in car commercials a lot, see also the United Nations logo).

So let’s get back to the Collins Cup. The basic format is 18 men and 18 women, and they are split into three teams (USA vs. Europe vs. Internationals). The first four team members (for each sex) are filled by the top ranked triathletes in the PTO rankings (I assume it’s the first four who accept the position because there will be some people who turn it down). Then like the Ryder Cup there are two captains suggested picks, and I say suggested picks because the decisions really come down from the non-athlete PTO board. This is likely where they’ll take someone who slipped in the rankings due to a down year, pregnancy or coming back from injury (which is why Tiger Woods was always a captains pick later in his career when he dropped real low in the rankings…because you just don’t leave off Tiger Woods if he can play). The captains aren’t competing, they’re former notable champions in triathlon, though some of them are quasi retired and others completely out.

Let’s talk about captains picks for a second. I do know that 70.3 specialist Ellie Salthouse is 21st the PTO rankings and if healthy would be a fantastic captains pick, where as I wouldn’t use the pick on Mirinda Carfrae. Why? Like the Shaq said of Jordan “39 ain’t 29.” Other good captains picks I see are Javier Gomez, Joe Skipper, Sam Appleton, Cody Beals, Sam Long, Heather Jackson, Laura Philipp, Jeanni Seymour, Caroline Steffen, Lindsey Corbin, Lisa Norden, Sarah True, Pamella Olivera, and Haley Chura.

So how about match ups? The Ryder Cup is organized by the captains, which is pretty straight up because it’s one on one. The Collins Cup is a three person match, so the degree of difficulty goes up. How it’s set up is on a rotating basis. USA would pick someone, then the other two would put someone forward that you think could match the talent…or not. Here is where it turns into a poker game. Say you know you can’t win that match up so you use a throw in your weakest triathlete because you have to put someone in it (think like you’re big blind/little blind) and save your better triathlete fit a match up you know you can win or have good chance to compete to win. It’s not always best on best, there’s a strategy involved. Lionel Sanders told the captains to let him take on the other teams best guys – well that’s probably bad strategy – I’d set him up with a match up I know he’s likely to get the win, not the match up that’s a toss up. You gotta pick your battles. Anyway, USA goes first in first match up, then Europe goes first in next match up, then internationals go first in third match up, rinse and repeat for the last three.

The match ups are staggered 10 minutes apart…and that kind of sucks. The difference between the first and last pairing is two hours. I personally loathe having a lag between the start of the race and the time I get to start my race. If I’m stuck waiting for even like 30+ minutes it feels like someone’s sucked all the air out of the room — all that hyping myself up for the race has gone flat…some can manage being in that position just fine, but if they’re like me then the better strategy is to get them going early on to keep their head in the game so to speak.

In racing in groups of three it’s likely that there won’t be swim draft packs (there could be I guess?) or pace lines on the bike. Lionel Sanders is going to come out of the water like two to three minutes down, all by himself and have no one to work with to get to the front (of course he’s used to it, make sure you skip his race report YouTube video because he’s going to spend half of it bitching about how his swim sucked…it’s one the three certainties in life aside from death and taxes). How well can someone race if they’re on an island? It’s stuff like that which you’d have to give consideration to.

Match scoring is based on a point system, 3 for a win, 2 for second, 1 for third. There’s also a point bonus for winning by three minutes and six minutes in increments of .5 points. If you beat second place by three minutes and third by six you’d get 1.5 points. The PTO doesn’t list if it goes past six minutes or what it means if a triathlete is DNF.

Now the Ryder Cup takes place over three consecutive days and also rotates location. The Collins Cup is a one-day event and it’s at the x-bionic sphere in Samorin, Slovakia. Being in the x-bionic sphere will make for easy televised viewing for the swim and the run, but the bike is outside the premises (I am unsure if it’s a closed course).

FYI, the temperature in Samorin, Slovakia, at the end of August is a high of 75 and a low of 55…so it’s really not that hot, however weird shit has happened all over the world in recent years due to global warming so you never know what you can get from year to year. Just expect weather to be little to a non-factor unless storms come through (or just rain).

The team with the most points wins the Collins Cup and third place gets the Broken Spokes. I’m pretty sure Europe will win, but I also don’t know what the roster is yet (they do have the top four ranking members of the PTO for the men). However all this is is bragging rights. Essentially this is just a normal championship race when it comes to prize money in the $1.5 million purse. First place gets $90,000 and 18th place gets $20,000.

I’m more interested in the race rather than the bragging rights. I’ll probably still tune in to watch the race, Samorin is only six hours ahead of my time zone. I do think having everything so staggered is going to lead to having poor production value, it could be borderline unwatchable.

There are some noteable things about this race though. First, triathletes can communicate with their captains on the bike and run. That helps to know how far back or ahead you are, whether someone is closing or opening, what kind of pace everyone is going. The athletes are mic’d up for it and you get to hear the conversations on the broadcast. I haven’t found when they put these mics on or if they’re waterproof, it would certainly slow down T1 if you have to put it on after the swim. What would they clip the mic to? What about the battery pack/transmitter? Riding a bike at 20-30 mph has a lot of wind noise, the sound production guy is going to hate that because it’s a live broadcast. Side note, if you’re going to communicate with someone with a mic…that would mean you need an earpiece to hear the captains, right? Is it going to fit in an aero helmet comfortably? Are they going to struggle to get their helmet on? Do you get custom modified helmets like NFL Quarterbacks have? The viewers and captains also will get access to live metrics. They say stuff like pace and power, but I actually don’t know of any power meters that could transmit that data in such a manner, maybe it is an estimate (keep in mind they don’t all use the same GPS, power meters, heart rate monitors, etc). Garmin LiveTrack doesn’t collect power data and not all devices are compatible (like the common Forerunner 920XT), and LiveTrack doesn’t work if you don’t have your phone on you (to use the internet connection, which means you can’t LiveTrack swim data)…so I don’t know how they’re going to pull this one off.

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