[Editor's note: Pro triathlete Braden Currie continued his 2021 racing season with a stellar performance at the inaugural Collins Cup. It's of the most unique and exciting new competitive formats in triathlon racing, which sees athletes divided into three teams—USA, Europe, and International—competing for points across a multi-heat format. Braden competed as part of the International team, and we're proud to present Braden's race report below. (Photos: PTO)]
One week ago, I was in New Zealand. The country had just gone into level four lockdown. Trying to figure out if I could make it over to Europe to race in the face of a New Zealand lockdown, hearing the announcement that Kona had been cancelled a few days before departure and recovering from a UTI, made it feel like a really tough decision to leave. If I could get there, could I get back? And if I could get back, when would that be? That last part is still unknown.
Now, I am in Samorin, Slovakia, two days post-Collins Cup and realize more than ever that no matter what, I had to be here. Especially for this event, the first of its kind, racing in a team against the best in the world and knowing the world is watching—it is pretty amazing! I am lucky to be in this era of the sport. For decades, people had to read race results in the newspaper—but now we have social media, live streaming, and organizations like the Professional Triathlete Organization (PTO) who are willing to use these platforms to bring triathlon to the world. I knew my family and friends, many Kiwis, and tens of thousands of tri fans around the world were watching. I wanted to give everyone something to cheer for and race to win.
The Collins Cup means a lot to this sport moving forward. The impact it is having is incredible.
I am 100% stoked to be here and have had the opportunity to race some of the best athletes in the world as part of Team International. The Collins Cup consists of 36 athletes in total. It is a 12-match contest with three athletes in each (18 women, 18 men). The top six athletes, globally, were chosen to represent each team (Europe, USA, International).
I was matched with Patrick Lange and Matt Hanson. Patrick is a two-time Kona world champion and I've battled with him before (on the run) in my second year at Kona, where I placed fifth. This year, with Kona cancelled, so I knew that this race would probably be the closest experience to what could have been in Kona. Having the best race in Kona is what I had been training for—it was time to put that to the test.
I went into the swim and fought side by side with Patrick. Mentally, I knew I could get out in front of him, and that is what I did. I hadn't swum for two weeks before the race because I had a urinary tract infection, plus the pool had been closed due to the lockdown. So I knew I wouldn't have the top-end power to drop him, but I wanted to come out of the water first.
As it turns out, I had the fastest swim of the day! Even against Jan Frodeno—JR's (John Rogers, my swim coach in Noosa) golden boy! Jan has swum with JR for a good part of his career and I think Jan would say that JR has made him the swimmer he is today. I couldn't be more stoked with my swim performance and do JR proud after all the effort and time he has given to me over the last few years.
Onto the bike, I got into my position and rode consistently. I rode away from both Patrick and Matt and came off the bike first. If I'm honest, this is something I never thought I could do at that distance but I'd been working a lot on my ride. Even only a year ago, on an 80km flat time trial, I knew I was never going to be strong in this scenario. I like hills and I like to get out of my seat—that's how I have learned to generate power on the bike in my mountain biking days. But since Covid hit, the opportunity to focus on my biking, especially aerodynamics and producing sustained power in the TT position, has been front of focus.
I have had the opportunity to work with Justin Ralph from Cycling New Zealand and refine my position with two rounds of testing indoors and outdoors over the last 9 months. On paper, the changes we have made in my training, combined with a custom bar set up from Dan Barry (First Wheel NZ), has given me the chance to bring my ride up to where it needs to be.
Setting off into the run, I didn't know how much of a gap I had on the others so I went out with my usual 3:05's out of the gate. Later in the run, I realized I had 4-plus minutes on them, and 5-plus minutes by the end of the race.
The race was about the team and earning as many points as possible and having as much time on those guys as I could. Team International had a few incredible triumphs: Lionel Sanders and Ellie Salthouse won, and Jackson Laundry beat Joe Skippers in the last one or two kilometers. Our triumphs were big but our consistency across the board wasn't quite there. We took home the broken spokes and Team Europe took home the Collins Cup for 2021.
It was cool to race for a team, represent and be part of it. I'm now looking forward to taking a few more days at the X-Bionic Sphere in Samorin—probably the best facility I've been to—with ice baths, massage, great food, outdoor pool, and great riding and running tracks.
I will head to Roth by train on Thursday to race Challenge Roth. I'm stoked to have had a good warm-up for that. The Collins Cup reminded my body of what it's supposed to do in life. I'm looking forward to racing again, which will happen on Sunday (NZT).
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