Neumann makes modest admission after grabbing PTO European Open glory

Neumann, 27, toppled the decorated trio of Blummenfelt, Brownlee and Frodeno in a gruelling 100km Balearic battle
Neumann, 27, toppled the decorated trio of Blummenfelt, Brownlee and Frodeno in a gruelling 100km Balearic battle

By Will Jennings in Ibiza

Modest Max Neumann admits he 'feels bad' for crashing the triathlon kings’ Ibiza party and clinching the maiden PTO European Open crown.

On the day of King Charles III’s coronation back in the UK, the largely unknown Australian toppled the decorated trio of Kristian Blummenfelt, Alistair Brownlee and Jan Frodeno in a gruelling 100km Balearic battle.

Set up by the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO), the innovative middle distance contest marked the first time reigning Olympic champion Blummenfelt, London and Rio gold medallist Brownlee and Frodeno, who grabbed glory in Beijing 15 years ago, had all duelled it out against each other in the same race.

And despite Blummenfelt embarking on a searing late surge to almost reel Neumann in, the 27-year-old world No.7 held on to cap a memorable day in the Spanish sun.

Nostalgic Neumann had fond memories of watching his rivals reign supreme and now hopes to follow in their illustrious footsteps.

He said: “We owe these guys a lot and I almost feel bad for winning.

“I grew up watching these guys – they’ve made triathlon the sport it is today.

“I love racing and love racing hard – and to come down to the wire like that with Kristian, that’s what we all wanted and we couldn’t ask for more.

“These are always the hardest races that come, so to be able to race Kristian, Jan and Ali in the same race is an absolutely privilege.

“You can never expect to win anything – as long as you put yourself in a position, that’s all you can do in these races.

“I did that and luckily held Kristian off at the end.

“I’ve never raced against them before – they’re the world’s greatest the sport has ever seen.

“I just put myself in that winning position and it worked.”

Neumann left himself with considerable work to do on the run through the idyllic Ibiza Town but turned the tables in style on Saturday morning.

British star Brownlee, 35, and New Zealand’s Kyle Smith led at the final transition with world No.1 Blummenfelt lurking ominously behind.

But it was Neumann who had the closer gap to the leading pair and ruthlessly capitalised on Brownlee, who was returning to racing after banishing his recent injury demons, running out of steam throughout the 18km route.

The Australian cut the gap throughout the opening 10km and made his decisive move to hit the front.

Blummenfelt embarked on a red-hot pursuit after leaving himself with a mountain to climb but Neumann held on to grab a surprise PTO triumph.

Danish star Magnus Ditlev, 25, bagged the bronze medal as Frodeno finished fourth ahead of Brownlee in fifth.

Neumann, Blummenfelt and Ditlev hailed the PTO for continuing to enhance the profile of the sport and believe the innovative Ibiza bonanza can lay the foundations for more big events in future.

Neumann said: “You can’t beat racing in a big city like this – you don’t really get too many of these opportunities.

“To come to Ibiza and to race in the middle of the city is an absolute privilege – hopefully the PTO and these athletes can really push for more of these sort of events.”

Blummenfelt, who will now turn his attention to ramping up preparations for defending his Olympic title in Paris next summer, added: “It feels like the sport is on the way to creating something and I’m really excited to see where it goes in the future.

“That’s why I want to be a part of it now in the build-up to Paris – I don’t just want to focus on the Olympics and I want to be a part of this series to use as training and motivation for Paris."

And Ditlev said: “For a young guy like me coming up in the sport right now, it’s a game-changer completely.

“These PTO events are like majors or grand slams, if you compare them to tennis.

“It’s really nice to have those events – it’s exciting.”

The PTO European Open races took place on Saturday 6 May, with the men starting at 0815 CET and the women at 0945 CET. Both were broadcast live on Eurosport 2