Challenge Family Triathlons Continues To Expand

Challenge Family triathlons offer athletes new options for long-course racing in Europe.

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Challenge Family triathlons offer athletes new options for long-course racing in Europe.

Written by: Tawnee Prazak

Challenge Family President Felix Walchshaofer made his way to Kona for the Ironman World Championships, and as he watches race week unfold, in his head he’s probably imagining the World Championship triathlon he plans on creating in Europe in a matter of years. He’s already seeing success with his Challenge Family events, which includes a fast-growing circuit of half-iron and iron-distance races in Europe. The circuit is probably best known for the ironman-distance race Challenge Roth, where Chrissie Wellington holds the world-record female fastest time of 8:19:13, and the Challenge circuit now includes 10 races, with two new races on the way–locations are yet-to-be announced. Challenge races attracts up to 5,000 participants, and Walchshaofer said the secret of their fast-growing success is simple.

“Quality treatment to our athletes–that’s the secret. Everything we do is high-quality,” he said. “We have at least one volunteer per athlete, the quality of our finisher’s shirts and goodie bags are very high, we provide festivals and cultural events. Prices of our races are lower, too.”

Of course, the WTC also goes to great measures to provide its athletes with the ultimate race experience. Take a race like the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, for example. Every day leading up to the race in Kona involves tons of activities and events, and the atmosphere gives off a warm, welcoming vibe. Athletes an spectators alike often call it a “magical place.”

But from the beginning of the Challenge family, Walchshaofer said they wanted to provide a different triathlon experience than WTC races. Challenge Triathlon came about in 2001 when W’s father saw something missing in the Ironman races in Europe. “The WTC wasn’t the way we envision triathlon, so we decided to go independent,” he said. “We don’t have a problem with WTC, but we just wanted improvements in Germany especially. Within three years of being on our own we were the most popular race in the area. At Roth we get 3,200 single triathletes, 1,800 relay teams, plus junior challengers. Our races add options for triathletes.”

Walchshaofer said the entry fees for Challenge events are lower than WTC events, and there are also differences in pro prize purses. “We don’t have an 8 percent rule; we don’t have any rules that restrict payment to our pros. We also give our pros an Audi for free to use when they do our races, and we provide personal assistants.”

While the WTC’s 8 percent rule has created some controversy this year, the WTC still takes care of its pros too. At the Ironman Championships, $560,000 is distributed to the top-10 males and female pro racers, with the top male and female earning $110,000 each. Also,a total of $20,000 is given out in the form of Timex Watch Bonuses during the race.

Walchshaofer hopes in three to five years to have a Challenge World Championship Triathlon on the same caliber as Ironman Hawaii. In the meantime, the Challenge family includes races in Copenhagen, New Zealand, Germany, France, Austria, the London area, two in Barcelona, Spain; and an area near Lanzarote. Stay tuned for the announcement of the locations for two new Challenge events.

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