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Defending two-time Ironman world champion Daniela Ryf made a big statement yesterday on social media—she will go after Chrissie Wellington’s iron-distance record this summer at the 2017 Challenge Roth triathlon, set for July 9. Wellington put together a string of dominant performances at Roth during the peak of her career, breaking the record for fastest iron-distance race in 2009 (8:31:59), 2010 (8:19:13) and then setting the current mark in 2011 (8:18:13).
“I’m racing @challengeroth on 9th of July,” she wrote. “I’m happy to announce that I will race #ChallengeRoth again this year. I enjoyed the atmosphere so much last year it gave me wings and it made me realise[sic] on a perfect day the world record of Chrissy[sic] Wellington could possibly be in reach. I am fascinated by Chrissy’s record and I will try my best on race day to see how fast I can go. So lets #FlyWithPassion so we can have a #BirdShuffle dance on the finishline. x Angrybird”
Ryf made a last-minute decision to compete at the 2016 Challenge Roth competition after she DNF’ed at the Ironman European Championship. She dominated the race, crossing the finish line in 8:22:04 to take the victory. Though Wellington’s 8:18:13 has seemed relatively untouchable since she set the mark, Ryf is clearly the athlete with the most potential to break it. The Swiss athlete has been nearly flawless at the iron-distance in her short career as a long-distance triathlete. She finished second at the 2014 Ironman World Championship—her first attempt at the race—and then has won the last two years. Her 2016 Kona performance was one of the most impressive ever turned in on the Big Island, putting her across the finish line in a new course record of 8:46:46—more than 23 minutes ahead of the next finisher. She already has Kona qualification for 2017 complete, thanks to her victory at last month’s Ironman African Championships in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
Thanks to its ideal race conditions, stellar crowd support and relatively flat course, Challenge Roth has become known for its world-record breaking offerings. Germany’s Jan Frodeno, also a two-time Ironman world champion, made the same declaration ahead of the race last year and was successful. He smashed the previous record of 7:41:33 (set in 2011 by fellow German Andreas Raelert), racing to the finish in an impressive 7:35:39.
Though the attention on race day will be on Ryf, there are a few other women who are capable of taking the victory if she falters. Three-time Roth winner Yvonne van Vlerken (NED) also once held the world record time (2008) and will again compete. After a string of frustrating Kona races, Heather Wurtele (CAN) is turning her attention to a new 140.6 goal for the summer and will also be on the start line for the first time. Laura Siddall (GBR) has also committed to the race.