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It’s always that mystical magical race everyone raves about, but you never quite get to actually watch–at least not in the United States. That’s right: it’s Roth time.
After a hiatus and then a race at half-capacity last year, Challenge Roth is back with full fields and full parties for its 20th anniversary. Although the race has existed in some form since 1984, first as a local triathlon and then as Ironman Europe, it’s become known in the last two decades for the hundreds of thousands of people who come out to line the streets and cheer on the athletes. It’s also become known as the place world records are set. Will we see one this weekend?
The pro men jump into the canal at 6:30 a.m. local time on Sunday (12:30 a.m. ET) and the women follow three minutes later. It’ll be fast and it’ll be fun. Here’s what to know and how to watch Challenge Roth.
Who to watch
With world champion v. world champion in the men’s race, the big question is which German has come back to form faster: Jan Frodeno or Patrick Lange? Frodo pulled out of the Ironman World Championship in St. George back in May with a stress fracture—and noted during the pre-Roth press conference that his run training hasn’t gotten fully back to where it was, but he’s fit otherwise and hoping for the best. Lange also pulled out of the St. George world championship race due to a bike crash earlier in the spring that required surgery on his shoulder, but said he’s been watching videos of Roth and waiting for this race. Both Germans have also said they want to beat the other on home turf in front of the crowds. Whether they’re ready or not, here they come.
Since Sebi Kienle announced he won’t be starting due to his own injuries and illness, can anyone else beat the duo? It’ll be hard, but Sam Long is bringing the yo-yo-yo energy for the Americans, Magnus Ditlev (DEN) took second at Ironman Texas earlier this year and has been targeting this race, and 50-year-old Cam Brown (NZL), well, he’s here to celebrate 20 years of the race that he was at the start of and shake it up where he can.
On the women’s side, there’s just one world champion and she’s an athlete on a mission. Anne Haug won in Roth last year in a time of 7:53:48. However, the course was 10K short on the bike due to construction, and so the performance didn’t break Chrissie Wellington’s world record set here. Because of that, it also may have gotten somewhat overlooked in the international triathlon pantheon. Although Haug has said it’s impossible to force a world record this weekend, she clearly is here not just to win but to win in a fast time and prove that her third place at St. George in May doesn’t mean you should count her out for the top step any time soon.
The rest of the women’s podium from last year is also back, with Laura Siddall (GBR) and Fenella Langridge (GBR) both coming off solid performances in Utah. Maja Stage Nielsen (DEN) is in Roth for the first time and Judith Corachan (ESP) skipped the world championship in St. George to race locally, so her international form is a bit unknown. What’s for sure is it’ll be fast—it always is.
The Challenge Roth course
Why exactly is Roth so fast? There have been a lot of theories over the years. The weather tends to be ideal—though it’ll be in the low-80 degrees F and humid by the run on Sunday. The course is also designed for fast times, with an easy canal swim (though there’s a chance the pros have a non-wetsuit race this year), a smooth bike, and a flat run. Though the bike still has nearly 6,000 feet of elevation gain, much of it comes it small rollers that make it easy to maintain speed. Most notably, the road surface is smooth and well-known for being fast. And the run course is easy on the legs, along crushed gravel paths.
But, really, if you ask around, the reason Roth is so fast is because of the 100,000+ spectators who come out to cheer on athletes. With full capacity back this year, how any people will come out?
How to watch Roth
If you’re in Germany, the answer is: watch it on TV (or this stream). For everyone else, Challenge will be airing a live stream here, on their Youtube, and below starting at 6:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. ET) on Sunday, July 3. The pro women go off three minutes later at 6:33 a.m. Tracker details and a finish line cam are also available once the race starts on the Challenge Roth site.
Commentary will be provided by Belinda Granger and Julian Meinhold—though expect Sebi Kienle to make some appearances and don’t be surprised if former winner Lucy Charles-Barclay (in town to support her husband racing) says hi.
Triathlete is also in Roth to report from the ground in the days leading up, but will be out on course ourselves during race day. Find us on Instagram or Twitter and let us know what you want to know about this famous event.