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Race day in Roth, Germany featured ideal conditions, with temperatures staying in the 70s throughout the race. The race is notoriously known for its fast times as both the men’s (Andreas Raelert’s 7:41:33 in 2011) and women’s (Chrissie Wellington’s 8:18:13 in 2011) world records for the iron-distance were established at Challenge Roth. Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel dominated the men’s race from the early miles of the bike and claimed the 7:52:01 victory. Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen faced tough competition from the Netherlands’ Yvonne Van Vlerken, but was able to run away with the win.
PHOTOS: 2013 Challenge Roth
New Zealand’s Dylan McNeice, a former competitive swimmer, led the men out of the 2.4-mile swim with a time of 45:58. His lead was slim, with Great Britain’s Stephen Bayliss, Bockel and Germany’s Maik Petzold and Andreas Niedrig only a few seconds behind. Bockel used his experience as an Olympian to fly through transition and take the lead onto the bike course. Crowd favorite Timo Bracht of Germany was 11th out of the water with about 2:30 to make up on the leaders.
Bockel kept his momentum from T1 going and rode his way to a solo lead. Bockel rode on the flat, windless course with no real competition from others. Bracht, who was picked by many including Chris McCormack to take the win today, was taken out of contention when he suffered a flat tire and lost 15 minutes to the main group. Bockel’s dominance on the bike continued all the way to T2. He exited the ride with a bike split of 4:15:05. Germany’s Konstantin Bachor was the closest pursuer to Bockel throughout most of the ride, and came into transition just over seven minutes down of the leader. Defending champion James Cunnama (RSA) was next off the bike at just over 11 minutes back. Bracht had in impressive comeback on the bike to start the run in seventh position, just under 20 minutes back of Bockel.
Bockel’s lightning-fast day continued onto the marathon. Both Cunnama and Bracht were running fast, but Bockel’s lead was too much to overcome. Bockel capped his day off with a 2:48:41 marathon to earn the 7:52:01 victory, his first at Challenge Roth.
“A day like that does not happen very often—to have everything come together with my best swim, bike and especially the run where people sometimes doubt me—and to be under eight hours, I’m so happy and still in shock,” Bockel said after the race. “This race has been a dream of mine since I was a small boy and now it is a dream come true! It’s unbelievable—it’s the highlight of my career.”
Cunnama’s 2:49:16 gave him second place, while Bracht worked his way up to third thanks to a 2:44:55 marathon.
German Katja Konschak was first to finish the swim. Steffen was second into transition, right on the heels of Konschak. Pre-race contender Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) is not known for her strong swim skills, and started the bike in eighth position, just under five minutes behind Ullmann. Steffen and Van Vlerken quickly proved to be the strongest cyclists of the race and found first and second position, respectively, by the 37K mark of the bike. At the midway point of the bike it looked like Steffen would ride away from Van Vlerken and the other women, but Van Vlerken had other ideas. She pushed the pace and joined Steffen up front.
Van Vlerken eventually found a slight edge on Steffen and came into T2 with a six-second lead over Steffen. Van Vlerken had the faster transition and started the marathon with 40 seconds over Steffen. Van Vlerken maintained the lead through the first few kilometers, but she quickly faded. Steffen took the lead, and while Van Vlerken kept her within sight for a while, she eventually fell off the pace. Steffen’s 3:03:07 marathon gave her the victory in 8:40:35.
“I think 8:40 is pretty good for a bad day!” Steffen said of her day. “I never felt good all day—my swim was just OK and then on the bike I didn’t have my normal power. But actually it was good to have a race like this, Brett has talked to me many times about what would happen if I was not leading and had to run for the win. He always believes in me and makes me believe in myself that I am a good enough runner to do it, and I finally had the chance to test myself and prove this.”
Van Vlerken easily claimed second, finishing in 8:46:22. Germany’s Julia Gajer rounded out the top three.
Roth, Germany – July 14, 2013
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 7:52:01
2. James Cunnama (RSA) 8:04:13
3. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:08:18
4. Markus Flachbach (GER) 8:12:13
5. Miguel Blanchart (ESP) 8:13:25
1. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 8:40:35
2. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 8:46:22
3. Julia Gajer (GER) 8:51:04
4. Katja Konschak (GER) 9:04:14
5. Joanna Lawn (NZL) 9:09:00
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