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An important milestone was acknowledged on Wednesday evening in Roth, with a special celebration to honor Belinda Granger’s 10th and final consecutive year racing the crown jewel of the Challenge Family event series. The pro from Australia, an official ambassador to the Challenge Family and widely known for her high-energy approach to life and bubbly personality was overcome by emotion with the heartfelt gestures of appreciation offered by Challenge staff and the community of Roth.
The event, held at the hip new Villa Lounge–converted to “Challenge Lounge” during race week with a triathlete-focused menu of delicious pasta, pizza and salads–was open to the public and well attended by people wishing to pay tribute to the woman considered the sweetheart of Roth. The two highest-ranking area politicians took time out of their busy schedules to be among the first to thank Granger for her many years here. Mr. Eckstein, the president of the county, kicked off the evening’s festivities with a warm and personal greeting for Granger, as well as a framed photo collage of some of her moments in the Roth spotlight. Next, Roth’s mayor Ralph Edelhäußer had a unique gift for Granger–a traditional 15th century coin granting her lifetime “asylum” in Roth, acknowledging that she will always be warmly welcomed to the village she considers a second home. Granger’s local homestay family–with whom she has stayed for all of her 10 years racing Roth and who have often hosted her parents as well–also received a special thank you from Mayor Edelhäußer, vouchers to attend numerous cultural events in the area. To cap off the gift giving, the Challenge Family surprised Granger with a gorgeous custom-tailored dirndl, the hem of which is embroidered with the words “Queen of Roth.”
Another extremely moving gesture was made by a group of local children, up-and-coming triathletes in their own right. The children crafted numerous signs saluting Granger and showing their love for the woman who has often served as a mentor to them, both in their classrooms (Granger was a teacher for 12 years prior to turning pro and has never refused an invitation to visit schools in Roth) and in their training sessions.
Felix Walchshöfer, Challenge Family CEO, then offered Granger the opportunity to speak, introducing her thusly in a humorous nod to her often long-winded tendencies:
“Belinda you have approximately…however long you want!”
“I remember clearly the day when I first received the invite to race Roth in 2004,” recalled Granger. “I was shaking when I wrote the email saying I would come! I was so excited and I get goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Granger went on to recount an interaction she’d had on Facebook earlier on Wednesday. “I got a message today from a local guy that I don’t know,” she said. “He said he’d seen me out on my bike and hoped that I’d had a nice ride–and perhaps I recognized him, as he was the one driving past in the red BMW. We had quite a chat back and forth. He then told me that he still had my autograph from back in 2004–when he was 10 years old! I was so touched–I just feel such a part of the community here, and I always will.”
“I’ll be with Challenge the rest of my life,” Granger continued, “whether racing or not. Part of the reason I chose to stop with 10 years here is that there are so many other Challenge races in Europe now that I have yet to experience, and I can’t wait. But nothing will keep me from coming back to Roth.”
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