Record crowds, perfect race conditions and two champions racing their first Challenge Family race marked the 12th Challenge Roth today with Dirk Bockel and Caroline Steffen taking top honours in 7:52:01 and 8:40:35 respectively.
It was Thursday’s DATEV Challenge Roth press conference that saw Dirk Bockel announce his goal to beat his personal record of 8:11 hours and to finish among the top three. He entered the water of the Main-Danube-Canal in the morning, and of course most insiders knew that he, being a strong swimmer, would be among the first to leave the water after 3.8km. Only Dylan McNeice (NZL) and Stephen Bayliss (GBR) were a few strokes ahead with McNeice exiting the water first in 45:58. Bockel left the water at 46:05 alongside Olympian Maik Petzold with three and a half minutes between himself and his strongest rivals, Timo Bracht (GER) and last year’s winner James Cunnama (RSA).
Bockel made a point of keeping up his speed on the bike, thus laying the foundation for the title. When second placed Konstantin Bachor reached the second transition area, he was already trailing by seven minutes. James Cunnama started his marathon run another four minutes later. Timo Bracht was stopped by a flat tyre, which caused his race to stop for several minutes, dropping to 30th place. During his marathon run he passed six of his co-competitors and entered the Roth triathlon stadium in third place. “If it wasn’t Roth, I’d have given up. But I kept going for my family, for my team and for each one of you along the race course!” he said.
After an unbelievably fast switch to his running shoes Bockel managed to keep his lead thanks to his pace and his textbook style of running. While Timo Bracht kept making up time on his rivals, Konstantin Bachor wasn’t able to keep Cunnama’s pace, who passed Bachor after 20 kilometres.
At this point the places on the 2013 DATEV Challenge Roth winner’s rostrum were virtually decided. Bockel went on to win the race in 7:52.01 hours. James Cunnama followed twelve minutes later in 8:04:13, and Timo Bracht completed the winner’s rostrum after 8:08.18 hours.
“This was a dream coming true for sure,â€ said Bockel. “I’ve been doing triathlon for 24 years now and I would never have imagined I could do this time – believing is such a big part of this sport, as well as putting in the work. I had my fastest ever swim, fastest bike and fastest run. I’m not known for my run, but I got a PB, a new national record. To cut it short, it’s a dream come true. There’s no question that I wont come back. I have never experience such an atmosphere in any race and I’ve been around for a while around now, I’m definitely coming back!â€
In the women’s race Caroline Steffen may have missed her goal to leave the water ahead of all of her rivals, but she didn’t lose more than a few seconds on Katja Konschak (GER) who was first woman out of the water in 51:42 minutes. However, she wasn’t able to extend her lead on the bike, and the tenacious Yvonne van Vlerken (NED) was first to enter the second transition area. Other race favourite, Julia Gajer struggled with Belinda Granger’s (AUS) and Joanna Lawn’s (NZ) constant attacks. However, Gajer eventually stabilized her performance and was able to start her marathon run in third place.
The turn in Schwanstetten saw the change in the lead, when Caroline Steffen took the lead from Yvonne van Vlerken. Finally, she crossed the finish line after 8:40.35 hours, 5:47 minutes ahead of Vlerken. Another 4:42 minutes later Julia Gajer finished, rounding off the podium.
“I was disappointed with swim, I was hoping for sub 50 but somehow missed the group I should have sat in and was a tiny bit too slow,â€ said Steffen. “I felt terrible on the first 40k of bike, my legs didn’t do the work I usually ask for. But in the second loop I felt good. My coach told me I should start to believe I can run and he’s right, I’m a good runner and this was the first race I showed everyone I’m a good runner and this gives me a huge confidence with the next race. I was really worried about Solarer Berg but it was amazing, it was like the Tour de France. In every single town there is so much support. Even on the swim, every time you breathe you see people on both sides! I’m 100% back to defend my title which will not be easy but I’d like to have a go, I’ll be back.â€