ROTH, Germany (11 July 2010)
Germany’s Andreas Raelert took the tenth Challenge Roth in a new world-best time of 7:41:33 on a day that saw records fall across the board in near-perfect conditions. Germany’s Sebastian Kienle took second with New Zealander Keegan Williams third.
The 34-year-old Raelert, on his maiden voyage around the 3.8km swim/180km cycle/42.2km run course, smashed both the longstanding Roth record and the new world-best mark of 7:45:58 set just a week earlier by Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker at Ironman Austria.
â€œThis was the best performance of my life,â€ he said. â€œI remember Chris McCormack said in an interview that the boys in the future will make 7:45 or sub-7:40, and last week Marino opened this new chapter. It was just a question of time that the men would get to such times.â€
In his wake was 27-year-old Kienle, who last year in his own Roth debut posted a 7:59:06 for second behind Denmark’s Rasmus Henning. Raelert had already faced Kienle once this season in the half-distance Challenge Kraichgau, with Raelert taking the win and Kienle second.
â€œI just have to say thank you to Sebastian because he pushed me absolutely to the limit,â€ Raelert said to laughter at the press conference after the race. â€œOn the bike I just started to push as hard as I could, just to lead as long as possible because Sebastian was pushing from behind. There was a point that Sebastian couldn’t make much more time on me so the gap was around 1:30. That was the point to say OK, now I have to push as hard as I can just to get in his mind, to destroy him. [â€œYou really did,â€ a wry Kienle laughed in response.] And of course you need the legs at this stageâ€”I just had the legs.â€
Once he hit the run, Raelert said he had an idea the record was in sight and worked hard to push the pace but not overcook himself, taking in the advice of his brother, fellow world-beating triathlete Michael Raelert, to rein his enthusiasm just enough to ensure a strong finish.
â€œWhen I entered T2 I heard we were around five hours and I was thinking a little bit to get under the course record,â€ Raelert said. â€œSometimes you start to think to yourself, maybe it’s this moment, don’t let it slip away and just try to give everything you have, and that’s what I did. I’m totally exhausted, not physically also mentally, and quite happy.â€
Belgian Luc van Lierde’s Roth course record of 7:50:27, set in 1997, was for years a benchmark for long-course triathlon and while many had attempted to best it, it stood until just this year.
Kienle said he believed he had a couple of opportunities to close the gap to Raelert on the bike but â€œI asked my legs and they said â€˜No, don’t do it; you will walk the marathon. I think they made the right decision.â€
Kienle, who set a new bike course record of 4:14 here last year before fading on the run, said: â€œI really know what can happen when you overpace on the bike. I didn’t slow myself down, I always tried to keep pushing, pushing, pushing because it’s a long race and you never know.â€
HOW IT HAPPENED
Raelert was with the leaders out of the water, exiting the Main-Donau Canal in 46:11, just seconds behind swim legend Benjamin Sanson of France and Germany’s Christian Ritter. Their swim group had a gap of some three minutes on Kienle, who arrived at the transition zone with South African James Cunnama and women’s leader Chrissie Wellington.
Raelert tore out of transition and set out to establish an early gap on the bike, reaching the famed climb up the Solarer Berg, at about 70km into the ride, with a gap of almost two minutes over Kienle, who was also riding alone. Behind them came Cunnama nearly four minutes back.
The throngs on the Solarer Berg were next treated to the sight of five-time Roth champion Lothar Leder, back in the race to celebrate the 10th anniversary at age 40 and with a stated goal to finish only an hour behind dominant Chrissie Wellington, ascending the climb with large group of men just 10 minutes behind Raelert.
By the time he reached the bike-to-run transition, Raelert had 4:35 over Kienle, with Cunnama third out on the run before succumbing to injury. That left the door open for Williams, who reached the finish in 8:16:01, with Germans Felix Schumann fourth in 8:18:05 and Christian Ritter fifth in 9:18:40.
â€œI wasn’t sure if I was at a rock concert or a triathlon, the crowd was so wild, it was so loud,â€ Williams said of the din on the bike course.
Meantime, the 40-year-old Leder continued on his good day, moving into eighth by the finishâ€”less than five minutes in arrears of Wellington and well ahead of his stated goal to finish within an hour of the flying Brit.
As first German home, Raelert also took the German long-distance championship while Roth’s own Michael Hofmann reclaimed his title as world champion firefighter, in a time of 8:38:43 that was good for 19th overall.
The tenth edition of Challenge Roth, the world’s largest long-course triathlon, drew a record field of 5,250 athletes (3,300 individual starters and 640 teams) to tackle the 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km marathon run. The top ten men and women will divide a prize purse of 73,500 euro, with 15,000 euro going to the individual male and female winners.