Challenge Roth is one of more popular full Ironman distance triathlons of the year, and the men’s and women’s pro races are coming up on Sunday in Germany’s time zone (UTC+2).
Will this be a boring triathlon with expected winners leading by more than five minutes?
Anything Can Happen on Full-Distance Courses
The great thing about Ironman distance, and Challenge Roth used to be an Ironman race, is that anything can happen on a course with a 3.86km swim, 180.25km bike (or slightly less in this case), and a marathon-length run. Your favorite star may blow a tire, discover a new stress injury in the foot, catch a cold, or overheat under the 25 degree Celsius sun.
To make serious predictions, you have to rule out the above possibilities. Then it comes down to records on various courses, especially Challenge Roths, if they even have have a record there. Other factors include recent progress in swim, bike, or run times, whether they made second-place a couple times in a row and vow to get revenge, whether all their training and passion is aimed at some other triathlon this year, and the list goes on.
Past Winners & Losers
The past few years of Challenge Roth winners and start lists look similar to a Who’s Who of Ironman’s World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. That’s no surprise, because both events attract full-distance pro athletes.
Germany’s Jan Frodeno holds the course record and bike split record. He’s the 2016 Challenge Roth winner and the 2015 and 2016 Ironman World Champion. German Sebastian Kienle, who was the Kona runner-up behind Frodeno in 2016, has a couple Challenge Roth runner-up titles in 2010-2011.
Swiss triathlete Daniela Ryf won the past two years plus the past three Ironman World Championships. The wins were all by large margins. Her runners-up in Roth were Australia’s Carrie Lester and Britain’s Laura Siddall and Australia’s Carrie Lester. Lester trailed her by more than 20 minutes. Siddall lost by 11.5 minutes the following year.
USA’s Lisa Roberts was behind Siddall by more than five minutes and got disqualified for not following the paperwork rules for doping. This handed third-place to Netherlander Yvonne van Klerken, who was a few minutes behind Roberts.
2017 Kona runner-up Lucy Charles, who amazed the triathlon world during her first Ironman pro year, will be debuting on the Roth start line this weekend.
Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae and the UK’s Rachel Joyce did well in 2014 with first and second-place finishes.
Who Won’t Be at Challenge Roth?
Ryf won’t be around this year. Neither will Frodeno. Others who are out are Lester, Carfrae, Joyce, and Roberts. Last year’s men’s champion, Belgium’s Bart Aernouts, won’t be a defending champion this time.
Serious female competitors for the podium this year are Charles, Siddall, Van Klerken, and Finland’s Kaisa Sali.
Serious male competitors include Joe Skipper, who placed second for the past two years behind Aernouts and Frodeno. Other likely podium finishers are Kienle, Germany’s Andreas Dreitz, and Australia’s Cameron Wurf.
Who Will Win?
With Ryf out of the race, Lucy Charles may take over as champion. Her amazing performance in Kona last year surprised many. She’s the faster swimmer of Ironman. Her run has been making remarkable progress this year, so her improvement didn’t stop in Kona. This year’s credits include first-place in Ironman South Africa and Challenge Samorin.
Trizone also got to know Charles’ training strategies, both for physical conditioning and mental prep. She knows just how to challenge herself to propel toward victories with no problems.
For the men, either Kienle or Skipper is the likely winner, or maybe they’ll get thrown from their bikes when their tires blow out, handing the victory to Wurf to the delight of Australia. We used to win this race, a lot. Even without considering uncontrollable misfortunes, it’s a tough call this year.