World-beating triathlete Chrissie Wellington continued her dominance of the sport with an 8:18:13 win at Challenge Roth today, smashing her own world best time of 8:19:13 that she set here last year. In doing so she finished a remarkable fifth overall, with only four men taking the better of her on the day.
“I just did something that I never thought was possible, and that means so much to me, and hopefully to women in sport,” an elated Wellington said at the finish. ”Those close to me will tell you that I didn’t think that the world record could be broken, especially with the bike course being an extra 2km longer.”
The ever-smiling Wellington was dominant from start to finish, exiting the water in 49:49, just clear of chasing Kiwi Belinda Harper and more than 90 seconds ahead of prime challenger Rebekah Keat of Australia. She quickly accelerated onto the bike course under clear blue skies, reaching the cheering thousands lining the famous Solarer Berg climb at 70km with a gap of 3:45 over a chase group that included Australians Keat and former Roth champion Belinda Granger.
By the time she reached the Solarer Berg for the second time, her gap over the rest of the women had ballooned to nearly eight minutes over the dueling Granger and Keat. And when she traded her bike for running shoes she had more than 12 minutes in hand over the chasers. Behind her, Keat had pulled away from Granger in the last stages of the bike to start the run in second.
On the marathon Wellington carried on at a similarly scorching run pace, ticking the kilometers over at sub-4:00 pace for much of the way to produce a 2:44 marathon, a new course record.
“I knew I was running faster than last year,” she said. “The aim was not to fade as much as I did last year and I managed to achieve that aim. I didn’t actually know what the time was until I rounded the corner so I really didn’t have a clue. I knew that it was close but my watch had fogged up so I couldn’t see too much.”
Keat, meantime, was battling alone for second until German long-course newcomer Julia Wagner, racing to a 3:07 marathon, overtook her in the waning kilometers of the run to seal second. Wagner, second at the half-distance Challenge Kraichgau earlier this year, also brought home the German national championship with her finish.
“It’s absolutely incredible what happened today and I think it will take some days until I realize what I’ve done,” Wagner said. “I didn’t expect that I could get Rebecca [on the marathon]. When I saw her coming closer and closer, all the spectators shouted at me and that gave me an extra push.”
Keat described her marathon as “42 kilometers of pain” after a bike ride spent pushing the pace, especially on the second lap of the 180km, and said she was pleased to be as close to Wellington as she was at T2. “I left it all on the bike. I had nothing.”
“I gave it my all today and had a fantastic swim/bike then felt I had amazing legs on the run which only lasted 10km. I am never going out that hard again no matter how good I feel! Lesson learnt the fitness just isn’t there yet but its coming!”
And she was gallant at the finish, saying of Wagner: “She’s definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future. It’s a big achievement for her.”
New Zealand’s Belinda Harper was fourth in 9:06:47, with Granger, winner here in 2005, fifth in 9:12:56.
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.
1) Chrissie Wellington (GBR) 8:18:13 (49:49/4:40:39/2:44:35)
2) Julia Wagner (GER) 8:56:23 (51:28/4:54:27/3:07:25)
3) Rebekah Keat (AUS) 8:59:22 (51:27/4:51:05/3:13:51)
4) Belinda Harper (NZL) 9:06:47 (50:00/4:55:48/3:17:43)
5) Belinda Granger (AUS) 9:12:56 (51:34/4:50:38/3:26:57)