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Challenge Roth – A Surprise and a Favorite Winner

Posted on: Sunday 9th July 2017

Bart Aernouts and Daniela Ryf have given the DATEV CHALLENGEROTH their stamp of approval. The victory of the Swiss athlete, who entered the race as house-high favorite in the worlds largest long distant triathlon (3,8 km swim, 180 km bike, 42,195 km run) was expected. However, no one reckoned with the fast Belgian.

Aernouts literally plowed through the field in humid, hot temperatures. He only achieved place 23 coming out of the swim, but passed several competitors along the 180 bike kilometers and came in fifth place onto the run course. There he set the highest pace together with Joe Skipper of England and was able to obtain a lead at kilometer 26. He continued this fast marathon (2:44:10 hours) until the finish. In 7:59:07 hours he remained the only athlete among 3400 single starters and the 8-hour mark!

Aernouts celebrated his biggest successes in duathlons however, occupied eighth place in Hawaii the year before. In May he triumphed over the long distance in Lanzarote and became the second Belgian to triumph in Roth. Exactly 20 years ago, Luc van Lierde won on the exact same spot with a worlds’ best time.

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But this wasn’t about best times. Instead it was about a really exciting race. Until the 33 year old from Antwerp took over the lead, two Germans had been dominating the happenings. Nils Frommhold seemed to be holding true to his favorite role for a long time, however had to give up after 160 kilometers on the bike due to a fall. He collided with a female athlete doing laps on the course. He remained fairly unhurt, but his racing bike was no longer of use.

At first, long-distant rookie, Maurice Clavel, profited from Frommholz’s bad luck as he overtook the lead and was even able to increase the distance during the first few kilometers on the run course. But then, around kilometer 20 it showed that a master of the middle distance isn’t automatically a master of the long distance. At least not at first. The youngest in this professional field was able to save himself on the last groove, coming in third (8:04:53 hours). He had to make several walking and stopping pauses, “went through hell” as he put it afterwards and only reached heaven at the end, “two meters before the finish line”.

He was overtaken along the way from last year’s second place winner, Joe Skipper who had a similar race strategy as the winner Aernouts: mediocre in the water, strong on the bike and super strong on foot. The bottom line though was that he was exactly 8:03:00 hours underway and he definitely could have been a half a minute faster had he not stopped right before the finish line in order to shoot a few selfies with family and friends!

Not only were the top three greeted with standing ovations in the Roth Triathlon Stadium, it was especially emotional for fourth place winner, Timo Bracht, 41, who ended his professional career at the finish line. “I had a super competition”, the athlete from Eberbach recognized. During this very late phase of his career, he managed to better his personal best performance on the bike course. The marathon was extremely hard for him though. Aside from the last leg in Buechenbach to Roth: “the kilometers were suddenly flying by much too fast”, he said at the finish line.

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How one „eats“ kilometers at lighting speed, is shown by Daniela Ryf for a second time in Roth. No one doubted her success beforehand. The sympathetic athlete from Switzerland celebrated a safe start-to-finish race in front of uncountable spectators. However, the 30 year old had to call off the announced attack on the fabulous world best time set by Chrissi Wellington. The conditions were way too hard (humid, hot weather and relatively a lot of wind on the bike course), in addition to lengthy back problems from Spring which set her back.

None-the-less: 8:40:03 hours are still an absolute world class time. “At kilometer 15 on the run course, I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to manage to the finish line”, said Ryf at upon completion. “Without the spectators I never would have made it.” Even the second place, Laura Siddal (8:51:38 hours), who ran a similar marathon as Daniela Ryf, stayed under the 9-hour mark. As well as the American, Lisa Roberts (8:57:14 hours) who with a super marathon pushed Roth’s public favorite, Yvonne van Vlerken back to fourth place.


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