It may be the first edition of Challenge Canberra, but this coming weekend it will kick off with a superb pro field. A great battle is expected in both the women’s and men’s races, with Fenella Langridge and Daniel Bækkegård as the top seeds.
Fenella Langridge has had a great season so far, finishing seventh at The Championship this season, fourth at Challenge Roth, second in South Africa and also picking up a blistering victory at Challenge London. The top British athlete would love to add another win to 2023, and so she will start at Challenge Canberra full of confidence. Langridge knows all eyes are on her, but knows better than anyone how to deal with the pressure when it’s showtime.
On paper, Langridge’s biggest competitor is Radka Kahlefeldt. The Czech-born athlete has lived in Australia for years and so enjoys the benefit of the home crowd. More importantly, Kahlefeldt has had a more than stellar season, finishing second in no less than five major races. However, a win is still missing in 2023, and so Kahlefeldt will be looking to change that in Canberra.
In addition, many eyes are on Els Visser as well. The top Dutch athlete also had a wonderful season, culminating in winning the European Long Distance title at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam. In front of home crowds at the time, the pressure was high, but Visser handled it superbly and ran to victory in phenomenal fashion. At Challenge Canberra she will do everything possible to take her place on the top step of the podium again. Visser (fourth) and Langridge (eighth) also rank high in the Challenge Family World Bonus standings, so extra reason to battle for a top ranking in Canberra. Other women to watch out for will include Chloe Hartnett, Kate Gillespie-Jones and Cassie Heaslip; all Australians.
Among the men, the biggest favorite is Daniel Bækkegård: the Dane is currently fifteenth within the Challenge Family World Bonus standings and could move up a huge number of places – and thus prize money – with a victory in Canberra. With several fine performances under his belt so far, with a third place at Clash Miami and fourth place at Challenge Roth being the standouts this year, Bækkegård is still waiting for his first win of 2023. At Challenge Canberra, therefore, the pressure will be high, but he too has proven several times that he can handle it just fine.
Biggest competition for Bækkegård is expected from four Australians: Kurt McDonald, Caleb Noble, Benjamin Hill and Jarrod Osborne with perhaps Noble having most on the line – a win in Canberra would put him in tied first place in the World Bonus resulting in a nice end-of-season payout earned with wins at Challenge Korea and Challenge Taiwan, a second at Challenge Davos and fourth at Challenge Wanaka. There’s no doubt current top ranked World Bonus athlete Mathis Margirier will be watching from the other side of the world with interest to discover just how big his share of the US125k World Bonus will be!
The start gun at the inaugural Challenge Canberra goes off at 5:45am local time on Sunday 26 November. Follow live updates and timing at www.challenge-family.live. For further information, visit www.challenge-canberra.com.