Perfect conditions dawned for the second edition of Challenge St Pölten where Nicholas Mann (DEU) took his first professional win over the middle distance at just 22 years of age, confirming the strong future ahead of him in long distance racing. In the women’s race, Lucy Buckingham (GBR) led from start to finish to take a convincing win just one week after her third place at The Championship.
The youngest athlete in the field at just 20-years-old, Hannes Butters, exited the swim first in 21:55 with a comfortable 50 second lead over Bence Lehmann (HUN) and Caleb Noble (AUS) a further three seconds down in third and Mann exiting the water 1:52 down on the lead. By the first of the climbs at 24km, Nils Frommhold (DEU) had taken the lead on the bike while behind them a large chase group, led by Georg Enzenberger (AUT) and Mann, was trying to close the 30 second gap. But only one athlete was able to bridge that gap and that was Mann, taking the lead a third of the way through the bike and working with Frommhold until the infamous Gansbach climb. It was here he chose to make his move, putting a minute into Frommhold by the top of the climb and claiming 1:35 by his arrival into T2 and then there was no stopping him. He controlled the run for the full 21.1km, taking a textbook win in 3:45:17. Behind him the battle was for the remaining podium places. By the halfway point of the run Noble had moved up into second, a position he held to finish in 3:48:13 while Lukas Hollaus (AUT), who had come into T2 in the chase group, ran into third in 3:48:57.
“This win means a lot,” said Mann. “I feel so good now, I thought I could win, I thought I had it in my legs and I did! To win is really special to me.”
In the women’s race, Buckingham led from start to finish taking the win in 4:15:48, breaking the course record set by Anne Haug in 2021. While the men’s race was close run, both Buckingham and Thek had to ride and run solo all day. Buckingham came off the bike with a 6:59 lead over Thek but Thek but wasn’t going to let that bother her, posting a 1:16:35 run split to close the gap to just 41 seconds by the finish. There was a small moment of drama for Buckingham who was given a 30 second stand-down in the final kilometre of the run but her win wasn’t in jeopardy. The only battle was for third, a position held by both Lisa-Marie Domauer (AUT) or Sarah Schönfelder (DEU) during the bike but it was Aleksandra Jędrezejewska (POL), who came off the bike in sixth, who ran up the field to round off the podium in 4:24:23.
“I’m happy,” said Buckingham. “It was tough as I was tired from last weekend at The Championship and there was a bit of frustration on the bike course, but I managed to sort it out on the hills! I’m really happy to take the win.”
The 15th year of triathlon in St Pölten and the second as Challenge St Pölten, saw over 1,300 athletes take part in this spectacular race set against the backdrop of the Wachau World Heritage Area. The top six finishers in each age group qualify for The Championship 2023. For full results, visit www.challenge-family.live.