Challenge Davos returned to the Swiss Alps today with convincing wins from Simon Viain (FRA) and Magda Nieuwoudt (RSA) in close to perfect conditions.
Athletes took on the testing course that features a 1.9km swim in Lake Davos followed by the bike over the famous Flüela Pass, set at just 54km due to the significant 1,770m of vertical gain. The deciding 21.1km run took athletes through the centre of the alpine town of Davos and along the Landwasser River.
Sven Thalmann (SUI) took an early lead in the swim, exiting in 22:48, over half a minute ahead of Caleb Noble (AUS) and with Viain a further 40 seconds behind. By 10km on the bike, Thalmann broke away from Viain to take the lead as they started the first climb of the Flüela Pass. In the meantime, Reinaldo Colucci (BRA) had ridden up from fifth into third, dropping Noble. As the men top the Flüella Pass, Thalmann had the lead with Viain just seconds behind but it was Viain who proved the most fearless on the technical descent, taking the lead by the turnaround point in Susch and maintaining it as they headed back up the pass. By the time they summitted for the second time, Viain had extended his lead to over two minutes and while Thalmann was holding onto second, behind him Michal Grabowski (POL) had ridden up from eighth to third place, dropping Colucci back into fourth. Viain arrived into T2 with a clear three minute lead over Grabowski and four minute over Thalmann. He continued to extend this lead which was never in threat throughout the run and he took the win in 3:37:26. The excitement was happening behind him with Noble putting a testing bike behind him and running his way up the field to take second in 3:42:33. This result earned Noble 200 points in the Challenge Family Pro Athlete World Bonus, enough to put him at the top of the table, just 50 points ahead of Tom Bishop. Third across the line was Samuel Böttinger (DEU) in 3:43:02 in a repeat of his 2021 result after overtaking Grabowski in the last kilometre.
In the women’s race, Hannah Knighton (NZL) exited the water first, a testament to her short course background, with over a minute on Vanessa de la Torre (MEX). Lisa-Maria Dornauer (DEU) and Nieuwoudt came out in fourth and fifth, two minutes down while Merle Brunée (DEU) was in ninth, over nine minutes down on Knighton. However, by the time they were into their first ascent of the pass, Nieuwoudt showed her strength on the hills, claiming the summit with Dornauer hot on her heels. As they took on the downhill, Dornauer’s experience came into play and she had taken the lead by the turnaround point. But as they climbed back up the pass, Nieuwoudt once again took the lead and this time the climb proved too much for Dornauer as she dropped back into third, with World Duathlon LD Champion, Brunée, riding up into second. Brunée and Nieuwoudt came into T2 neck and neck but a fast transition from Nieuwoudt put her 20 seconds ahead as they headed out onto the run and she never looked back, consistently increasing her lead to take the win in 4:11:15 and putting her at the top of the Challenge Family Pro Athlete World Bonus ranking. Brunée crossed the line in second in 4:13:25 and Dornauer took third in 4:19:25.
“The hills and the descents are not something I’m used to but I really enjoyed it,” said Nieuwoudt. “Two or three weeks before the race I climbed as much as I could but I don’t think you can ever prepare for this fully unless you are here – climbing for 45 minutes to an hour is something else!”