Germany’s Timo Bracht finally got the victory after several attempts on the Challenge Roth course, while two-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) claimed the women’s win on her first attempt.
After a week full of pre-race hype and festivities, the hours before the 30th running of Challenge Roth focused mainly on the anticipated weather forecast for race day. Instead of the temperate conditions the Bavarian region usually sees, race day called for temperatures to reach the high 80s F. Despite warmer-than-usual temperatures, spirits were high as 5,500 athletes from more than 60 nations prepared for a long day of racing.
PHOTOS: 2014 Challenge Roth
Germany’s Nils Frommhold led the men’s field out of the 2.4-mile swim. He was followed closely by a group of 10 that included contenders Pete Jacobs (AUS), Dirk Bockel (LUX), Joe Gambles (AUS), Sylvain Sudrie (FRA), Bracht, Eneko Llanos (ESP) and James Cunnama (RSA). Normally strong swimmer Luke McKenzie (AUS) had a rough start to his day and came into T1 four minutes back of the lead group.
That group of 11 got away on the bike, making it very difficult for any others to have any hope of riding into contention. The lead changed several times throughout the first half of the bike ride, with Frommhold eventually building a large gap on the rest of the front group. The 28 year old came into T2 with just over a five-minute lead on Bracht, Bockel, Llanos, Cunnama, Markus Fachbach (GER) and Sudrie. McKenzie and Joe Gambles (AUS) came into transition more than seven minutes back of Frommhold.
The group quickly started chasing down Frommhold, with Bracht showing the most potential early in the marathon. As Bockel, Llanos and Cunnama faded, Bracht continued to excel in his pursuit of Frommhold. Bracht overtook his fellow German competitor at around the 30K mark. Bracht, who declared that this year “Roth would by my Hawaii” after narrowly missing the Roth win several times throughout his career, took the tape at 7:56:00. After all of the hype surrounding how many athletes would be able to go under eight hours, it was only Bracht who achieved that elusive accomplishment, putting together a 48:58 swim, a 4:19:59 bike and a 2:44:32 marathon. Frommhold easily held on for second at 8:00:39, with Llanos rounding out the top three at 8:09:29.
Caroline Steffen (SUI) kicked off the women’s race with a lead out of the water at 52:08. Michelle Vesterby (DEN), Julia Gajer (GER), Rachel Joyce (GBR) and Rebekah Keat (AUS) all followed within a minute. Top contenders Carfrae (3:16 back) and Yvonne Van Vlerken (7:16 back) came into T1 with some work to do to catch the front riders. Steffen led the first half of the bike, but was eventually joined by Joyce and Anja Baranek (GER). The three road together for a bit before Joyce decided to make a break and build a gap to start the run. By the time she reached T2, Joyce had built a lead of 4:10 over Steffen, 5:46 over Van Vlerken, 6:17 over Diana Riesler (GER) and, perhaps most importantly, 6:19 over Carfrae. Would the six-minute advantage be enough to hold off the Kona marathon course record holder?
Joyce ran steadily out front as Carfrae picked off the other athletes one by one. With Carfrae already less than four minutes back in second place at the 12.5K mark, the odds didn’t look good for Joyce. The Australian earned the lead at around the 28K mark and never looked back. Carfrae put together a 55:24 swim, a 4:46:48 bike and a 2:53:27 run to claim the 8:38:53 victory. Like in Kona, Joyce finished second to Carfrae, crossing the finish line at 8:42:25. Steffen rounded out her day with a strong marathon to claim third at 8:48:42.
Roth, Germany – July 20, 2014
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Timo Bracht (GER) 7:56:00
2. Nils Frommhold (GER) 8:00:39
3. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 8:09:39
4. Joe Gambles (AUS) 8:10:10
5. James Cunnama (RSA) 8:11:44
6. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 8:22:41
7. Michael Runz (GER) 8:23:44
8. Andrej Vistica (CRO) 8:28:26
9. Roeland Smits (NED) 8:29:20
10. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 8:37:33
1. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 8:38:53
2. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 8:42:25
3. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 8:48:42
4. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 8:59:36
5. Julia Gajer (GER) 9:00:50
6. Catherine Faux (GBR) 9:09:47
7. Diana Riesler (GER) 9:13:16
8. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:13:23
9. Simone Maier (NZL) 9:31:24
10. Daniela Sammler (GER) 9:37:46