Challenge Roth - legend of the sport battle


At DATEV CHALLENGEROTH on July 12 on 250,000 spectators are again expected to watch the event along the race course, and they may look forward to an exciting competition of an impressive number of top athletes. This year's top field of participants focuses especially on three male athletes: The two "Legends of Roth" Timo Bracht (race winner 2014) and Dirk Bockel (race winner 2013) will compete against the ambitious new star and last year’s second-place finisher Nils Frommhold.

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39-year-old Timo Bracht is really eager to defend his title in Roth. He has refrained from taking part in Hawaii this year, and instead has set clear priorities for DATEV CHALLENGEROTH. Bracht is an extremely well-organised and highly-skilled sports and nutrition scientist, but he needed four trials until he finally won the world’s biggest long-distance triathlon in 2014. He almost managed to win in 2013, but then a bike breakdown cost him the victory. Now the famous German top athlete is at the height of his athletic career, he is in excellent shape and he will certainly do everything to add another victory in Roth to his list.

In 2013, Dirk Bockel from Luxembourg had grabbed the victory from right under Bracht’s nose, who had been so unlucky with his bike. One year later, he finished sixth in Roth. However, 38-year-old Bockel was able to win a glorious victory at IM Melbourne in 2014. He is also extremely well-trained and sees himself in an excellent position to take up the fight against his old rival Timo Bracht. If you compare the race winning times of the two competitors (Bockel 7:52:01; Bracht 7:56:00 in bad weather conditions), everything seems to be possible for the 2015 race of the triathlon legends.

Last year, 28-year-old Nils Frommhold, who starts for Triathlon Potsdam, had no chance against Timo Bracht, who dominated the race. Frommhold crossed the finish-line after 8:00:39 hours – four and a half minutes later than the race winner. Nevertheless, Frommhold had some sensationally successful competitions in the past two years: in 2013 he won IM Arizona, in 2014 he finished first in IM South Africa and then sixth in Hawaii in autumn. There is no doubt that he is the new rising star in triathlon. It will be exciting to see whether he will be able to beat far more experienced athletes like Bracht and Bockel.

And of course there will also be strong international competitors: Andrew Starykowicz (USA), for example, is an extremely strong cyclist, who has won quite a number of half-distance races and has also established several bike records. His fellow countryman Blake Becker from Madison/Wisconsin is an experienced athlete, who has competed in more than 60 races, and his personal fastest time is 8:39 hours. And there will also be Clemente Alonso McKernan from Spain. The 37-year-old athlete already won three long-distance competitions. Petr Vabrousek (CZ) will again take part as well. He has been very successful in international long-distance triathlons as well as marathon races. This year’s top field of participants also includes further German athletes, e. g. Horst Reichel from Darmstadt, who won his first long-distance race last year at IM Sweden, and Per Bittner (30) from Leipzig as well as Christian Brader (35) from Memmingen, who both finished various races among the top five athletes. 

Strong Female Athletes
Regarding the female field of participants, another “Legend of Roth” is going to take part again this year: “Flying Dutchwoman” Yvonne van Vlerken, aged 36, already won the Roth race twice (in 2007 and 2008) and caused a sensation with her second victory, as she established a new world record of 8:45:48 at that time. Van Vlerken now lives in Austria, and in 2013 she was able to improve her personal fastest time to 8:43 at IM Florida, which she won. In 2014, she won IM Florida for the third time – her seventh victory of a long-distance triathlon race. Yvonne van Vlerken will take part in DATEV CHALLENGEROTH together with her partner Per Bittner, and she is very close to a third victory here. 

Gina Crawford from New Zealand could be one of her toughest competitors. In her home country, she won CHALLENGEWANAKA six times in a row (including 2015). And she has also finished first in CHALLENGEHENLEY-ON-THAMES (in 2012) and in five Ironman races, and eighth in Hawaii last year. She just has not been able to win in Roth so far. Her best results in Roth were a third place in 2008 and a fourth place in 2012. Maybe she can make it this time?

In addition, Laura Bennett from the US will also have a say regarding the outcome of the race. She has taken part in Olympic Games twice (in 2008 and 2012) and she is a vice world champion on the Olympic distance (2003). After she changed to long-distance triathlon, she reached the second place in IM Boulder in 2014 and the sixth place at the Official ITU World Championship in China only a few weeks later.

As regards German female athletes, there are three who could be among the top favourites: Daniela Sämmler, Natascha Schmitt and Svenja Bazlen. Daniela Sämmler from Darmstadt finished 10th in Roth last year, but she did not do as well as she could have. In her first long-distance race in Barcelona in 2012 she finished third, followed by a second place in Copenhagen in 2013. 29-year-old Natascha Schmitt from Frankfurt, who only changed to long-distance triathlon in 2013 and finished tenth in Frankfurt in 2014, is another promising German athlete. Just like Svenja Bazlen from Tübingen, who took part in the Olympic Games in London and will do her very first long-distance triathlon in Roth. 

But DATEV CHALLENGEROTH does not only live on top athletes, but on the numerous age-group athletes, who struggle against the elements and their own bodies. About 3,400 individual participants and 650 relay teams will take part in the world’s biggest long-distance race in the „stronghold of triathlon“ in Roth – taken care of by more than 5,700 volunteers. They are all part of a legend.