Aernouts and Ryf take victories at Challenge Roth

Sunday 09 July 2017
ROTH. Bart Aernouts (BEL) and Daniela Ryf (SUI) have put their stamp on DATEV Challenge Roth, taking out the 2017 victories. 

Aernouts literally ploughed through the field in the hot, humid conditions. Exiting the swim in 23rd, he worked his way up the field on the two-lap bike course and headed out on the run in 5th place. There, together with Joe Skipper (GBR) he set the fastest pace and took the lead at the 26km mark. He did not slow down until the finish, clocking the fastest marathon time in the process (2:44:10 hours). Finishing in 7:59:07 hours he was the only athlete in the 3,400 strong individual field to go under the eight hour mark.

“We had a really close field on the men’s side and this showed in the run where there were quite a few position changes. I surprised myself a little bit – I am not the best swimmer and I was alone on the bike most of the time and I felt the headwind quite a lot. They say Roth is a fast race – it’s not that fast! It’s not flat and today it was quite windy. I know a lot is possible in the run – it’s long and hard, especially with the new course. I had to be patient at the beginning and then took the risk and pushed at the halfway point to get the lead and made it to the finish line. I’m always looking for great race and I think it’s going to be hard to find a better race now than this one!”

While not the fastest race, it was certainly exciting.  Before the 33-year-old Belgian took the lead, Nils Frommhold looked certain to regain his number one position but a crash with another competitor at 160km put paid to this. While it didn’t destroy him, it did break his handlebars and he was out of the race.

Frommhold’s bad luck also benefitted long distance rookie, Maurice Clavel (GER), who went from second to first and even extended his lead during the first kilometres of the run.  However from the 20km mark it showed that a middle distance champion does not automatically become a long distance champion, at least not for now. But the youngest pro managed to hang onto third (8:04:53) despite several walking and stopping breaks, "I had to go through hell," he said.

He was overtaken by Joe Skipper, who had a similar racing strategy as Aernouts: mid pack in the water, strong on the bike, fleet of foot on the run.  His finish time could have been 30 seconds faster but he stopped to take selfies with family and friends just before the finish line! 

Not only the top three received standing ovations in the Challenge Roth stadium. The fourth was especially emotional: Timo Bracht, 41, finished his professional career at the finish line. "I had a super race," he said. In the last race of his career he even achieved a personal best performance on the bike route.

Daniela Ryf once again showed how to chew through kilometres at lightening speed. There was little doubt about her success beforehand. And while she celebrated her win in 8:40:03 in front of thousands of fans, Chrissie Wellington’s world record remains intact. The difficult windy, humid conditions, combined with a back injury for Ryf earlier this year, meant it was not a world record day.

“I am very happy with my race,” she said. “Like I said before the race I didn’t think it would be realistic to get the record. But that didn’t stop me trying. I started the run well – the crowds were amazing and they pushed me really hard and I took that energy and I was going well but the last 25km was very hard – I was struggling. It was one of the hardest races for my legs. They got really challenged which is a good thing – that is why we do sport because we like to challenge ourselves and I definitely did that today. I didn’t walk, I just ran really slowly! My legs were so heavy and I tried to lift them but they didn’t work smoothly! Sometimes you get a race where you can push it through and today was not easy and I really had to fight for it. I like that the Roth team changed the run course to make a better atmosphere, not to make it faster – it’s not all about the records. When races make courses as fast as possible so people come, that’s not how it should be. I’m just going to keep focusing on getting better and if the record happens, I will be really happy and if it doesn’t, Chrissie Wellington is an awesome record holder.”

Second place went to Laura Siddall (GBR) in a personal best of 8:51:38 which also included her fastest ever bike and run splits. The women’s podium was rounded out by Lisa Roberts (USA) in 8:57:14 who clocked the fastest female run time of the day in 2:56:34.
Challenge Family (Photo: Getty Images)


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