In contrast to the soaring temperatures of Ironman Frankfurt last weekend, it was a rather cooler affair in Roth today for one of the world’s greatest triathlons, with clouds and rain. The rain eased as the day progressed and it might not have been perfect weather for sun worshippers but, given the recent hot weather in Germany, this was very welcome, and provided almost perfect racing conditions for the triathletes.
Challenge Roth is set in and around the beautiful and picturesque Bavarian town of Roth. It all starts at daybreak with the 3.8km swim in the Main-Donau Kanal, where spectators flank the canal banks and bridge over the swim start. The water temperature was 24.4°C that meant, for the pros, it was a non-wetsuit swim.
The international field for the women’s race included many heavyweights from the world of triathlon. As well as Lucy Charles-Barclay from Great Britain they included last year’s winner Daniela Bleymehl from Germany, and Australian Sarah Crowley, who came third at the 2017 Ironman World Championships.
As expected Charles-Barclay was the first athlete out of the swim, in a time of 50:40, 3:49mins ahead of the next swimmer Rachel McBride from Canada.
By the time she’d covered 55km of the 180km bike leg, Charles–Barclay had extended this lead to 7:15mins over the chase group of five, which included Cowley. Last year’s winner Bleymehl was at this point 40secs behind this group yet, by the Solarer Berg climb – triathlon’s noisiest, most raucous and greatest spectacle with tens of thousands supporters cheering – she’d not only joined this group but also overtaken them to go into second.
Bleymehl clearly meant business and wanted to defend her title, but would she pay for this effort later? Or would there be a repeat duel of last year? At just before the halfway point of the bike leg Charles-Barclay was still in front, with a healthy lead of 7:18 mins over Bleymehl, while Crowley was in third.
Into T2 the order stayed the same: Charles-Barclay, followed by Bleymehl, but the German’s second place was short-lived as 7km into the run Crowley passed her to go into 2nd position.
Crowley was now running around 8secs faster per km than Charles Barclay – could the Brit hold on? At 14.5km Charles-Barclay’s lead was down to 4:02mins, but Crowley couldn’t maintain this speed and, by 28km, Charles-Barclay’s lead was back to around 5mins. With 14km to go victory started to look assured for the Brit.