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Challenge Roth 2018 – Analyzing Results

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Course Conditions

Weather reports in the days before the race sounded as if there could be perfect conditions, moderate temperatures and no wind. Race day turned out to be sunny and not too hot, but later in the day there was a good amount of wind from pretty unusual directions, creating tough days for the agegroupers. Most of the Pros had already completed the bike before the wind, and the bike times were quick (adjustment of 14:08) but not quite as fast as in previous years (last year was roughly two minutes quicker). The new run course saw the return of a one loop course that included long sections of crushed gravel along the canal. It was roughly three minutes quicker than in the last few years. Overall, the adjustment of 19:04 was back to the level of the 2015&16 races, while last year’s race was about 4 1/2 minutes slower.

With the great field this year there were a number of new course records set: Lucy Charles posted a new swim course record (46:48), she improved the old record set by Ute Mückel in 2005 (47:27), she was also the fastest swimmer overall. Then Cameron Wurf posted a new bike course record, his 4:05:37 was 2 1/2 minutes faster than the 4:08 Jan Frodeno biked when he set the world best in 2016. Sebi Kienle was also under the old record. 

Daniela Sämmler’s winning time of 8:43:42 was a new fastest time by a German female, improving on the IM Austria 2008 finish by Sandra Wallenhorst.

Male Race Results

Before the race, there were a lot of eyes on Sebastian Kienle. Especially in Germany, the Kona 2015 winner is a crowd favorite and he was working hard on many appearances to meet his many fans. Even with all that stress in the days leading up to the race, he performed well when it mattered. When no one was pushing the pace in the swim, he was able to stay with the lead group. Once on the bike, he was one of the few following Cam Wurf on his bike course ride. More and more athletes dropped away,  and at the start of the second loop he was the only one with Cam. By T2 he was just two minutes behind Cam but more than four minutes ahead of Andi Dreitz in third and around fifteen minutes ahead of the strong runners James Cunnama and Joe Skipper. Sebi took the lead just 4k into the run and ran very well until the end, building a lead of six minutes to take the win at Challenge Roth and complete his “personal Grand Slam” of winning Kona, 70.3 Champs, Ironman Frankfurt and now Challenge Roth.

Kienle ChallengeRoth ©JamesMitchell ActivImage

Second place went to Andreas Dreitz who lives just 50k away from Roth in what was only his second Ironman-distance race. Andi was also able to swim with the front group, but then he had an issue with his bike bottle that made him lose contact with the front group. After the race he said this might have been a good thing as he was then able to ride his own pace, continually losing more time to the front group that was getting smaller and smaller, and by T2 he was six minutes behind Cam and four minutes behind Sebi but in third place. He also ran well in the marathon, passing Cam and taking extra care to properly hydrate by walking the aid station. With a 2:50 marathon he was able to hold off the stronger runners behind him and took second place across the line.

Dreitz ChallengeRoth ©JamesMitchell ActivImage

There was a close for third place between Cameron Wurf (fastest bike split, eventually finishing fifth), Joe Skipper (fastest run split in fourth place) and Jesse Thomas who had more even splits than the other two and ended up in third. Jesse also swam in the front group and then was the only one riding with Cam and Sebi for the first loop of the bike. He had to take things a bit easier for the second loop, losing 13 minutes to Cam in the second 90k of the bike. But he had controlled his effort well, posting the second fastest marathon of the day.

Thomas ChallengeRoth ©JamesMitchell ActivImage 

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to exp. Prize Money
1 Sebastian Kienle GER 00:47:59 04:07:29 02:47:45 07:46:23 -03:16 US$ 40,000
2 Andreas Dreitz GER 00:47:50 04:11:47 02:50:20 07:53:06 -00:39 US$ 25,000
3 Jesse Thomas USA 00:47:51 04:19:04 02:44:52 07:54:38 -15:46 US$ 15,000
4 Joe Skipper GBR 00:49:17 04:22:16 02:42:27 07:56:57 -11:54 US$ 7,000
5 Cameron Wurf AUS 00:47:59 04:05:37 03:01:42 07:58:17 -14:05 US$ 4,000
6 James Cunnama ZAF 00:47:55 04:22:21 02:46:04 07:59:15 -04:27 US$ 3,000
7 Evert Scheltinga NED 00:47:49 04:21:53 02:51:49 08:04:28 -07:25 US$ 2,500
8 Bryan McCrystal IRL 00:53:58 04:09:46 02:59:42 08:07:37 -34:38 US$ 1,500
9 Lukas Kraemer GER 00:52:17 04:25:28 02:47:45 08:08:21 -08:53 US$ 1,250
10 Paul Schuster GER 00:47:48 04:24:58 02:59:19 08:14:55 n/a US$ 750
11 Christian Altstadt GER 00:52:20 04:28:21 02:56:30 08:20:22 -06:28  
12 Sebastian Mahr GER 00:48:05 04:37:14 02:51:25 08:20:49 n/a  
13 Patrick Jaberg SUI 00:52:22 04:28:28 02:59:16 08:23:20 -08:15  
14 Jan Raphael GER 00:49:17 04:29:35 03:07:29 08:29:26 12:27  
15 Michael Goehner GER 00:52:17 04:28:41 03:07:27 08:31:20 04:19  
16 Marcus Woellner GER 00:47:49 04:30:33 03:17:45 08:38:57 -47:47  
17 Tjardo Visser NED 00:49:19 04:40:33 03:07:16 08:39:51 -12:30  
18 Bruno Pasqualini ITA 00:56:04 04:49:17 03:11:29 09:00:37 n/a  
19 Fraser Cartmell GBR 00:47:44 04:48:09 03:21:26 09:02:22 19:52  
20 Thomas Naasz NED 00:58:15 04:55:31 03:07:22 09:04:21 07:55  
21 Young Hwan Oh KOR 01:00:31 04:56:35 03:31:33 09:31:36 28:59  
22 Alfred Rahm GER 01:01:53 05:09:06 03:22:26 09:39:40 10:22  
23 Luis Henrique Ohde BRA 00:47:58 04:58:59 04:19:36 10:10:52 1:49:21  
  Marc Unger GER 00:49:15 04:26:26   DNF    
  Markus Hoermann GER 00:49:12 04:29:30   DNF    
  Niclas Bock GER 00:47:59 04:31:42   DNF    
  Sven Riederer SUI 00:47:50 04:36:01   DNF    
  Rick Steffen GER 01:07:28 04:48:25   DNF    
  Ivan Rana ESP 00:47:53     DNF    
  Sebastian Neef GER 00:47:56     DNF    

Female Race Results

Daniela Sämmler had come up with a strategy that would give her a chance against the super-swimmer Lucy Charles. Lucy was able to build a gap of eight minutes to Dani and even more to the other contenders.Once on the bike, Daniela kept Lucy’s lead in check and on the second loop slowly started to reduce the gap. She posted the fastest bike split and started the run just four minutes behind Lucy. Both were expected to run a similar marathon split, but Daniela continued to eat into Lucy’s lead and was able to take the lead at the final turnaround in Büchenbach. But Lucy never gave up and Dani was running the last 7k just a few seconds in front of Lucy. After the final meters in the finish stadium, both collapsed after the finish line, and Dani had won by a mere 9 seconds over Lucy – one of the closest finishes in a female long-distance race.

Sämmler ChallengeRoth ©JamesMitchell ActivImage

Charles ChallengeRoth ©JamesMitchell ActivImage

Third place went to Kaisa Sali. Kaisa didn’t quite have the swim she was looking for, starting the bike nearly ten minutes behind Lucy. She was riding for some time with Laura Siddall and Yvonne Van Vlerken and then put in a surge to maybe close the gap to Daniela. The gap came down to 1:30 but then Kaisa lost steam and fell back to the others. Kaisa started the run in fourth place just behind Yvonne, but quickly left her behind and started to work on reducing the gap to the front. Kaisa was the quickest runner in the female field, reducing the gap to just over two minutes by 30k. But then she had some intestinal issues and crossed the line in third place, three minutes behind Daniela.

Sali ChallengeRoth ©JamesMitchell ActivImage

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to exp. Prize Money
1 Daniela Saemmler GER 00:54:43 04:41:44 03:04:10 08:43:42 -23:45 US$ 40,000
2 Lucy Charles GBR 00:46:48 04:45:47 03:08:04 08:43:51 -05:20 US$ 25,000
3 Kaisa Sali FIN 00:56:26 04:47:04 03:00:04 08:46:49 -00:10 US$ 15,000
4 Laura Siddall GBR 00:56:25 04:49:00 03:00:35 08:48:42 -12:01 US$ 7,000
5 Yvonne Van Vlerken NED 00:56:20 04:47:01 03:08:00 08:54:40 -01:20 US$ 4,000
6 Bianca Steurer AUT 00:56:22 04:52:57 03:10:39 09:02:44 -26:32 US$ 3,000
7 Karen Steurs BEL 01:00:02 05:08:18 03:17:15 09:29:43 n/a US$ 2,500
8 Lucie Zelenkova CZE 00:51:02 05:17:15 03:28:18 09:40:26 07:20 US$ 1,500
  Alicia Kaye USA 00:51:01 05:06:33   DNF    

Roth Royalty: Daniela Sämmler

This is an excerpt from my “2018 Roth Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

DanielaPointsDaniBib

Daniela is the only German woman on the Pro startlist, so she carries the hopes for the first home country win since Nicole Leder in 2004. That goal is likely a bit too hard to achieve, so maybe a better goal is to be the first German lady on the podium since Anja Beranek in 2015.

Based on the previous results, Dani should be slightly behind the big four that will think about the win (Lucy, Kaisa, Laura, and Yvonne). While her swim and bike are strong enough to keep her with these, the marathons she’s been running were a bit slower than for example Kaisa. But Dani will have higher goals than riding with the others and then seeing them run away from her. She should swim a bit faster than the others (except for Lucy), and I’m looking forward to see her extend that gap on the bike, maybe even reducing the gap to Lucy. She has shown in Hamburg that her run is improving, and another step forward could see her run a sub-3:05 marathon. If she’s able to do that, a podium finish would be within reach, and a new IM-distance PR as well.


DaniHamburgThorsten: After your results in the last years, you can probably have a different target than when you raced in Roth in your earlier years. What have you learned in your earlier races in Roth?

Daniela: Of course every Pro athlete targets to finish as far forward as possible and dreams about winning races. I have worked hard in the last years and have been steadily improving. I’m sure that I haven’t shown my best yet. I’m well prepared this year and my build races at the Ironman 70.3s in Marbella and Kraichgau show that I should be on the list of those to watch.
DATEV Challenge Roth is a highlight of every triathlon season and a race with a long history. The atmosphere is very special and every year the race attracts a strong field. I’m going to focus on my own race and we’ll have to see at the end of the day what that’s going to be worth. Other than knowing the course and knowing a lot of people along the course, I don’t have any advantages over the “Roth rookies” .. but maybe these will make a difference 😉

T: Do you mainly have time-based goals or are you looking to place well?

D: One thing implies the other. It’ll be hard to place well without a fast time. I’m targeting a new PR [currently 8:55:11 from Barcelona 2017] and if everything goes right, I’d love to set a new German record [currently 8:47:26 by Sandra Wallenhorst from Austria 2008]. But I will mainly focus on my own strengths.

T: Behind Lucy there could be a larger group of strong bikers. Do you see yourself riding in that group?

D: I don’t plan my race by looking at others, and I don’t plan to ride in a group. I have worked hard on my swim and want to minimize the time I lose to the front. I have also made progress in the run and was able to show that on the half distance races this year. Of course I want to prove that in the marathon and I’m optimistic to run faster than last year [she won IM Hamburg with a 3:08 run split], but it’s going to be a long day and a lot can happen …

T: Just four weeks after Roth you want to defend your title at IM Hamburg. Is that going to be on your mind when racing in Roth?

D: When I do my best to prepare for Roth then that will also help for Hamburg, so it’s been some extra motivation. But I’m always focused on the next race, Roth comes first and for now I’m 100% focused on Roth.

(Photo: Dani winning IM Hamburg. Credit: TriRating)

Roth Royalty: Sebastian Kienle

This is an excerpt from my “2018 Roth Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

SebiPointsSebiBib

Sebi is one of the biggest names in long-distance triathlon and he has always been great in his summer IMs, winning three of the last four IM Germany’s in Frankfurt and improving his run PR down to a 2:44:12. He has developed into a superb marathon runner that can play more cards than just his fantastic bike leg.

Sebi Bike Samorin

While he is still looking to regain the winning formula in Kona, it’s hard to see him not win in the milder environment of summer Germany. It can be hot on race day, but the humidity and relentless sun in Kona are another level. The wetsuit swim in Roth should help to minimize the time he has to make up in the first part of the bike, there won’t be a huge group just “waiting” for the bike superpowers to show up. In Roth only Cam Wurf might be able to match him on the bike (and maybe Andi Dreitz), and with the rolling course it’s unlikely that someone else manages to stick with him when he moves through the field. And he has shown in Frankfurt that by now he is also able to win races on the run, even against athletes running well. So unless some unforeseen drama occurs, Sebi has the best chances to win Roth 2018.

(Photo: Sebi on the bike at Challenge Samorin. The image is property of James Mitchell. Prior permission must be sought before usage, please contact james@jamesmitchell.eu.)


Thorsten: You’ve raced Roth twice to kick off your long-distance racing career in 2010 and 2011. What impression has Roth made on you?

Sebastian: These are special memories, especially since those were my first two long races. Long-distance racing is always intense, all the spectators in Roth, and the first sub-8 of an Iron-rookie .. that was craziness. Roth ticks all the boxes, it has been able to keep a “family feeling” while being very professional.

T: By racing and winning Cozumel in November you would have been able to completely change your summer schedule and your lead up into Kona. But it seems you haven’t changed all that much, only racing Roth instead of Frankfurt?

S: Of course we discussed not doing an IM in the summer but it’s always been working well for me. We will make some changes mainly after Roth. Currently I plan not to race 70.3 Championships. In the past it wasn’t a problem leading into Kona, but with the race in South Africa it’s logistically a lot more complicated, and I want to be in Kona five weeks before the race. Maybe I’ll do 70.3 Santa Cruz on the way to Kona.

T: How did the MTB race in South Africa [Cape Epic, a seven-day world class MTB event] fit your prep?

S: It was a risk, and maybe one I shouldn’t have taken looking back. But it fit the training schedule, especially for the strength on the bike. In the end there are some decisions you have to make with your heart, and after a decade of racing professionally I wanted to do a race just because I would enjoy it.

T: You’ve finished second in your half-distance races this year, both times you were beaten by Lionel Sanders.

S: I was okay with St. George, looking at the results I’m still getting better and also in relation to Lionel. Samorin was different, when you’re so close to winning the race you want to wrap things up. I was well prepared and there are certainly positive takeaways, but to be honest the main thing I’ll remember is being “#2” in the results.

T: What’s the goal for Roth? Are you looking for records or mainly winning the race?

S: I want to take the win, but to do so in Roth you will need a quick time. But I don’t think a world record will be needed.

T: It seems that IM Frankfurt one week after Roth will be a big “German showdown” with Patrick Lange, Jan Frodeno and Andi Böcherer. Would you like to have been there as well?

S: Of course I’m really sad, but there will be another chance in October. I’ll be in Frankfurt as the “expert” doing commentary for German television and really looking forward to that. The female field in Frankfurt is also excellent this year.

Roth Royalty: Kaisa Sali

This is an excerpt from my “2018 Roth Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

KaisaPointsKaisaBib

Anyone who has seen the speedy Finn on the run will be looking for her once the marathon starts. Even when Lucy was running well in Kona, Kaisa’s marathon was 6 minutes quicker, so even if Lucy reaches T2 with a large lead, the race will be far from over.

Kaisa Bike

But in order for Kaisa to be in a position to run down Lucy, she has to have a good swim and bike. She should be about a minute quicker in the swim than Laura and Yvonne, but when they bridge up to her they won’t make it easy for her to tuck in behind them. Even when she isn’t able to ride with Laura and Yvonne, she is experienced enough not to lose too much time, but it’s probably going to take some extra energy that she’d like to save for the run.

If Kaisa is within eight, maybe even ten minutes at the start of the marathon to Lucy, things could still get very interesting towards the end of the run. Kaisa was racing all alone in Kona for most of the day. I’m sure she’ll be running hard in Roth whatever the race situation will be. It would be a surprise not to see her at least in podium contention in the last hour of the race.

(Photo: Kaisa on the bike at Challenge Samorin. The image is property of James Mitchell. Prior permission must be sought before usage, please contact james@jamesmitchell.eu.)


Thorsten: For the last years you have raced an early season IM, usually IM South Africa in April. This year your build towards Kona looks a bit different?

Kaisa: Even in Finland, those who have been following triathlon know the about Roth, especially those who followed the sport already back in the nineties. I think the race still has the reputation of being the second biggest race after Kona. I have been dreaming about doing Roth for many years and now as I have “stamped my ticket” to Kona [Kaisa won IM Arizona in November 2017], there is a great opportunity to do it. I like both the hills and the flats and many athletes who have raced in Roth have said to me that I will love the bike course so I am super excited to get there!

At the beginning of the training season my coach Siri Lindley and I were still thinking about doing IM South Africa in addition to Roth, but in the end we made the decision to skip it as we feel that for me only one Ironman distance race before Kona is the perfect way to make sure I am in top shape late in the season at Big Island. Siri also has good experiences from other athletes who have done Roth before Kona so I am very excited about this season plan.

T: Where did you prep for Roth? It looks like you’ve been in Boulder training with Siri?

K: During the winter my husband Markus and I were living in northern part of Italy, which we liked a lot. But as the winter was colder than normal in Europe, it did mean lots of sweating indoors. This was mentally very tough, but physically it seems to have been pretty effective. In late spring I have been in Boulder for six weeks training with Siri and my teammates. From there I also did IM 70.3 Monterrey as a hard training race and next week I will be flying to Europe to do Challenge the Championship as another brutal speed exercise and a test of where the fitness level is. [Kaisa finished 5th in Samorin, seven minutes behind Lucy.] After this we will go back to Italy to do the final block for Roth.

T: You’ve had a great run battle at 70.3 Monterrey with Mirinda Carfrae. What are you taking away from that win?

K: It was awesome to take the win in Monterrey, especially as I really did not expect to be able to hold myself together until the finishing line after all the hard training days I had done just before the race.
I am sure Rinny will be able to do a great race in Cairns. We have been training together here in Boulder and it has been good to see how well she has been able to build back her fitness and how amazingly well she is able to balance her new life as a mother and a pro triathlete. But whatever happens in Cairns, I am sure she will be even stronger in Kona!

T: Your fastest IM time is still from your first IM in Barcelona. How important is setting a “new personal record” in Roth to you?

K: I never go to races trying to make a good time as in triathlon there are so many things that do affect to the speed. I think that is also a big reason for my first IM race still being my fastest as I really do not think it was my best performance so far. So I will go to Roth to do the best swim-bike-run combination possible for me that day and of course if that leads to doing a new record or getting a good placing, I will be super happy.

T: In Kona Lucy Charles was in front of you all day, and the gap after the swim was probably larger than what you were hoping for.

K: It is not a secret that I have been struggling with my swimming in many races and Kona was an example where I did underperform compared to how well the swimming had gone in training. In Roth the flat wetsuit swim will obviously make the swimming times a little more even, but still I am sure Lucy will fly far in front, she is just such an amazing and fierce mermaid!
For me the best plan for Ironman distance racing is to focus on my own race. In my best races I have been just listening to my own body and making the decisions about pacing according to how I feel. Of course you are also all the time racing against the others but I feel it is better not to overthink beforehand how everyone will probably do, you will anyway see it during the race and in an Ironman there is plenty of time to make plans on the go.

Roth Royalty: Andi Dreitz

This is an excerpt from my “2018 Roth Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

AndiPointsAndiBib

Andi has been one of the strongest 70.3 athletes for years, especially on the bike. In 2017 he changed his focus, prepared for his first Ironman (IM Italy which he won), and started to plan for his first race in Kona by following the 2017 race on the island. Considering that his training is probably focused on longer sessions and that his half-distance races are just “fast training sessions”, you can’t read too much into these races. But just a few days after our chat below, Andi won Challenge Herning, indicating that his training is working fine and that he’s peaking towards Roth.

Andi Bike Denmark

It’s tough to extrapolate from just one long-distance race, but his 4:16 bike in Italy was 13 minutes quicker than everyone else’s, and a 2:51 run gave him a 9-minute winning margin. Andi should be able to swim a bit quicker than Sebi and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t try to stay at the front of the race even when the fast bike riders such as Cam Wurf or Sebi are riding up to him. At the same time he has enough respect for the marathon to not go on a suicide mission on the bike (or early on the run). Overall, a sub-8 finish is totally within his reach when he races smart. In Roth, that is typically enough for a podium finish.

(Photo: Andi on the bike at Challenge Denmark. The image is property of James Mitchell. Prior permission must be sought before usage, please contact james@jamesmitchell.eu.)


Thorsten: After switching to longer racing last year, how do you view your first 2018 results?

Andreas: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to show a good race and get the results I was looking for. But the data and the equipment are great, so I’m really excited about the challenges in Roth and Hawaii.

T: You’re living not far from Roth, have you had a chance to check out the courses?

A: I’m really looking forward to race in my home region of Franconia. I know the area quite well and have watched the race almost every year. But I will probably spend another two or three days in Roth to have a clear picture of the course.

T: You’ve had a great first IM in Italy, but racing the strong and deep field in Roth is probably going to be different?

A: Of course Sebi is going to be the big favorite and he’ll be hard to beat. But also James and Joe have raced well in Roth and can rely on their experience.

T: What’s your race plan for Roth?

A: For long-distance races you have to focus on yourself and not get influenced by what others are doing. My best strategy will be to surprise my competition, so I can’t reveal too much.

T: Your Kona slot seems to be safe, how will you approach the rest of the season?

A: I’ll have a short rest break after Roth, then I’ll tackle the two big goal races of 70.3 Championships and Ironman Hawaii.

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