Archive | Challenge Roth

Roth Royalty: Andi Dreitz

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


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

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.

Roth Royalty: Lucy Charles

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


Undoubtedly, Lucy will be leading the race from the start – she is currently the best female Ironman swimmer, and she may even post the fastest swim split overall in Roth. The gap to the next woman is already going to be sizable – probably around five minutes, and up to nine minutes to the slower swimmers among the podium contenders (Laura, Yvonne). Lucy is also one of the strongest women on the bike, so the gap is probably going to stay in that five to nine-minute range. If she’s having a good day, she may even extend her lead and is going to be the T2 leader unless she is either having a bad bike day or the others are working extra hard to close the gap. (Challenge Roth has been pretty good at minimizing “other factors” such as drafting or moto-pacing behind camera vehicles, hopefully that’s going to continue this year.)

ChallengeChamps 532 ©Mitchell AP4I2054

Lucy has also made steady progress on her run, her fastest run was a 3:05 in South Africa earlier this year. If she runs into problems, it is unlikely to become apparent before the final stages of the run. So we’re either going to have a relatively “boring” race at the front, or we’ll see lots of excitement in the final hour of the female race. I’m sure Lucy would prefer to avoid any drama, but even if she gets caught she has proven that she can still put up a solid fight.

It’s hard to beat against Lucy based on the performances she has shown and her continuing improvements. She’s likely to take over the Challenge Roth title from Daniela Ryf who won here the last two years. Whether she can challenge Dani in Kona as well is a different story.

(Photo: Lucy leading the bike at Challenge Samorin. The image is property of James Mitchell. Prior permission must be sought before usage, please contact

Thorsten: You’ve always been leading the races after the swim, probably even overtaking a number of the male Pros. Are you looking to be the fastest swimmer overall in Roth?

Lucy: Being the fastest swimmer overall is nice but it’s not overly important to me. I do get a little buzz from every male pro I overtake in the swim but these kind of positive lifts would be far more welcomed towards the end of the run. I’m used to swimming around other swimmers from my open water swim background so it’s not too much hassle.

T: After your recent wins in South Africa and Samorin you probably are the favorite for Roth. Does that change anything for you in the days leading up to the race or your race strategy?

L: I’m a born competitor so any race that I’m on the start line for I want to win. My race preparation and strategy will remain the same for Roth as it has for Ironman South Africa and Samorin.
The bonus of being out first from the swim is I know I have the lead and to some extent I have control of the race. The downside is I rarely know the gaps to the girls behind and I’m the one with the target on my back. I’ve had to learn pretty quickly how to race out front and not to overcook it. My goal for Roth is to win, if that requires a PB run I’m confident my legs will deliver the goods. However if I don’t need to overly push the run I won’t, I will be saving my legs for Kona.

Roth Royalty: Jesse Thomas

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


Jesse’s transition from a steeple chaser on the Standford track team to winning his first Wildflower in 2011 as a last minute entry with a borrowed bike and aero helmet is a great example of the inspiring “hero journey stories” that triathlon often creates. He was such an unknown that the announcer had to ask him for his name! Jesse is also one of the smartest guys in the circuit – he holds an MBA from Stanford and runs “PickyBars” together with his wife Lauren Fleshman (an accomplished athlete of her own). For the last two seasons Jesse has been focused on racing Kona, this year he’s doing “cool races in cool places”. This included Challenge Wanaka in New Zealand (3rd place), and of course Wildflower (he finished second to Rudy Van Berg). Now he’s focused on Challenge Roth.

Jesse Lanzarote

Even though Jesse has raced four IM races, he’s still quite hard to predict – all of his races have been on slow courses (Wales, Lanzarote) or in deep fields (Kona) where he had to take extra risks in order to place well. We know that he’s going to be a bit slower than Sebi in the swim, so it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to join the front group on the bike. But there are slower swimmers but nominally faster bike riders, and he may be able to find someone that can pace him well over the Roth bike course. And while he’s probably not a low 2:40 marathon runner, he has been able to run fast when it mattered such as when he was able to run down everyone (including Jan Frodeno and David McNamee) when he won IM Lanzarote. So while his podium chances don’t look good on paper, he is racing without any pressure – and he seems to be doing well in races he just wants to enjoy.

(Photo: Jesse on the bike at Ironman Lanzarote. The image is property of James Mitchell. Prior permission must be sought before usage, please contact

Thorsten: How well-known is Roth in the US?

Jesse: All my career I’ve heard Roth is one of the top bucket list races in the world. Yes, I don’t think it has as much fame in the US as in Germany, but that’s honestly part of the reason I’m doing it. There are so many awesome races outside the US and outside the Ironman umbrella that I want to experience and that I’d like to promote to my fans and followers. I believe the experience will be amazing as that’s all I’ve heard from my fans and competitors who have races. Challenge has been very kind and gotten me a homestay and I’m super thankful for their help and interest in having me there.

T: Just like for Wales (your first IM win in 2015), you’re making the trip to Europe with your family, now grown to Lauren and two kids.

J: I’m nearing the time in my career when I know I only have a limited amount of experiences left in the sport and the time with my kids is super high priority. I’m doing my best to involve them in all the big races this year because of that. Jude is old enough that he may remember some of them and is definitely influenced by them. It’s fun for me to be able to share my “job” with him for a while. It will be much different because Wales was my first Ironman, but it will also be the same because I’m going to Roth to have fun and discover what I can do with my family along my side.

T: You’re “leaving behind” the Picky Bars business, how will they deal without you and Lauren not being there for the day to day questions?

J: I have a super capable staff who is used to me not being in the office much during my peak training and racing seasons. I’m always a phone call or email away and I do work right up until about a day or two before the race depending on what’s going on and what my staff needs from me. But business is a marathon and while I’m gone for a couple of weeks, our business is big enough now it will keep going in the mostly same direction while I’m gone. I have a lot of trust in my employees, that’s the way I lead, we’re a team and each person is capable and responsible.

T: Your race in Wildflower this year was a good second place, but your race report almost sounded as if you were saying “goodbye”. How much longer do you see yourself racing at a professional level?

J: I think I have one or two more years. I could race more physically, but family and business are pulling me mentally away from the sport. I’m more and more cognizant of the time I’m missing with my son as he ages – he starts Kindergarten this fall. I don’t want to always be tired and training and less able to do physical activities with him while he’s a child. I also have some big goals for our business, and at this point in my life, the positive impact Picky Bars could have on my family and community is bigger than me accomplishing almost anything in triathlon.

T: You’ve never really done a “crazy fast” bike course in your IM races. How does that play into your plan for race day?

J: Part of the reason I chose Roth was to hopefully put a “time” stake in the ground for a faster Ironman. I’d like to see how I can do on a fast course in the right conditions. You never know what race day will be like and how I’ll feel, but I think there’s an outside chance I could near or crack the 8-hour mark with a great race. It might be a stretch, but it would be one of the last cool feathers in my cap for my career. I’m training to race fast the whole way, try to stay with people when it makes sense, and have a great run off the bike. After running 2:46 at Lanza in hot conditions, I think I’m capable of faster than that on the right day, so we’ll see what happens.

T: While your wins in Wales and Lanzarote came as surprises and you’ve been able to deliver relatively “controlled” races, it seems that in Kona you were caught by the race excitement and probably didn’t fully exactly execute your plan. Where do you think Roth will fall on that spectrum?

J: Kona 2016 I got caught up and rode too hard up the lead group, and that cost me on the race for sure. In 2017 I actually was racing great until I saw Matt Russell hit that car. I had a decent start to the run too, but I think nutritionally and physiologically the heat and adrenaline got the best of me. Kona is a super unique environment that is literally the worst race possible for my strengths and weaknesses. It exposes all of my biggest weaknesses. I think Roth, if the weather is mild, could be a great course for me, so I’ll allow myself to be more aggressive with the hopes of being competitive near the front later in the race.

T: What’s the plan for you after Roth?

J: I haven’t made any plans yet. I’m going to see how my body, family, and business are doing. If I feel great and the fam/biz is behind it, I may race another Ironman or another bucket list event, but I don’t want to commit to something until I’ve had time to decompress and heal after the race. First on the docket will be relaxing and some beers!

Roth Royalty: Laura Siddall

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


When Laura raced her first Challenge Roth in 2016, her fourth-place finish was a big step forward: It was her best performance so far and she was starting to beat more established athletes. One year later she was one of the most sought-after interview partners before the race – and her second-place finish to Daniela Ryf didn’t change that at all.

This season has been going well for her, she has already won two IM-distance races in New Zealand and Australia. Can she claim the top spot on the podium this year? It would be the next big step forward for the world-traveling Brit.

Laura Bike Denmark

To put herself in a position to win in Roth, Laura would need to step it up across the board. Last year she had to work hard on the bike after a slower-than-expected 58-minute swim, and even a minute can make a difference for the dynamics on the bike. She should be among the strongest on the bike, and she has the experience to put out her biggest effort when it will make a difference. This year she’s raced the same races as last year, and her marathon times have been three to four minutes quicker. This indicates she might be able to run her first sub-3 marathon, and even after a good swim and bike that’s likely what she’ll need to challenge Lucy Charles. But in almost every race scenario, Laura is going to be at least in contention for a podium finish.

(Photo: Laura on the bike at Challenge Denmark. The image is property of James Mitchell. Prior permission must be sought before usage, please contact

Thorsten: You’ve raced a lot of races last year, then you seemed a bit flat in Kona. Are you adjusting your schedule for this year to be fresher for October?

Laura: I don’t plan my seasons around Kona. Yes, it’s a big race but it’s never my main focus. Last year and this year were the same: If I qualified during the races I wanted to do (Ironman New Zealand and Ironman Australia) then that would be great and I’d go to Europe to race Challenge Family over the summer. If I hadn’t qualified after those races, then I wouldn’t have started chasing points just to get to Kona. I still plan to race a lot of races in Europe with the Challenge Family. There are some great races that I really love and get a lot of joy and happiness from them.

With regards to Kona last year, there are of course many lessons I took away, and have implemented and will be implementing in my races and continual development this year as an athlete and a professional.

T: How does the female race in Roth develop? Based on the data there might be a larger group of WPro on the bike, and how much do the faster age groupers influence the race?

L: I don’t envision there being a single group chasing – even if it looks like that on paper, it rarely spreads like this, even if on paper like this. My job is to respond to scenarios that occur in the race and focus on my performance.

I can only speak for myself in talking about a clean race, and that I will be riding a clean and honest race. I can’t comment on the other women and how they choose to race. I do think though that race organisers and event teams need to put consideration into the start times to ensure that there is minimal impact on the Pro women, from either the Pro men or the Age Group men. Challenge Roth have been great at listening to the feedback of the women and Pros and have altered the start times [there will be a 12-minute gap this year], which I hope is a good step to give the women a clean and fair race. I’m sure there will still be some cross-over with it being a two lap course.

T: You’ve improved from fourth to second in Roth. How do you see your chances this year for a further improvement?

L: When you put yourself on the start line, you put yourself in the frame of winning. Roth is a special race to me and one that I would of course love to win. I can’t control the other women on the start line though or what performance they have on the day. All I can do is to focus on my performance and getting the very best out of myself.

My goal for Roth 2018 is to put in a better performance than I did in 2017. My goal is to continue to develop and improve and build on my past races as I move forward. Therefore I’ll be focusing on executing the very best swim-bike-run I can on the day, and aiming for a personal better performance than last year. This is what I can control. This is where my focus always is.

T: Your current run PR is from Roth last year (3:05). Do you think you can attack a sub-3 hour marathon in Roth this year?

L: My running has been going well, and improving all the time. However you just never know on race day what will happen. To be competitive against the best women in the world, you really need to be running around 3 hours off a strong bike, so that’s always the goal when I’m training and racing to be moving closer to that mark. Whether I do it in Roth, or this year, or next year or never, who knows, but that’s always the driver to get better and better. I am aiming to go in fresher to Roth this year and see what my legs can do.

T: How are you dealing with all the events before race day? Are you someone who gains power and strength from all the interactions before race day or will you need some extra “quiet time”?

L: I have ZERO pressure! None. Challenge Roth is a special race for me, as I have grown to love the event over the past few years, and all the team that’s involved. It’s an amazing atmosphere and that’s why it’s the best race in the world. I love this race, it is a celebration, but the result won’t define me. I am stoked at already winning two IM races this season, so I can go and race with a fearless attitude and soak in the atmosphere and occasion of the special event that is ROTH.

As a professional, I know that I have commitments when I’m at the race but at Roth with the energy and vibe it’s always such a positive. I draw a lot of energy from these interactions and it feeds me leading into the race. Of course, I do balance these with ensuring I also have enough “me time”, but the Challenge Roth team also respect this.

Roth Royalty: James Cunnama

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


In any race he starts (even all the way up to Kona), James has to be considered among the favorites for the win, and if he’s on form, he’s likely the biggest competitor for Sebi in this year’s Roth race. He’s always been a good swimmer and should start the bike about two minutes ahead of Sebi. There are very few athletes that can match James on the bike – when he won IM Hamburg in 2017 no one was able to stick with him when he gently increased his pace at the start of the second bike loop. With Sebi, Cam Wurf and possibly Andreas Dreitz there are a few in the Roth field that might test his bike strength, but Roth is a good race to take some more risks. I also expect James to post one of the fastest run splits of the day, his 2:40 from Hamburg was the second fastest of 2017 (only Patrick Lange was quicker in his Kona win) and he was almost able to run down Sebi at the end of the marathon in Kona.

James Bike Samorin

However, James’ 2018 form is a bit of an unknown. At the end of 2017 he had a crash that resulted in fractured ribs; it has taken him some time to bounce back and he wasn’t able to race his home race, IM South Africa. In early May he won a South African half-distance triathlon, but so far hasn’t done any European races. He also still needs to validate his Kona slot by finishing an Ironman, but we’ve seen last year that he’s not worried about racing in August.

In short, if he’s on the start line, expect him to do well and finish at least on the podium.

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

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