Archive | Challenge Roth

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

Roth Royalty: Yvonne Van Vlerken

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


Yvonne is obviously the most experienced athlete in the female Pro field, and she has shown some great performances in Roth. In the last two years her Roth races didn’t quite go as planned but she still finished in third. A podium finish is likely the “base goal” for the crowd favorite, but she’s not the type of athlete to not go for the win.

While she’s probably the strongest woman on the bike, she’s always been a bit slower in the swim. That’s unlikely to have changed, but she’s strong enough to make up lost time in the early parts of the bike. The exception is of course going to be Lucy Charles, it’ll be interesting to see how much Yvonne is going to reduce the gap of likely nine minutes after the swim on the bike.

Yvonne Run Gran CanariaThe last two years Yvonne suffered on the run in Roth (3:11 in ’16, 3:20 in ’17). If she wants to catch Lucy, she’ll probably have to run close to 3 hours – the last time she has done that was in Barcelona 2015 when she ran with Kaisa for most of the marathon. The only time Yvonne has been off the podium in Roth, she finished in 8:59, and she has been consistently finishing around 8:50. Anyone who wants to beat her on her favorite course has to be prepared to go faster than that.

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

Thorsten: You’ve had a lot of success at Challenge Roth, but the last two years you didn’t have the races you were looking for. How do you feel going into this year’s race?

Yvonne: Yes, Challenge Roth has always been my favorite and will continue to be so. Last year I had a serious crash at Challenge Heilbronn just before Roth and with lingering injuries I didn’t feel good before the race. Two years ago I’ve had some stomach issues. It’s about time for the next good result here in Roth! Being on the start line is very special for me: Challenge Roth was my first long-distance race and it’s going to be the last one for Yvonne Van Vlerken. I’m going to get married in July, two weeks after Roth, so I won’t be racing as Van Vlerken anymore!

T: Last season you and Per spent the Northern Hemisphere winter in Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. How did this year’s winter and spring look like?

Y: This year we didn’t travel far, we were for a few weeks on Lanzarote (my favorite island!), two not very nice weeks on Mallorca and the rest of the time at home. It wasn’t quite as luxurious, in addition I was sick for a few weeks starting with Mallorca. Unfortunately a trip to Boulder didn’t fit our schedule, but Siri [Yvonne is coached by Siri Lindley] and I are in regular contact via the Internet or telephone. But even if my prep wasn’t quite a smooth as in other years, the first races felt really good.

I’ve entered IM Lanzarote just before the list closed, but I’ve had some problems with the salt water during the swim. Usually the women Pro start is pretty relaxed with just 10 to 20 athletes, but Lanzarote is a mass start and I’ve swallowed much more water than in other races. I really like the island and the bike course, but I’m not going to race there again.

T: What are our goals for this year’s Roth?

Y: To be honest I have always been chasing records and sub-9 finishes, but recently fast times seem to be more important than exact distances, I just have to mention Challenge Rome and Ironman Texas. So the value of fast times is diminished and this isn’t good for our sport. My goal this year is to have a good race for myself, and to have as close to perfect day as possible – then the result will take care of itself.

I know I still have a lot in me, and even if I’ve already been doing our wonderful sport for quite some time, I’m still improving. I recover quicker, can race more often and am still getting faster on the swim and run. The “young girls” shouldn’t underestimate me, I now have the full package of performance, experience, know-how, passion and love for our sport. And I still feel pretty young myself!
The field in Roth is always one of the strongest and it won’t be easy to get onto the podium – but that’s where I would like to finish.

T: How do you see the female race this year? Lucy is likely going off the front with her strong swim, but you could be in a group of fast cyclists chasing her.

Y: Lucy can swim, bike and run well, but she will have to run a really fast marathon which she hasn’t done yet. She’ll be among a lot of Pro men and that’s a huge advantage for her. That means that it would be great if Kaisa, Laura, Daniela and I can work together to close the gap to Lucy. But first we’ll have to catch my countrywoman Sarissa de Vries who swims very well and can bike as fast as I – she might be second or third at the start of the run. Maybe she can even be the “Dutch Dark Horse” as I was in 2007.
But currently my run is my strongest leg, so I wouldn’t mind when the race is decided on the run. When I was able to run away from Kaisa in Barcelona 2015, that was a combination of experience and good tactics, but since then she has made huge improvements. Now we also have the same coach, and while it would be nice I probably won’t be able to run from her now. Laura and I love to run together, but she’s also getting better and better, just as Daniela who is another athlete I really like very much!
In order to have a chance I think we will have to legally work together. I’d love to be able to catch Lucy, but it’s hard to predict if it’s going to be possible for any one of us, a lot will depend on how each of us feels on race day – but it’s 100% going to be an exciting race!

T: What’s your view on the new run course?

Y: I have a lot of respect for the team of Challenge Roth for listening to their participants – and I say thank you for creating the perfect combination of the old and new run courses. I love to run along the canal, 90% of my run training is on crushed gravel which I think helps to avoid injuries. Running the “mountain” towards Büchenbach only once will be enough this year – even if running around the small lake was awesome, having to get there twice last year was once too often! I’m really looking forward to the marathon this year!

T: What’s your plan for the rest of the season after Roth?

Y: After Roth I’ll be taking a break – two weeks after Roth we’ll have our marriage and I have butterflies looking forward to spend the rest of my life with Per. IM Maastricht will be five weeks after Roth, another big highlight to have an Ironman in my home country. The week after will be the great Challenge Turku, I much enjoyed it in 2016 and 17. Next up is a smaller race on my daily training routes, the Transvorarlberg, before Challenge Almere where I hope to win for the third time and enjoy another well organized “home race”. The last long-distance race for this year will be Ironman Barcelona, I just like this race. October and November Per and I will be on “honeymoon” at Thanypura in Thailand, we’re just looking for a few races in Asia. And maybe I’ll close 2018 at Challenge Daytona.
Even if have enough points for a Kona slot, I won’t be racing there. That chapter is closed, and for the last years of my career I’ll be doing races I enjoy racing, that matter to sponsors and that won’t require as much travel.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.