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5 Things we learned from Challenge Roth

Once again the race in Bavaria proved itself as one of the sport's most important events

It is considered to be one of the sport’s biggest events, featuring star-studded fields and huge crowds that line the course to create an atmosphere not seen any where else in triathlon. This year’s Challenge Roth was set to be a showdown between two of Germany’s biggest names in long-distance racing  – Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange, but Denmark’s Magnus Ditlev missed that memo and stole the show with a huge win that saw him get to the line within seconds of Frodeno’s course record set in 2016. So what did we learn from the world’s largest full-distance race on the weekend? Here goes:

Jan Frodeno’s Achilles heel is his Achilles tendon

Jan Frodeno on the bike at Challenge Roth, 2022. Photo: Ingo Kutsche

The guy might be turning 41 in August, but there doesn’t seem to be much slowing Jan Frodeno down these days other than a pesky Achilles tendon that forced him to pull out of the Ironman World Championship in St. George last May. He returned to Roth this year and appeared to be in incredible form as he led out of the water, then rode with super-cyclist Magnus Ditlev to lead the way into T2 and at the start of the run. Frodeno looked great early in the run, but then had to pull out 3 km in.

As we reported, Frodeno had promised his team that he would do exactly that if he felt any pain, with the ultimate goal of getting to Kona ready to go after a fourth Ironman World Championship title on the Big Island. Frodeno certainly looked impressive in the water and on the bike in Roth, so it’s not even remotely a stretch to see him contend for the win in Kona in October … provided that Achilles tendon comes around!

Related: Ditlev and Haug win Challenge Roth

Anne Haug is on track for another big day in Kona, too

Photo: Ingo Kutsche

Were it not for an uncharacteristically slow swim in Roth, Anne Haug, the last woman to win the Ironman World Championship in Kona, could have broken Chrissie Wellington’s long-standing world best time (8:18:13) set in Roth in 2011. The non-wetsuit swim no-doubt didn’t help, but after coming out of the water two seconds behind Great Britain’s Fenella Langridge last year, Haug hit T2 seven minutes back this year. The second-fastest bike split in Roth history (4:33:35) got the deficit down to just over five minutes, and then Haug’s 2:46 marathon ensured she would easily defend her Roth title. Her 8:22:42 winning time was the fourth fastest ever in Roth (behind Wellington’s record, her 8:19:13 set in 2010 and Daniela Ryf’s 8:22:04 set in 2016. All this less than two months after she took third in St. George, a course that was definitely not suited to her.

Magnus Ditlev is much more than an uber-biker

Magnus Ditlev on his way to a new bike course record at Challenge Roth. Photo: Ingo Kutsche

When Magnus Ditlev had an epic Ironman debut in Texas (he was pipped to the line by Ben Hoffman in a dramatic sprint over the last 200 m), we should have all been ready for the Dane two be on track to become a major player over the full distance. After trailing by about a minute after the swim, Ditlev powered to a new bike course record, then followed that up with a 2:40 marathon to take the title. He missed Frodeno’s course record by nine seconds, and was over nine-minutes ahead of Patrick Lange, who set a new run course record.

“I can’t believe what just happened,” Ditlev said after the race. “Everything just went according to plan, and it’s very rare that it does.”

Photo: Ingo Kutsche

Well, in his first two full-distance races he blazed to an incredible runner-up finish in one and took the other. Seems like things “going according to plan” isn’t quite as rare as Ditlev is making out. Now the question is … can he handle the Kona heat? (Both physically and mentally.)

Fenella Langridge is a run away from being on a very elite list

Photo: Ingo Kutsche

Last year Great Britain’s Fenella Langridge was third at Challenge Roth. This year she moved up a spot on the podium, after finishing eighth in St. George in May. She ran a 3 hour marathon in Roth, five minutes faster than she went on the same marathon course last year (the bike was short for the 2021 Challenge Roth event), and 11 minutes faster than she went in St. George. Her 8:31:41 finish time is impressive. If she can continue to improve on her run splits she’ll be even more dangerous as a leader off the bike. Haug ran a 2:46 marathon for the win – there aren’t too many women who can go that fast.

Patrick Lange has made an incredible comeback, but …

Photo: Ingo Kutsche

Based on his impressive 50-minute swim in Roth, it’s hard to believe that two-time Kona champ Patrick Lange had a brutal crash earlier this year that required surgery for his shoulder. While his swim has certainly returned to the kind of form he’ll need to contend for the win in Kona, and his run is as devastating as it usually is – he set a new run course record in Roth with his 2:35:10 split – he was 15 minutes slower than Ditlev on the bike. He will not be able to lose that kind of time in Kona if he wants to contend for the win. Ditlev only “lost” five minutes on the marathon to Lange, and you have to imagine that the likes of a healthy Jan Frodeno, Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden are going to be every bit as fast.

Challenge Roth is a good time

Photo: Ingo Kutsche

The post-race interviews all seemed to include something about the incredible atmosphere and the huge crowds.

Related: 5 Reasons you should do Roth instead of Kona