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Kona podiums set for rematch at Challenge Roth

Canadians Cody Beals and Rachel McBride will join an incredibly competitive field at Challenge Roth this summer that includes both Ironman world champions.

Traditionally the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt and Challenge Roth have battled for the top athletes at their events, but in 2020 it looks like Roth will lead the way with stacked men’s and women’s fields.

Tim O’Donnell, Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle celebrate at the finish line of the 2020 Ironman World Championship. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

They’re saying its the best field they’ve ever had in the small Bavarian town that lights up in July for the world’s largest full-distance event, and it would be hard to argue. Challenge Roth, set for July 5, will feature all six of the men’s and women’s podium finishers from Kona.

Germany’s world champions Jan Frodeno and Anne Haug will be joined by Timothy O’Donnell (USA), Sebastian Kienle (GER), Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) and Sarah Crowley (AUS). Roth is making triathlon history.

While we’ve known for a while that Frodeno would be on the start line in Roth, leaving many to wonder if he might look to lower his world-best time of 7:35:39 that he set in 2016, the 2018 Roth champ, Sebastian Kienle, hadn’t committed on which of the big German races he would attend.

“Exactly ten years ago my long-distance career started in Roth,” Kienle said. “Now I’m 36 and want to do races that really go off – like in Roth. I’m totally up for that!”

The addition of Kona runner-up O’Donnell to the stacked field is another bonus for the Challenge Roth organizers.

Canada’s Cody Beals, who broke the eight-hour barrier at Mont-Tremblant this year, will also be in the race.

The rest of the field certainly aren’t looking to make things easy for the Kona podium finishers. Defending champion Andreas Dreitz was the first “local” athlete (he comes from the Franconia region) to win in Roth – a huge deal for both him and the event.

“Of course Frodo is the firm favourite, but there may not be many chances to challenge him in the future,” Dreitz said. “I’m really excited about the race and will try to make the impossible possible in my Franconian homeland.”

Other big names in the field include Australians Cameron Wurf, Josh Amberger, Luke McKenzie and Matt Burton, Great Britain’s Joe Skipper and last year’s runner-up, Sweden’s Jesper Svensson.

Lucy Charles-Barclay, Anne Haug and Sarah Crowley. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Haug looks for another big win

Another Franconian looking to thrill the crowd with a big win will be Ironman world champion Annie Haug. She’ll have her hands full, though, taking on the defending Roth champion, Lucy Charles-Barclay, who scorched to an impressive 8:31:09 last year. Crowley was second at last year’s race in Roth.

“I am going back to Challenge Roth and hopefully defend my title,” Charles-Barclay said. “I can’t wait to go back and race this stellar line up.”

Haug’s season last year was very short – after spending most of the year injured, she blasted to an incredible 8:31:32 at Ironman Copenhagen at the end of August, running a 2:57 marathon, then ran her way to the big win in Kona thanks to a 2:51:07 marathon split that saw her pass Charles-Barclay, who had led for most of the race, in the closing kilometres. Crowley also passed the Brit, but Charles-Barclay put in a spirited final burst over the final three km to take her third-straight runner-up finish in Kona.

Canadian Rachel McBride at the 2019 Challenge Roth race. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Canadian Rachel McBride returns to Roth once again this year after her sixth-place finish last year. Other’s to watch will include Great Britain’s Laura Siddall and America’s Beth McKenzie.