-By Chris Willer
After an advertising juggernaut from Challenge Family for the past few months, they successfully sold out the race with a cap of 1000 amateurs. The Challenge Bahrain finally arrived today and did not disappoint. Under clear skies and reduced winds in comparison to earlier in the week, the swim in Bahrain Bay got started with a military band and cannon fire to signal each wave start.
With an incredible professional group competing for a total of $500,000 in prize money, this was a race that mattered. Live coverage from Challenge Family had incorporated helicopter, land, motorbike, and drone coverage of the event commented on by Chris McCormack, one of Challenge Family’s ambassadors.
The age group athletes were treated to a great deal of access to the pros while they were setting up. The transition zone was alive with anticipation. The male pros went off at 7:30am with the female professionals going off at 7:35. There was then a break before the first age group wave went off at 8:05. This allowed the professionals free reign of the racecourse to contest the Challenge Bahrain title.
The men’s swim splintered with a small break away group and a main pack by the end of a relatively calm 1.9 km swim in Bahrain Bay with the World Trade Centre and many architecturally spectacular deluxe hotels like the iconic Four Seasons serving as backdrop. A high salt derived buoyancy, helpful current, and relatively perfect water temperature resulted in Dylan McNeice from New Zealand exiting the water first followed in step by Michael Raelert who took first out of T1. Raelert has had an impressive couple of months at the 70.3 distance and looked in shape mentally and physically to continue that roll in Bahrain. The front swim pack also contained Tim Don, Luke Bell, Brad Kahlefeldt, Nils Frommhold, Pete Jacobs, and Eric Watson.
Once out of the bike, the men hammered the course – a fully closed highway around the island with relatively mild early morning conditions. That resulted in Andreas Dreitz from Germany going 1:57:02 on the course followed by Raelert’s 2:01:40. Tim Reed from Australia had the 3rd fastest bike split with 2:02:00. The bike course finished up at the Bahrain International Circuit with a one lap of the Formula One racetrack, a thrill for pros and age groupers alike.
Out on the run course that saw a few struggle with the heat, Raelert put in a huge 1:10:20 and pulled into the finish chute with a near record 70.3 distance time of 3:36:04. Andreas Dreitz followed him in at 3:38:23 to add to his recent wins of Challenge Fuerteventura and Mallorca 70.3 this year, and third place went to Tim Reed with a time of 3:39:26 off a great 1:12:05 run. Tim Don came fourth and Eneko Llanos fifth, backed up both by sizzling runs.
With 31 male pro finishers Canadian Jeff Symonds delivered, placing 7th with a strong bike of 2:06:32 and a fantastic run of 1:12:27. He called it earlier in the week when he said he was here to race the best in the world and he was once again able to perform at a high caliber in a clutch event. The result bodes well for his 2015 season.
Other pre-race favourites like Sebastian Kienle who dropped out after a flat tire while pursuing the top swimmers 2:30 in arrears, and Dirk Bockel did not finish the race. Bockel had a lot of contact in the swim and was nauseous and lacking power on the bike. He pulled out before the run start.
The women’s race like the men’s was chock full of both short course stars and established 70.3 and Iron-distance racers. A lot of people were looking for the ITU established successes with Jodie Stimpson, Commonwealth Games Gold medalist and ITU superstar, Lisa Norden, 2012 Olympic Games silver medalist to push the pace. Contenders like former World Champion 70.3 athletes such as Jodie Swallow and Mel Hauschildt were also there to mix in with long course specialists such as Rachel Joyce and Caroline Steffen who had been fine tuning their speed with the Australian triathlon season in full action.
Jodie Swallow characteristically came out of the swim first with a time of 22:39 with a pack of Annabel Luxford, Helle Frederiksen, Meredith Kessler, Mary Beth Ellis, and Rachel Joyce coming in just over 23 minutes.
Once out on the flat and fast bike, Canadian Angela Naeth put on the after burners from her acknowledged slower swim compared to the group and rocked out the fastest bike time of 2:10:14. Other women who pushed the pace on the 90km bike course were Annabel Luxford, Rachel Joyce, Helle Frederiksen, and Jodie Swallow, setting them up for a good run position.
Once back on two feet and the run course around the Al Areen Wildlife Park that offered plenty of local wildlife to distract but little shade from the sun, Frederiksen put on a master class with a 1:17 flat time. Joyce and Swallow launched 1:19:22 and 1:19:44 splits. Frederiksen pulled in to the formula one pits that served as the finish chute with a total time on the day of 3:55:50 and Joyce completed the course with a 3:58:15 and Swallow rounded out the podium with a 3:58:39. Canadian Angela Naeth who used her bike to put her in contention had the sixth fastest run to take 5th place overall. Stimpson on her first 70.3 distance race settled for 8th while Lisa Norden and Mirinda Carfrae had off days with 13th and 16thplace respectively.
Sheikh Nasser and Sheikh Khaled, the race sponsors completed the course in 4:21:11 and 6:20:16 respectively.
I wanted to beat editor-in-chief of Lava Magazine Brad Culp who was participating and reporting. Since I was also here to race and report and no other media source was doing that I wanted to represent. I beat him, barely. Vive La Canada!
- Michael Raelert (GER) 3:36:04 – $100,000
- Andreas Dreitz (GER) 3:38:23 – $50,000
- Tim Reed (AUS) 3:39:24 – $25,000
- Tim Don (GBR) 3:41:06 – $12,000
- Eneko Llanos (ESP) 3:42:06 – $8000
- James Cunnama (RSA) 3:44:29 – $7000
- Jeff Symonds (CAN) 3:44:55 – $6000
- Massimo Cigana (ITA) 3:45:40 – $5000
- Luke Bell (AUS) 3:46:24 – $4000
- Tim Van Berkel (AUS) 3:47:01 – $3000
- Helle Frederiksen (DEN) 3:55:50 – $100,000
- Rachel Joyce (GBR) 3:58:14 – $50,000
- Jodie Swallow (GBR) 3:58:39 – $25,000
- Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:00:17 – $12,000
- Angela Naeth (CAN) 4:00:48 – $8000
- Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) 4:02:31 – $7000
- Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:05:28 – $6000
- Jodie Stimpson (GBR) 4:05:51 – $5000
- Camilla Pedersen (DEN) 4:06:29 – $4000
- Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:12:56 – $3000
Canada was represented too by several amateurs including;
Shannon Benson – 4:56:30 F25-29
Michael Brown – Challenge Penticton race director – 5:27:29 M40-44
Angela Carscadden – 6:04:11 – F30-34
Kevin Carscadden – 5:05:56 – M40-44
Yanick Cote – 5:25:15 – M35-39
Henry Drensler – 5:18:22 – M50-54
Pascale Lemelin – 6:36:17 – F40-44
Denise Mitchell – 5:26:10 – F50-54
Greg Murphy – 6:49:27 – M45-49
Gareth Scobie – 4:58:16 – M40-44
Jonathan Webster – 6:35:13 – M35-39