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James Cunnama and Rachel Joyce win Challenge Roth

Canada's Shannon Kemp takes second in her age group.

For the first time an athlete from South Africa won the legendary Challenge Roth and he worked to measure today. For the 3.8 km swim, the 180 km bike ride and the 42.195 km run he needed exactly 7:59:59 and thus stayed sub 8 hours by literally the blink of an eye. As this year’s Challenge Roth was also the Official ETU Long Distance Triathlon European Championships, there was a second winner. Timo Bracht added the European Championship title to his second place finish today.

The race was dominated by a different man for a long time, though. Konstantin Bachor from Wolfsburg was one of the fastest swimmers and then performed an unbelievable ride on the bike. He put a distance of more than ten minutes between himself and the favorites who chased him together.

After the first kilometers of the run it became clear, though, that Bachor could not keep up the speed and with that his lead. Timo Bracht and James Cunnama chased him hard and could see the young German police officer after half of the marathon. They passed him shortly after that.

Now there was the question of who would have stamina to win, Timo Bracht from Ebersbach or James Cunnama? Both started in Roth for the third time, both are fast runners. In the end, Cunnama succeeded.  “I could keep up my speed while Timo had problems for a little while, that made the difference today,” was the winner’s comment at the finish. The difference was a mere 3 minutes and 29 seconds and you have to look back for quite a while to find a similarly close finish at Challenge Roth.

Cunnama had a hard time grasping what he just accomplished. “When you win Roth, you are someone in our sport,” he commented. “For me, a dream comes true today.”

Third place and Silver in the European Championships went to likeable Mike Aigroz from Switzerland in 8:01:01 hours. Fourth place went to New Zealand’s veteran Cameron Brown (8:10:05).

That leaves the third place in the European Championships. The audience in Roth probably hoped that Konstantin Bachor could hang on to it but Stephen Bayliss from Great Britain passed him in the last kilometer.

England’s Rachel Joyce won Challenge Roth in 8:45:04 hours and secured the gold medal of the Official ETU Long Distance Triathlon European Championships. Joyce was already the second fastest woman after the 3.8 km swim behind Lucie Zelenkova-Reed and took control of the race on the first kilometers of the 180 km bike course. All the way during the marathon her lead never ceased.

Joyce is somewhat of a logical winner. After all, the 34-year-old is the reigning long distance triathlon World Champion. That’s what made her a clear favorite at this worldwide biggest and- aside from Hawaii- most traditional long distance triathlon. Joyce is the successor of fellow Brit Chrissie Wellington who won the race in Roth for the last three years, each time with a new world record.

There was no chance for a world record today, though. While it stayed dry, a sometimes-gusty wind blew into the faces of the athletes on the bike. In addition, Joyce could hardly risk a look at her watch but instead had to keep a watchful eye on the competition on the hunt. With a lead of 4:35 minutes over the surprisingly strong Dutch Mirjam Weerd after two disciplines she could not relax yet.

Weerd later dropped back to sixth place and instead Sonja Tajsich caught up from behind. The German from Regensburg whose last start in Roth was 10 years ago was in third position after the swim and bike already and looking ahead as the known strong runner she is. She reduced Joyce’s lead to 4:43 minutes from 8:49 after the bike part. At the finish, Tajsich was ecstatic about her second place and the ETU Silver Medal as well as her world-class time of 8:49:47 hours.

Third place also went to a German athlete. Last year’s second placed woman Julia Gajer won Bronze this year. Especially on the bike she had difficulties keeping up with the fastest women. However, she got a second wind during the run, fought hard and finished in 8:57:02, insignificantly slower than last year.

A total of four women at these European Championships stayed below the magical mark of nine hours. The fourth today was Gina Crawford from New Zealand in 8:59:35 hours. When Crawford crossed the finish line, Joyce already reminisced about her unbelievable race and commented: “This day will forever be in my memory.”

Canadian age grouper, Shannon Kemp of Aurora, clocked a time of 9:54:31 to take second in the women’s 35-39 age category. She swam 1:03:17, biked 5:18:07, and ran 3:27:49.

Men Women
1. Cunnama, James (RSA) 7:59:59

2. Bracht, Timo (GER) 8:03:28

3. Aigroz, Mike (SUI) 8:08:01

4. Brown, Cameron (NZL) 8:10:05

5. Bayliss, Stephen (GBR) 8:13:01

6. Bachor, Konstantin (GER) 8:13:36

7. Wagner, Dorian (GER) 8:19:47

8. Potrebitsch, Georg (GER) 8:21:39

9. Bittner, Per (GER) 8:22:51

10. Smits, Roeland (NED) 8:32:10

1. Joyce, Rachel (GBR) 8:45:04

2. Tajsich, Sonja (GER) 8:49:47

3. Gajer, Julia (GER) 8:57:02

4. Crawford, Gina (NZL) 8:59:35

5. Martin, Britta (GER) 9:01:10

6. Weerd, Mirjam (NED) 9:02:39

7. Görtz, Beate (GER) 9:13:26

8. Kujala, Wenke (GER) 9:25:19

9. Zelenkova-Reed, Lucie (CZE) 9:26:20

10. Granger, Belinda (AUS) 9:26:48

Challenge Roth full results.