After the Ironman World Championship was cancelled, sorry, “postponed,” for 2021, athletes have been clamouring to come up with a substitute for what is traditionally the biggest long-distance race of the year. Anne Haug, the defending Kona champ, and two-time Ironman world champion Patrick Lange took the opportunity to compete at the postponed (from July to September) Challenge Roth event. Considered amongst the biggest long-distance races in the world (both in numbers and prestige), having a win at Challenge Roth on your resume is huge if you are a German triathlete. Neither Haug or Lange had ever competed in the race, so they jumped at the opportunity to compete this year.
Both put together spectacular races in Roth, making the fact that the bike course was 14 km short a real shame – both would likely have posted amongst the fastest full-distance times ever.
“I am over the moon, totally,” Lange said at the finish line. “This race, under all the circumstances, was just amazing. Of course there were fewer spectators than normal, but the people that were out there were amazing. They gave me so much power and I really enjoyed racing here.”
Lange won Ironman Tulsa earlier this year and appears to have really improved his all-around performances with excellent bike rides to go along with his always outstanding run prowess.
“I reorganized my team and through that I got a lot of motivation,” he said of the changes he’s made over the last two years. “I’ve been working with my new coach (Bjorn Geesman) for two years now, but it still feels new because of the COVID situation and I am just happy to give something back. I just think its the start of a new part of my career. I think there is a lot more to come. I feel good about this.”
Lange says he’ll be in Kona if the race happens in February, but he’s not convinced the event will take place.
“Being in Kona was my dream for the whole year – I trained and prepared for this,” he said. “Obviously we’ll have to wait and see if the race in February will happen. I don’t think it will, personally. If it happens, I will be there and I will be fit and able to be at the top.”
Haug pushes to the limit
Even though she won the race by a whopping 32 minutes, Anne Haug pushed herself to the limit and was obviously exhausted at the finish line.
“Even under Corona conditions it was fantastic,” she said of her first appearance in what she describes as her ‘home race.’ “So many people were screaming my name, and it really helped because I had a tough day on the run. The crowd really pushed me to the finish line and it was an amazing race.”
“We haven’t had many chances to race the last couple of years and I wanted to show a really good performance and had to dig very deep, and I did,” she said in an interview after the race. “The last kilometre was possibly the hardest I have ever run.”
Does her huge win in Roth make up for Kona being postponed?
“For sure,” she said. “If I could dream of a perfect day it would be a day like I had today. Its a good substitute for Kona for me and taking the win for the home crowd was so special. For me this is really a bucket-list race – I am so happy.”