They asked “please do not come to the race” … “they didn’t listen to us. I was very happy,” says Challenge Roth CEO
Despite the organizers efforts, fans came out in large numbers to watch Challenge RothPhoto by: Kevin Mackinnon
The world’s largest full-distance triathlon, Challenge Roth, took place last weekend, and while it wasn’t quite the same spectacle that we’re used to seeing, it wasn’t as far off as one might expect. Organizers did everything they could do discourage crowds from coming to watch the race, but despite all their efforts, there was still lots of support out on the course for the athletes.
“I am so happy and so relieved that we could bring this race back under safe conditions to prove that the areas biggest sporting event is able to reorganize under Corona restrictions,” Challenge Roth CEO Felix Walchshöfer told us after the race. “The government asked us to say to people ‘please do not come to the race, keep your distance,’ and when I was on the motorcycle going through the villages the people were out there. It was amazing because they came, they didn’t listen to us. I was very happy.”
While there were more people out on the course watching than had been expected, the police didn’t feel that people were breaking any rules, Walchshöfer says.
“The police were out on helicopters and out on motorcycles and the police president told me that there wasn’t a single incident where people were gathering too much or too close – he said it was one of the easiest races ever.”
Related: Rach McBride on what makes Challenge Roth so special
Walchshöfer, who owns the event along with his mother Alice and sister Kathrin, was determined to put the race on this year as a thank you to the athletes who had donated their entries for the 2020 race to the company in order to keep the event going.
“We had more than 1,000 triathletes last year who, when the race was cancelled, donated a part or all of their entry fee to us in order for us to survive,” Walchshöfer said. “It makes me very emotional and thankful. They entered the race two years ago and we wanted to deliver and we did not want to deliver a race where I couldn’t look in the mirror any longer – one without a stadium. So we invested heavily in an even bigger stadium so we could put chairs in the stands and make it a race that they will remember all of their life. I think we succeeded.”
The incredible community support for the event was also a key factor in the success of this year’s race.
“It was amazing for us to see – even with the year we had to postpone the event, everyone was back to their posts. The same people – everyone was back. That made it so easy for us. They are so loyal.”