Elsewhere, Joe Skipper became the first British Iron man to go sub-8hr after finishing in second and Daniela Ryf came within touching distance of Chrissie Wellington’s Iron record time (more of which later).
It’s been the talk of the region for weeks, but Sunday 17th of July finally arrived and with it Jan Frodeno’s attempt to break Andreas Raelert’s Iron-distance world record. Raelert’s time of 7:41:33 has stood since a classic day of racing in 2011 (when Chrissie Wellington also broke the Iron record), and with calm, dry and overcast conditions gracing the Bavarian skies, Frodeno may never have had a better chance to break his compatriot’s record.
The 15th edition of Challenge Roth (the race has been held under various guises since 1984, including under the Ironman banner) kicked-off at 6:30am with a 3.8km swim leg in the Europakanal. As hot-air balloons lifted and 50,000 spectators graced the river banks, the reigning Ironman and 70.3 world champ, Frodeno, instantly stamped his authority on the race, opening up a 30m lead by the midway stage.
That’d increased to over a minute over defending Roth champ Nils Frommhold by T1, where Frodo boarded his Canyon Speedmax after a 45:22 swim split, nearly a minute faster than Raelert’s 2011 effort. The lead chasing pack – including Tyler Bufferfield – were 5mins down on Frodeno (and three on Frommhold) by the time of the Solarberg.
Located in Hilpoltstein town, the Solarberg is surely triathlon’s most iconic climb, with five-deep crowds numbering over 50,000 producing a cacophony of rattles, cowbells and singing (‘Seven Nation Army’ mostly). Frodeno surged up the hill in front of the raucous crowds, followed by Fromhold and Butterfield before Britain’s Joe Skipper – clearly loving the experience and grinning his way up the hill – had broken free from the lead pack. Top Brit Ironman Skipper himself was hoping to break records today, beating Paul Amey’s British Iron record time of 8:01:29 and becoming the first British man to go sub-8hr on the 226km circuit.
Cut to 100km on the bike and Frodeno had over a seven minute lead over the chasers, and that had extended to 12:30mins by the time of T2 when Frodeno rocked up with a 4:08:07 bike course record, smashing Andrew Starykowicz’s 2015 record by over a minute (and 3mins faster than Raelert’s 2011 time). Next up was the Iron record, but with the temperatures rising in Roth and plenty of solitary stretches on the canal-side run, the German wouldn’t have it easy.
Skipper was also on course for his British record breaking, exiting T2 in sixth after storming back into contention with a 4:21:12 bike split. That position would become fourth by 12km on the run as Skipper moved past Tyler Butterfield and Cyril Viennott.
But all eyes both locally and internationally were now on Frodeno, with a 2:45hr marathon (or faster) run the target. Frodeno never seemingly struggled throughout the 42.2km run, and he’d re-enter Roth to an ecstatic stadium to cross the line in 7:35:39, beating Raelert’s five-year record by a stunning 5:56mins.
Following Frodeno home was expected to be defending champ Frommhold, but Skipper had edged past him with less than a kilometre to go to enter the packed stadium to incredible scenes. Seconds later, Skipper became the first British man to break the magical eight hour barrier in 7:56:23 after the day’s best run of 2:38:52, a time that’s eluded such UK greats as Spencer Smith and Tim Don. And, Skipper’s dad tell us, it could’ve been even faster were it not for an extended toilet stop in the woods early on the run…
Stay tuned for more reaction from Roth and the pro press conference. Image: Challenge/Getty
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