Dane Rasmus Henning showed he’s a real force to contend with in long-course triathlon with a 7:52:36 debut at his first Challenge Roth in a time that tickled the course record and world’s best mark that has stood here since Luc van Lierde went 7:50:27 in 1997.
Henning, a top Olympic-distance athlete who took fifth at the Ironman World Championships last year with a broken hand, was always going to be a favourite, and he showed his class with a quick and measured performance that left onlookers sure the world’s best time was in play until the last meters of the run.
“I’ve proven today that it definitely is possible,” Henning said. ”The male record has been standing for ages now, and I think it’s about time that somebody gets down there close to [the top times].”
But the day also heralded the arrival of a new German force in the long-course world with 26-year-old Sebastian Kienle also dipping under eight hours in his first ever long-course race, posting a 7:59:06 to take second and the German national title after leading for much of the day.
Kienle’s transition into long-distance racing has seen him earn wins at the half distance at Challenge Kraichgau and Ironman Germany 70.3, and he said after the race that he was quiet about his expectations publicly—but he had hoped for a very good long-course debut. He got his wish, surging to the front on the bike on the climb at Greding near the 140km mark.
By the time he hit the transition area he’d cracked Thomas Hellriegel’s 1997 bike course record of 4:14:45 with a 4:14:07 and started on the run with four minutes in hand over veterans like Spain’s Eneko Llanos, Henning and last year’s second–place finisher, Aussie Pete Jacobs. But Henning, who said he entered the race really confident in his run, used patience and a relentlessly even pace to overhaul Kienle when he faded on the second half of the run.
“I was actually not feeling that great on the bike,” Henning said. “When Sebastian went on Gredinger Berg, there was no chance I was going to go with him. I would have exploded right there and then. I had to just sit back.”
But the Dane’s run training came through as soon as he hit T2: “In the run for the last two months every single session has been diamond legs,” he said. “Six-hour rides, where I’ve been just completely stuffed, I’ve gone out to do a brick run just after and my legs were just flying. That’s exactly what happened today.” Those diamond legs carried him to a remarkable 2:39:43 marathon and past Kienle after some 30km of running.
The race started with the top favourites together in a line in the water: Jacobs, Llanos, and Henning. When they exited the water they had a gap of some three minutes over the rest of the field and some five minutes on top cyclist Normann Stadler, a two-time winner of the Ironman world championship.
On the first lap they drove hard, with Llanos dropping back and Stadler and Kienle eventually closing the gap to join them before Kienle made his move.
Llanos, twice second at Ironman Germany and the Ironman World Championships, managed to run his way into third at his third start in Roth, with Jacobs holding down fourth and defending champion Michael Goehner fifth. The Spaniard said his tough schedule leading into Roth took its toll: “I was expecting to do a bit better but at the end I felt so tired today,” he said. “I’m happy to be on the podium with these two athletes in front of me.”
Jacobs, last year’s second-place finisher, said he was satisfied with his finish, given that he’d had a short window to prepare after a broken collarbone in March sidelined him for seven weeks. “I’m really happy,” he said. “I went comfortable on the run. I just pretended I was out doing my Monday long run, and I felt good until 32km. It was just in the last 7km that I started to hurt, but I was really happy. I enjoyed it; it was a good day. That was all I wanted; I just wanted a good day.”
The day was not kind to two of the race favourites, with both Stadler and Belgium’s Rutger Beke ending their days early. France’s Sylvain Rota captured the world’s firefighter championship with an overall ninth-place finish.
Challenge Roth’s ninth edition saw more than 3100 individual starters and 607 relay teams from 52 nations tackle the 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km marathon run.
For more, visit www.challenge-roth.com.
Challenge Roth (3.8km/180km/42.2km)
18 July 2010; Roth, Germany
1) Rasmus Henning (DEN) (46:57/4:23:25/2:39:43) 7:52:362
2) Sebastian Kienle (GER) (52:15/4:14:07/2:50:17) 7:59:06
3) Eneko Llanos (ESP) (47:01/4:24:26/2:48:01) 8:02:33
4) Pete Jacobs (AUS) (46:51/4:25:42/2:53:43) 8:08:56
5) Michael Goehner (GER) (52:20/4:29:3/2:48:11) 8:13:09
Image: Claudia Weinig/Challenge Roth