Vabrousek and Grice win first-ever Challenge Henley-on-Thames

New UK long-distance course a hit with athletes

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The inaugural Challenge Henley took place yesterday, and saw Petr Vabrousek (CZE) and Yvette Grice (GBR) crowned winners. Ironman UK winner Aaron Farlow (AUS) and Challenge Vichy victor Stephen Bayliss (GBR), first out of the water, had raced together throughout the day and looked strong for the one-two, but with only 20k to go there were just two minutes separating the top six men. Farlow had been first off the bike in 4:43:13, but it was Vabousek who proved strongest on the day, becoming the eventual Challenge Henley champion by just over a minute after a 2:53:47 run split clocked him a final time of 8:37:58. GB’s Nicholas Peter Ward Munoz took second in 8:39:33 with Farlow, racing just one week after Ironman Wales where he finished second, holding on to third spot in 8:40:10. Bayliss came through for fourth.
 
“Despite the cold start, the race went very well and for me, as a former rower, it was quite iconic. I paced myself properly through the whole race and it paid off,” said Vabrousek.
 
The ladies race was equally dramatic, with its own twists and turns throughout the day. Three-times Norseman winner Susanne Buckenlei (GER) had to withdraw on the run and after an impressive bike, it was UK athlete Yvette Grice, who looked the strongest at the start of the run course, despite being four minutes off the pace set by Kiwi Candice Hammond. This strength was carried through the entire marathon run as she became the Challenge Henley champion in a time of 9:47:35, just 50secs in front of Charisa Wernick (USA). They were over seven minutes ahead of third place Lou Collins (GBR) in 9:54:58. Despite having the fastest bike split of the day and leading out on to the run, Kiwi athlete Candice Hammond dropped down to fourth spot missing the top three by just 40secs.
 
The inaugural Challenge Henley on Thames took place against a historical backdrop with stunning scenery. Thousands of spectators lined the routes to support athletes of all abilities as they took on the Challenge of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run.
 
Competitors started the race at the prestigious Henley Business School and as the mist cleared and the sun shone through the competitors completed their 3.8k swim on the Royal Regatta Course made famous by British Olympic rowers.
 
The triathletes then put themselves through a fast paced three-lap closed road cycle which featured a steady 15km climb up Pishill and a slightly steeper ride on the dual carriageway from Henley to Nettlebed with sweeping descents through the Chiltern Hills. This was followed by a fast four lap run course next to the River Thames, with thousands coming out to support the athletes.
 
Challenge Henley-on-Thames is part of the Challenge Family global series of long distance triathlons featuring 13 races over three continents. For further information, visit www.challengehenley.com or www.challenge-family.com. Challenge UK will return on 16th September 2012.
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