Racing at Speed: Challenge Roth

How to race the event that’s in a league of its own


Challenge Roth


Location: Roth, Germany

Date: 14 July 2013

If you want to really fly on your iron-distance race, there are a few courses to choose from. But if you want to fly and do it all to the backdrop of a knockout atmosphere and pumping crowds, Challenge Roth’s in a league of its own.

“The atmosphere’s amazing,” confirms Susanne Buckenlei, one of the race’s official coaches and a serious iron-distance competitor herself, having won the fabled Norseman no fewer than three times. “You’ll never forget the cheering spectators, especially on the climb up Solarer Berg, which is more like something from the Tour de France. At the finish line, people are still packed there right until the last athlete comes in – something I think is unique in triathlon”.

It’s a seriously fast course too; Andreas Raelert and Chrissie Wellington (pictured), the current iron-distance world record-holders, both set their records here. “Roth has an easy swim in the canal,” explains Buckenlei. “The run course is pretty flat, as it mostly follows the canal, and although the two-lap bike course does have several hills, they’re not major.”

But this benign appearance can also be a big problem. “Because of the fast splits on this course, athletes tend to underestimate it – a big mistake. There are still hills to climb, the wind always picks up on the second bike lap and it can be cold too, especially if it rains. This all adds to the challenge.


“To pace well here, you need to start easily on the first bike lap, making sure you have something in reserve for lap two and are ready for that extra wind. You must get enough carbohydrates and fuel in during this time to avoid blowing up at the end of the bike. I’d recommend training and racing here with a power meter. This way you can be sure you’re riding at the right level all the time.

“As for training, you must have a good distance base from the beginning,” Buckenlei explains. “Starting in March will be too late. After that, you should develop endurance – both speed endurance and power endurance. Some maximum effort is good, but race pace is where you need to concentrate.

“For equipment, on the bike deep rims or a disc wheel on the back can help. So can some lightweight extra layers – sleeves, and so on – in case it’s cold during the ride. By the time you hit the run, the sun is normally always out, so make sure you have the change of gear in transition to deal with a warm session here.

“Finally, it’s a basic point but it’s a very important one – make sure you have enough carbs and salt from start to finish. After that, all you need for a great race at Roth is your good mood and some friends to add to the cheering crowds helping you along.”


Ironman Florida

Panama City, Florida, 2 November 2013

Thanks to smart timing, Ironman Florida kicksoff just when Florida’s notoriously sticky climate (even locals don’t leave the safety of air conditioning in high summer) is cooling down. After a balmy sea swim in the Gulf of Mexico comes a heady one-lap bike course that’s as flat as they come. Get on the aerobars and dig in, or wind your time-trial beast up to 11 and give it everything. As at Roth, the second half of the bike can be tougher as the wind picks up, so remember to hold enough in the tank for a flat and fast run.


Image: Getty