The pro field at this year's DATEV Challenge Roth powered by hep was only announced today, just three days before race day takes place under COVID conditions with a smaller field of 1,490 individuals and 290 relay times but still with all the usual enthusiasm. Organiser, Felix Walchshöfer was was visibly moved as he expressed his sincere thanks to the district authority, which had made the legendary triathlon event possible with a strict hygiene concept.
"Curtain up" was the order of the day for the top athletes, who had previously been kept secret. And so none other than Hawaii winners Anne Haug, Sebastian Kienle and Patrick Lange took their places on the stage in the Kulturfabrik. Defending champion Andi Dreitz is back to defend his title, as well as the German aces Nils Frommhold (Roth winner 2015), Franz Löschke, Ruben Zepuntke and, last but not least, the New Zealander Braden Currie. The women’s field is reinforced by the Laura Siddall, the Canadian Rach McBride and Sarah Crowley from Australia.
Unlike usual, there were hardly any pithy declarations of war from elite athletes at the press conference, but there was unanimous gratitude and the joy of being able to start again at one of the really big triathlon events. "Purple Tiger" Rach McBride called it “The biggest race of the year and I have a lot of hopes for it in terms of my performance – I’m just excited to put it all out there and see what I can do.”
Laura Siddall is back for her fifth time and said the race is very special. “It has a very special environment and it’s right up there as one of my favourites. My lead-in with being in Tokyo has been different, but I’ll line up with a fighting spirit and like everyone am just grateful to be able to race.”
Sarah Crowley said the reason she was back in Roth was the family atmosphere and support. “It’s not just the team but also the whole community around this event. There’s a great level of competition here and I’m looking forward to it.”
Anne Haug, the reigning Hawaii champion was euphoric to finally be able to make her home race in Roth a year late. “I only live a small distance from here and this race is a dream that is finally coming true for me”. Since her victory in Hawaii in 2019, she has not been able to do a long distance due to the pandemic and currently does not know exactly where she is in terms of performance - this also applies to most of the other top athletes. Haug said, "I hope for a strong marathon and will just take one step at a time".
Almost everyone raved about the extraordinarily warm atmosphere in Roth, especially multiple long distance champion, Braden Currie from New Zealand, who is starting in Roth for the second time and is hoping for a quick swim. “There are some incredible cyclists in the group so there’ll be no easing up on the bike and there is definitely some pretty challenging run competition too and I just hope I can pull off a good day and that my run legs are there. The more I come here and the more I meet Felix and the Challenge Family it just gets even more incredible. The event has an incredible ethos which makes it great to be here as an athlete.”
“I just have to do it all over again,” said 2015 winner Nils Frommhold - he can only remember a few moments of his triumphant race. The course suits him well, he is optimistic about the start and made people laugh with his wish to "splash around with champagne again" at the finish. Andi Dreitz, who is going into the race as defending champion with start number 1, said like Frommhold: “I have to experience it again”. He wants to concentrate fully on his own race and just “see what's going”.
Sebastian "Sebi" Kienle, as Roth champion and multiple starter at DATEV Challenge Roth powered by hep, is very familiar with the course, even if the bike course - Kienle's favorite discipline - will be different this year. Kienle, who has trained very well, but recently also had problems with the Achilles tendon, does not want to speak of victory, "I don't have enough self-confidence at the moment", but wants to "aggressively use" his chances.
That is definitely what world champion Patrick Lange wants, who is competing in Roth for the first time and is "really happy to finally become part of the community". He “can hardly wait” and immediately reported to Roth after the Hawaii cancellation to get a place on the start line. Roth as the "place of origin of triathlon in Germany" (quote Lange) has long been a bucket list race for him. For him on Sunday, it's about "standing at the start line, soaking up the atmosphere and giving it everything and doing my best". It remains to be seen how good his best is.