From Roth to the world

In 2002, after ending the Ironman partnership in 2001, Herbert Walchshöfer dared to make a fresh start - and founded the new brand, "Quelle Challenge Roth". The premiere on 14 July 2002 was an immediate success. “Roth remains Roth” cheered the newspapers and “Fans remain true to their triathlon”. After more successful events, the second race in the series followed in 2007 in Wanaka, New Zealand. The expansion of the Roth Challenge brand had begun, which after the tragic death of founder Herbert Walchshöfer, was initially continued by his widow, Alice, and children, Felix and Kathrin.


All about the athlete

After the global series had expanded to include more than 35 races, the Walchshöfer family withdrew from Challenge Family in 2015 to focus exclusively on the triathlon classic in Roth with a small team and a lot of passion. At the same time, Challenge Family, based in Almere, Netherlands, currently features over 30 races around the world. All with the aim of offering athletes the best possible race in line with the motto "all about the athlete".

Challenge Roth - The Historie


After the Ironman license had been returned in 2001 by Detlef Kühnel in view of inacceptable demands of the then WTC President, Kühnel’s successor Herbert Walchshöfer dared to initiate a new event – and founded the new “Quelle Challenge Roth” label. The premiere on July 14, 2002 was an instant success – and a very convincing one, too. “Roth remains Roth” and “The fans stay true to their triathlon” are some of the cheerful newspaper headlines in those days. Lothar Leder, the “king of Roth”, does a hat trick and wins the race for the third time in a row with a finishing time of 8:17:25 hours, followed by Cameron Brown/New Zealand (8:21:29) and Thomas Hellriegel (8:21:53). In the women’s competition, Nina Kraft finishes first in 9:12:41, with Erika Csomor from Hungary coming in some 20 minutes later. Nicole Leder secured herself the third place in 9:46:00 – a time that she would easily undercut already one year later.


The year 2003 goes down in triathlon history for its famous “heartbeat finale” between favorite Lothar Leder and Australian Chris McCormack. The two are neck-and-neck up to kilometer 39. Leder wants to decide the race on the last 200 meters and crosses the finish-line in an unbelievable sprint, winning the race in 8:11:50 hours – just three seconds before his competitor! Apart form his hard-fought victory, there is another reason for Lothar Leder to be happy: His wife Nicole, who is in absolute top form, improves her 2002 result by more than half an hour and wins the women’s competition in an excellent 9:15:01 hours. The Leders’ first double victory in Roth!


By 2004, Quelle Challenge Roth has definitely become an established event, and for the first time can be called “the world’s biggest long-distance triathlon” in terms of participants. The spectators witness a world-class race in which Faris Al-Sultan and Timo Bracht play leading parts when it comes to finishing times of less than eight hours. But in the end, someone else is the winner of the race: A beaming Chris McCormack celebrates a triumphant victory and remains under the magic eight-hour-limit with a finishing time of 7:57:50. Faris Al-Sultan crosses the finish-line just one minute later in 7:58:57. Nicole Leder again puts up an excellent fight and wins the women’s competition in 9:13:57, after having established a new marathon record of 2:52:46.


In 2005 Chris McCormack wins the Quelle Challenge Roth event for the second time after 2004: He runs an absolutely convincing race and again finishes in less than eight hours – 7:58:45 to be exact. Alex Taubert, fourth-place Hawaii finisher, comes in second ten minutes later in 8:08:17 and deservedly wins the title of German Champion. His team fellow Timo Bracht secures himself the third place in 8:14:26. The women’s competition is also won by an Australian athlete: Belinda Granger’s dream comes true and she comes in first in 9:14:06 in her second race in Roth. The winner of the previous year, Nicole Leder, finishes second in 9:25:42 hours.


The winner of the 5th Quelle Challenge Roth on July 2, 2006 is Chris McCormack for the third time in a row. He crosses the finish-line after 8:00:52 hours, allows himself to be celebrated by thousands of fans on his way through the stadium, and thus gives away the magic eight-hour limit. No matter: the only thing that counts for him is the “hardest victory in Roth” – and of course the victory against Hawaii-winner Faris Al-Sultan. He finishes his excellent race in 8:03:29 and comes in second. Kieran Doe from New Zealand surprisingly finishes third in 8:11:07 hours. The result of the women’s competition is just as unexpected: Joanna Lawn, also from New Zealand, is the new “queen of Roth”. In her first race at Quelle Challenge Roth she crosses the finish-line after 9:01:17 hours and wins the race. After having won the Roth event twice, Belinda Granger (AUS) comes in second, although she finishes in her personal record time of 9:10:27.


In 2007 it is exactly ten years that Luc van Lierde from Belgium established a world-record of 7:50:27 in long-distance triathlon at Quelle Ironman Europe, which is still valid. Something has to be done about that: TEAMCHALLENGEoffers a winner’s reward of magnificent 100,000 dollars, which is intended to spur Chris McCormack to a new peak performance. It is indeed the race of his life. Chased by “Hell on wheels” Thomas Hellriegel, who in the end finishes fourth, Macca wins the “best old race” for the fourth time. His finishing time of 7:54:23 was not quite enough to establish a new world record – but surely enough for deafening applause and sheer enthusiasm on the part of his fans. One hour later, there’s another surprise in Roth: Yvonne van Vlerken from the Netherlands wins the women’s competition in her first participation in Roth in a fabulous finishing time of 8:51:53 hours – only one minute away from the world record.


Someone who had seen many big winners come and go in Roth, and who had led the Challenge label to world-wide reputation, crosses his very personal finish-line in autumn 2007: Herbert Walchshöfer. On October 25 the charismatic Challenge founder dies of a severe disease. Triathletes from all over the world grieve for him. But Herbert Walchshöfer has left a well-established event to his son and successor Felix. The Challenge label lives on in Herbert’s sense.


In 2008 Patrick Vernay from New Caledonia surprisingly wins the 8th edition of Quelle Challenge Roth. Pouring rain accompanies the athletes from the start, but stops for a while in the afternoon, when Vernay wins the race in 8:09:34 before Pete Jacobs from Australia, who finishes second in 8:12:53, and Torbjorn Sindballe, who comes in third. But the real sensation of the day is again Yvonne van Vlerken: She breaks the world record and finishes in 8:45:48. No other woman had ever been that fast in a long-distance race. Erika Csomor from Hungary plays an important role in this extremely fast race as well. With her finishing time of 8:47:05, she, too, clearly remains under Paula Newby-Fraser’s old 1994 record.


What nobody would ever have thought to be possible, becomes reality in 2009: Quelle Challenge Roth again makes triathlon history with a double world record in the women’s competition. World Champion Chrissie Wellington (GB) literally smashes the record of 8:45:48 to pieces that had just been established in Roth one year earlier. With an unbelievable finishing time of 8:31:59, Wellington improves the record by almost fourteen minutes and thus sets completely new standards in women’s triathlon. Rebekah Keat from Australia makes the Roth sensation complete: With 8:39:24 hours she also clearly remains under the previous record. Catriona Morrison comes in third in her very first long-distance race. Michael Göhner wins the men’s competition with a convincing performance and in the fourth-fastest time that had ever been achieved in Roth (7:55:53). So Göhner is 6:08 minutes faster than second-place finisher Pete Jacobs (AUS). Richard Ussher from New Zealand surprisingly comes in third.


Another world record for triathlon queen Chrissie Wellington!

The world champion makes the unthinkable come true and wins the 9th Challenge Roth in a new world record time of 8:19:13 hours. So she undercuts her own world-record of 8:31:59 hours (a real sensation in 2009) that she established one year earlier by almost another 12 minutes. With her fabulous finishing time, which goes down in triathlon history, she is also the seventh-place finisher of the overall ranking, and so she is even faster than many well-known world-class male athletes. In spite of a fantastic finishing time of 8:52:10 hours, Rebekah Keat comes in only second, and Tereza Macel finishes third in 9:09:29 hours. In the men’s competition Rasmus Henning from Denmark, who participates in Roth for the first time, wins the 9th Challenge Roth in 7:52:36 hours. So he comes dangerously close to Luc van Lierde’s old record of the year 1997. Sebastian Kienle finishes second in 7:59:06 hours, and Eneko Llanos from Spain secures himself the third place in 8:02:33 hours.


It’s the 10th anniversary of Challenge Roth: A reason to celebrate in the city and county of Roth, but also among athletes. Within a decade, the quality label has become an established event that is booked up within a few minutes every year. It’s not only the most enjoyable, but also the most popular triathlon around the world – as is impressively shown in November, when Challenge Roth wins the title of “Race of the Year” awarded by the “triathlon” magazine. The anniversary race in summer 2011 includes a real world sensation: as a special birthday present, Chrissie Wellington and Andreas Raelert give Challenge a double world record, which will go down in history for all times, and turns Challenge Roth into a real myth. Andreas Raelert puts up an excellent fight and wins his first race in Roth in a fantastic finishing time of 7:41:33 hours. The icing on the cake of this world sensation comes with Chrissie Wellington’s third victory of Challenge Roth in a row – and another new world record time. The world’s best triathlete again undercuts her own record of the previous year by exactly one minute, and crosses the finish line after 8:18:13 hours.


For the first time Challenge Roth hosts the Official ETU European Long-Distance Triathlon Championship, and turns out to be a venue full of glamour and heart-felt hospitality. And it’s also a remarkable race from an athletic point of view. The competition is exciting from the beginning, and in the end the winner is James Cunnama from South Africa who finishes in 7:59:59 hours – just the blink of an eye under the magic eight-hour-limit. Timo Bracht finishes second and wins the title of Official ETU European Long-Distance Champion, and Mike Aigroz from Switzerland comes in third. In the women’s competition, Rachel Joyce from Great Britain is better than all her competitors and wins the race in 8:45:04 hours, before Sonja Tajsich from Germany and Julia Gajer, who came in second the year before. So Rachel Joyce also won the title of Official ETU European Long-Distance Champion.


The premiere of DATEV Challenge Roth included two real surprises. In the first race with the new title sponsor DATEV, two Roth newbies win the race – Dirk Bockel, who lives in Luxembourg, and Caroline Steffen from Switzerland. Bockel’s victory is unchallenged, when he crosses the finish line in 7:52:01 and thus in clearly less than eight hours. The second-place finisher James Cunnama comes in as many as twelve minutes later. Timo Bracht secures himself the third place in 8:08:18 hours – after he was unlucky enough to lose his leading position due to a breakdown on the bike course. In the women’s competition, there’s a worthy new “queen of Roth”: Caroline Steffen, who wins the race in 8:40:35 hours, followed by Yvonne van Vlerken from the Netherlands 5:47 minutes later. The first German female athlete to cross the finish line is Julia Gajer another five minutes later.


Three decades after the first “Franconian Triathlon” the whole county of Roth and DATEV Challenge Roth are going to celebrate the anniversary under the motto “30 Years of Triathlon in Roth” – featuring what is probably the best field of participants of all times. In spite of extreme weather conditions, the world’s biggest long distance Triathlon becomes a splendid and magnificent event which makes worldwide furor. For the first time, German Timo Bracht  is able to win the race in 7:56:00 hours at his seventh start. Second place goes to Nils Frommhold, third to Spaniard Eneko Llanos. In the women’s race, currant Hawaii champion Mirinda Carfrae expectedly can be victorious with a time of  8:38:53 hours. Rachel Joyce (GB) follows on second place, Swiss Caroline Steffen on third. And another great woman excites the audience: the 83 -year-old US nun Sister Madonna Buder at her first start in Roth.


After all the 2014 superlatives, DATEV Challenge Roth 2015 is going to be a real “harmony race” at perfect weather conditions and in a relaxed atmosphere. The “Roth summer fairy tale” this time is dominated by Nils Frommhold and Yvonne van Vlerken. Same as last year, Frommhold delivers a duel with Bracht, but now Frommhold is in front and wins in the third best Roth time: 7:51:28 hours. The podium is completed with Bracht as second and David Dellow (AUS) as third. The “Flying Dutchwoman” Yvonne van Vlerken becomes, for the third time after 2007 and 2008, the “Queen of Roth” after a thrilling three-way battle. Her time:  8:50:53 hours. Australian Carrie Lester (8:53:09 hours) and Anja Beranek from Nuremberg (8:55:19 hours) are only slightly slower.


The nicest present that the DATEV Challenge Roth could get for the 15th Challenge birthday was brought by the winner himself. Current World Champion Jan Frodeno sets a sensational new world record at the long distance classic in the triathlon heartland of Roth. With a time of 7:35:39 hours, Frodeno undercuts Andreas Raelerts record, set on the same course five years ago, by almost six minutes. The surprisingly second placed, Joe Skipper (Great Britain, 7:56:23 hours) comes 20 minutes after the winner. Defending champion, Nils Frommhold earns third place with a time of 7:57:49 hours. As with the men, so with the women: Hawaii-winner Daniela Ryf (Switzerland) wins DATEV Challenge Roth with an unbelievable time of 8:22:04 hours – and achieves the third best time ever on the long distance course, just four minutes after the unforgettable Chrissie Wellington during her world record in 2011. The Australian, Carrie Lester, delivers a second-place finish with a top-time of 8:42:13 hours and refers defending champion, Yvonne van Vlerken (8:49:35 hours) to third place.


Bart Aernouts from Belgium and the incumbent world champion Daniela Ryf have given the DATEV Challenge Roth 2017 their stamp of approval. At humid, hot temperatures and despite a new, challenging run course Aernouts can win a really exciting race as a surprise winner in 7:59:07 hours just short among the 8-hour mark, after favorite Nils Frommhold had to give up due to a bike accident. Second place winner like last year becomes Joe Skipper in exactly 8:03:00 hours. Long distance rookie Maurice Clavel finishes the race right afterwards in a deserved third place (8:04:53 hours). The fourth place is as well celebrated with standing ovations: a very successful and long lasting pro career ends at the finish line for Timo Bracht (41). In the women’s race Daniela Ryf (Switzerland) celebrates a safe start-to-finish race and defends her title from the year before in an absolutely commanding way in 8:40:03 hours. Second place Laura Siddall (8:51:38 hours) and the US American Lisa Roberts (third place in 8:57:14 hours) also remain under the 9-hour mark.


The big jubilee "35 Years Triathlon in Roth" is crowned with a German double victory at DATEV Challenge Roth: A well deserved win by 2014 Hawaii champion, Sebastian Kienle in a dream time of 7:46:23 in his third attempt to take victory. Second is Nuremberg’s Andreas Dreitz in only his second long distance race, followed by American Jesse Thomas in third place. In the women's race, German Daniela Sämmler triumphs over Lucy Charles (GBR) in a nail-biting finish and beating the 2008 German record in 8:43:42. Charles is only nine seconds behind her, third is Kaisa Sali from Finland. Also there was a new women’s swim course record (Lucy Charles), a new men's bike course record (Cameron Wurf) and a total of six athletes came under the magic eight-hour mark make DATEV Challenge Roth on 1 July the day dreams came true.


The second placed winners in the men’s, as well as in the women’s field from last year – Andi Dreitz from Germany and Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) can stand a step higher on the winner’s platform and fulfill their dreams. Dreitz crossed the finish line here in Franconia in 7:59:02 as a very happy man. A first-class international pro field with six top ten athletes from Hawaii 2018 couldn’t stop him. A dream became reality. Jesper Svensson (SWE) and Cameron Wurf (AUS) made places two and three of the Triathlon-Dream Factory. Lucy Charles-Barclay pretty much had a safe Start-Finish-Win in the women’s category. She had a huge lead coming out of the waters of the Main-Danube-Canal and kept it through to the finish line in the Triathlon Stadium in her hands. The 25-year old crossed the finish line, beaming and with a loud joyous scream under the frenetic jubilation, with a new personal best time of 8:31:09. The women’s platform was completed by Sarah Crowley (AUS) and last year’s winner Daniela Bleymehl (GER).


Patrick Lange and Anne Haug are the winners of this year's DATEV Challenge Roth powered by hep, held today under COVID restrictions with a reduced field but perfect race conditions in the triathlon stronghold of Roth. Lange, the 2018 world champion, won a very exciting men’s race at his premiere in Roth after an outstanding performance in a record time of 7:19:19 hours, although it should be noted the bike course was just 170km due to roadworks. In the women's race, reigning world champion Anne Haug crowned her Roth premiere with a brilliant victory and crossed the finish line - also with a new course record - in 7:53:48 hours.