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Wednesday, 16 July 2008


Challenge Wanaka announces week long triathlon festival

Challenge Wanaka today announced a week long festival of triathlon from January 11-17, 2009 with the addition of a junior event and a criterium-style sprint event to the already established iron distance race.

Challenge Wanaka is working with Triathlon New Zealand to bring a race in the Contact Cup Series on Friday January 16. The late afternoon race will see athletes racing at high speed through the streets of central Wanaka's providing a thrilling evening's entertainment for spectators. It is expected to attract all levels of triathletes, from those just starting out to some of New Zealand's most well-known elite competitors.

Tri NZ CEO Dave Beeche said he is very excited to be bringing another Contact Cup race series down to the South Island

"Wanaka is a stunning location and with the holidaymakers at that time of year, we are hoping to get a broader participation base involved in the event and are looking forward to working with Challenge Wanaka to bring together the complete triathlon package, one that will appeal to the first time and 'social' competitors, as well as the elites."

The Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival kicks off with the new Puzzling World Junior Challenge on Sunday, January 11. Aimed at introducing children from 8-15 to triathlon and getting them involved in sport, the race will feature three distances depending on age and is guaranteed to be a lot of fun for both children and parents.

"We're thrilled to announce these two new events as part of the Challenge Wanaka experience and to be working with Tri NZ to help promote and grow the sport," said race director, Victoria Murray-Orr. "Spectators and athletes can now enjoy both ends of the triathlon spectrum during the week, from the high speed sprint to the inspiring ironman distance plus it's wonderful to be able to get the kids involved."

Monday, 14 July 2008


New world record in Roth

On a record-setting day in Roth, defending champion Yvonne Van Vlerken of the Netherlands took out a dramatic win that smashed triathlon legend Paula Newby-Fraser's world record of 8:50:53 set here in 1994 with a scintillating 8:45:48.

And proving that the bar has been lifted to new heights in women's triathlon, the second place woman - Hungary's Erika Csomor - also came in under Newby-Fraser's time, in 8:47:05. Third went to New Zealand's Gina Ferguson, in only her second year of ironman racing, in 8:57:18. Australia's Belinda Granger, the 2005 champion, took fourth less than a minute behind Ferguson with fellow Aussie Rebekah Keat fifth in 9:02:34.

All this on a day that started out with steady rain that continued until the start of the marathon.

"I am so happy. I trained so hard and dreamed of a world record every night, but today with the weather it was so hard," an ecstatic Van Vlerken said at the finish. "It was raining all the time and there was a lot of wind - but bye, bye, world record. I felt great."

Van Vlerken and Csomor are rivals from their years racing duathlons and they marked each another all day. It started in the swim and they stayed within hailing distance on the bike and together pursued bike leader Granger, who started the run with more than eight minutes over the pair. After they made their way to the front the battle continued into the last 10km of the run, when Van Vlerken was finally able to open up a gap on Csomor, a frequent top five finisher here in Roth and winner earlier this year of Ironman Arizona.

"I really had a hard fight with Erika and I could hear her breathing, and I said 'Yvonne, stay cool, stay cool, take it easy and run your own rhythm and if she overtakes then she's just better.' I really pushed hard," the 29-year-old Van Vlerken said of the run. "I don't know if I would have broken the world record if she wasn't there, because she really pushed me."

"The world record belongs to Roth and I hope it will last until next year when I can break it again if there are good conditions," Van Vlerken said.

Csomor, for her part, said that Van Vlerken was never far from her mind in training - proof that the women are driving themselves to new heights in triathlon. "In the training camp for the last six weeks, Yvonne was the favourite topic," Csomor said. "We kind of motivated each other. We knew she was training hard. And we are training hard in another place. We are pulling each other, not just in the race but during training."

On a morning that dawned with rain that kept coming until the marathon started for the leaders, many observers predicted slow times - but they were wrong.

First out of the water was legendary German long-distance star and superfish Ute Mückel, trailed by Keat and Granger, with American Hillary Biscay next out onto the bike course. Granger, known for her bike prowess here, then started opening up a gap on the rest of the women - by 70km she had 2:30, more than 6min at 120km, and 8min by T2.

Granger set out on the run with determination but the pursuit was relentless and by 9km Van Vlerken and Csomor had closed her lead down to one minute, then overtook her at about 15km. From there they drove one another to a pair of sub-three-hour marathons - 2:54:22 for Van Vlerken and 2:55:54 for Csomor, a frequent top-five finisher in Roth and the winner of this year's Ironman Arizona."

"It's just amazing to come to a race and get pushed to your absolute limits," said Granger. "At 37 years of age I don't really expect to do PBs, and that's a PB by 9 minutes so I'm really happy.

"Erika is a training partner of mine. It was really good to see her do so well. One world record's pretty insane but two is out of this world."

Ferguson, for her part, was just going as fast as she could with the goal of catching Granger, which she did with just 4km to go. "I was just giving everything to the end. I never race with a watch so I had no idea what the time was. I thought maybe I would do 9.10 today; 8.57 for me was really, really special."

"I've been in ironman for one year," she said. "To be under 9 hours - I never thought I'd be able to do this so I'm really happy."


Vernay shines at Roth

Heat-loving New Caledonian Patrick Vernay wasn't sure he’d be able to go well in the rain at the seventh Quelle Challenge Roth on Sunday, but when he got to the run he did what he does best - fly. His 2:47 marathon carried him to the finish first in 8:09:34, three minutes clear of Aussie Pete Jacobs in second and Denmark's Torbjørn Sindballe in third.

"It's amazing. In the morning I didn't want to start because I hate the rain," said Vernay, a two-time Ironman Australia champion who's fast earning a reputation in triathlon for his quick closing run. "I only knew I would win when I was 2km from the finish line."

Rounding out the top five were Australia's Chris McDonald and France's Francois Chabaud, whose 2:48 marathon, second only to Vernay's, hauled him up from more than 20 minutes down off of the bike.

Defying the rainy skies, Roth's triathlon-mad fans turned out by the thousands with umbrellas accompanying their traditional banners and noisemakers.

The swim saw a breakaway in the Main-Donau Kanal early as super swimmers Jacobs and Kieran Doe of New Zealand opened up a gap of more than 100m on McCormack and Sindballe. Another 50m behind them a group of 20-plus athletes had gathered, including Vernay, 2000 Olympic silver medalist Stephan Vuckovic and Chabaud.

But once out of the water it wasn't long until Sindballe - riding in conditions that suited him down to the ground-surged to the front on the bike, passing McCormack at about 20km and picking up Doe and Jacobs another 5-10km later. He was the first up the famed Solarer Berg climb at 70km with nearly 1:30 on McCormack and German super-biker Thomas Hellriegel, whose fourth place finish here last year earned him the German long-distance title.

"I like the rain, so that was a plus. I'm positive about it and that's what makes the difference," Sindballe said. "Going up the Solarer Berg was absolutely amazing. It's awesome - it's one of a kind in triathlon."

McCormack, who'd scored a dramatic win at Ironman Germany just one week ago, dropped out about 75km into the bike after staying with the leaders through the first summit of the Solarer Berg - a climb he'd earlier in the week called the best in triathlon. The four-time Roth winner said he was feeling the effects of a virus that struck him this week and opted to call it a day to preserve his health. Also failing to finish was early swim and bike leader Doe.

Meantime, Sindballe was getting into a rhythm and consolidated his lead throughout the rest of the ride, building it to more than 7:30 over Hellriegel by the time the men reached T2.

"It took me 10km to get into the running, then it started getting better," Sindballe said of his marathon. Jacobs and Vernay came past at about 28km and that was when the tall Dane started to feel the effects of a recent return to full run training. "I'm at 80 per cent on running and I can't expect more in a big race like this. It should be won by a guy who puts on a 100 per cent performance and they did a really good job today."

Jacobs moved into the lead briefly but he too found himself fading as Vernay's tempo grew stronger behind him.

"I'm very happy to have improved on last year. There weren't many places to go above third - it's not first but I had a go at it," Jacobs said. "I tried to run fast when I felt good but in the end I didn't have the strength in my muscles and I just started to feel weak with 10km to go. I just had to struggle home and watch Patrick pass me and run away."

Vernay, for his part, found himself enjoying the day despite the weather.

"It was marvelous," Vernay said of his Roth experience. "I've never done a race with so many people on the road. Even with the rain, the people were there."

Sunday, 13 July 2008


TEAMChallenge announces new addition to Challenge Family

The Kraichgau Triathlon, a popular triathlon festival set on the home turf of legendary triathlete Thomas Hellriegel, has become the latest event to join the Challenge family, organizers announced this week. The event, set in the gorgeous Baden-Wurttemberg region of southern Germany, just celebrated its fourth running on 8 June with Aussies Chris McCormack and Belinda Granger taking out the middle distance events in their run up to racing at the Quelle Challenge Roth.

The race will cover a 1.9km/90km/21km course. Race day will be June 14, 2009, giving athletes preparing for the Quelle Challenge Roth a great opportunity to test their training before the race in Roth on July 12, 2009.

Race director Stefan Hellriegel said joining TEAMChallenge was a natural for his event, which is all about the passion of triathlon - a passion for the sport he shares with TEAMChallenge.

"Nearly everyone in our team has raced in Roth many times - and when we were not racing, we were standing on the race course as spectators," Hellriegel said. "Roth was always a special triathlon experience for us - whether as participants or spectators. It was the race that brought this sport to Europe and its tremendous success helped shape triathlon here.

"The Challenge in Roth is a triathlon of the heart. It was in this spirit that we organized the Kraichgau Triathlon," he said. "We were inspired not only by their organization but also by the spirit of the race."

As the Challenge organization sought a middle-distance race that could serve as a good preparation race within Germany, it was a natural choice to look to Kraichgau, said Roth race director Felix Walchshofer. "We think that the spirit of Kraichgau fits very well together with us."

There's more information about the Sparkasse Challenge Kraichgau here: www.challenge-kraichgau.com.

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Challenge Wanaka in front of millions at Quelle Challenge Roth

New Zealand's top ironman athletes will get a taste of home when they cross the finish line at the world's largest iron distance triathlon, Quelle Challenge Roth in Germany on July 13.

Professional athletes Gina Ferguson, Kieran Doe and rookie Merryn Greenwood will be greeted in the finish line stadium with a haka by Manaia, who also performed at the Rugby World Cup. Also competing at Quelle Challenge Roth is Garth Barfoot (Auckland) who at 72 is the third eldest in the 4,500 strong field. Twelve other Kiwi age group athletes join them on the start line.

The initiative by Challenge Wanaka is designed to profile New Zealand as well as increase awareness of Quelle Challenge Roth's sister event, Challenge Wanaka which takes place every January. Tourism New Zealand provided Challenge with the material to use at Roth in order to help profile New Zealand as a destination. With Quelle Challenge Roth's TV audience of over five million and newspaper audience in excess of 31 million, Manaia's cultural performances will gain New Zealand, its athletes and Challenge Wanaka valuable exposure within the European marketplace.

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Challenge Wanaka
Phone: +64 (0)3 443 2700
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PO Box 738, Lake Wanaka, 9343, New Zealand

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