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Posted: July 10, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

Triathlon: World's Best Gather For Quelle Challenge Roth

The medieval castle Schloss Ratibor was the dramatic and beautiful setting for a press conference to introduce the world's best triathletes as they prepare to do battle in Europe's premier long distance triathlon, Quelle Challenge Roth, on Sunday.

Roth debutante and two-time Hawaiian Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington, defending champion Patrick Vernay, Hawaii winners and German Ironman legends Normann Stadler and Thomas Hellriegel, Erika Csomor and Peter Jacobs head the strongest fields of recent years to assemble in the stunning Franconian city.

The presence of world Ironman champion Wellington is a major coup for race organisers and her ability to go hard and break a race open is sure to thrill the massive crowds that are a traditional feature of racing in Roth.

Wellington is a clear favourite on debut and it would be a brave person to bet against her adding to her illustrious resume but last year's runner-up Csomor, Kiwi Ironman and Challenge Wanaka Ferguson, Aussies Rebekah Keat and Belinda Granger and the UK's Leanda Cave will attempt to make life difficult for her.

Wellington said it is the magic and wonderful tradition that has lured her to Roth.

"When I turned professional I was speaking to a lot of the other athletes about the different races around the world and one name that kept coming up was Roth. I am happy to be here and to finally be racing on of the most famous and oldest racecourses in the world and I am really looking forward to the race on Sunday."

"It is an incredibly fast course and my strategy is quite simply to go as fast as I can for as long as I can. Obviously that means trying to break the world record but ultimately I want to try and win the race and win it in the fastest possible time."

"I will be keeping an eye on the clock but I will also be keeping an eye on all the other fantastic competitors. The athletes last year really raised the bar for all of us to follow, so I have a lot to live up to. But the world record is something I will be looking at closely," she said.

Last year's winner, Yvonne van Vlerken of the Netherlands, lowered the record to 8:45:48 in Roth last year, with second-placed Csomor also dipping under the old record on the day.

Meantime, just making it to the start line will be an achievement in itself for six-time Roth starter and past champion Belinda Granger who is bruised and battered following an altercation with a car on a training ride early this week.

"A car turned left, straight in front of me without an indicator and I barely had time to react and we ran straight into each other. The bike is fine but I copped it, the car door hit me and there isn't a scratch on the frame."

"This is not the way I thought the week would start but I am determined to get to the finish line. I will be starting and hopefully I will be making it to the finish line but I am not putting any pressure on myself with regards to times or positions."

"Everybody has been wonderful in helping my recovery. I have been taken care of like royalty, getting physio every morning going back to the hospital and they have been superb. There is no excuse for me not making the start line--they have done everything possible to make sure I get there in the best condition possible," she said, still smiling.

The women's field is stacked with talent but former ITU world champion Leanda Cave is the dark horse in the race. Suffering a similar fate to Granger prior to last year's race, Cave wasn't able to unleash her enormous talent but this year's preparation has gone perfectly to plan.

"My year has been good so far and I think I am in good race shape but this is my first Ironman in over seven months and that is always a bit scary."

"The women's field is as strong as I have ever seen outside of Kona and I like that. I like having a fast, competitive race and obviously Chrissie is the favourite but there are some strong competitors."

"I know what Belinda is going through because I crashed my bike a week before last year's race and broke a rib, so I really wasn't racing, I was just getting around the course. So this year I want to race and I think I am ready physically and mentally."

Storming Normann Stadler is hoping to live up to his name and finally win the Quelle Challenge Roth, a title that has eluded the German ace. Stadler, who became a father just a month ago, was relaxed, jovial and very determined.

"Of course I want the world record but wanting it and making it possible are two different things."

"I am definitely here to win the race but the best time is 7:51 and I don't think that is possible for me. I am realistic, a little under 8 hours is possible but I don't know what the conditions were on the day that time was set."

“I am planning for a fast race and I am not letting the swimmers get too far away. I am hoping for a good bike and a run, so I think it will be difficult for the others to beat me.

Stadler's determined to put on a good show for his family and his army of loyal German supporters lining the streets.

"I have a new son and I will try to bring a victory in this race as a gift to him for his first time as a spectator," Stadler said.

The French-German rivalry will be at fever pitch with defending champion and three-time Australian Ironman champion Patrick Vernay keen to spoil Stadler's party and hoping to hold off Roth favourite Jacobs.

"When I won last year it was a perfect day for me and I hope it will be the same on Sunday," Vernay said. "But the field this year is very strong."

"We have great champions with us in Normann Stadler. I know Normann is strong on the bike and Pete Jacobs is strong on the swim, but you have to be strong everywhere if you want to win. So I will try to mentally strong and try to catch them but the best athlete will win."

"I have been training very hard and I am in better shape than I was in April at Ironman Australia. I am very dependant on my marathon and I think I will have to run a 2:40 to 2:45 if I want to be on the podium on Sunday. We will see," Vernay said.

Third on debut and second last year in Roth, Jacobs has taken a confidence boost with a win over current Hawaii champion Craig Alexander earlier this year. An improved run teamed with his trademark strong swim could be the winning combination.

"My training has been the best ever and my run has been better than ever before. I have been doing some running races and getting good results. I am feeling fresh and fit and really looking forward to it."

"Since the Australian Ironman I have been working on my running and it has been coming along well. Far better than it has been before."

"Vernay wil be up there for sure but hopefully third time lucky I can out run him and hopefully we will be able to run down Stadler as well."

"I always perform well at Roth and I attribute it to the food, the atmosphere and the time of year. Hopefully have got it right again cause I am looking forward to a good race."

"Patrick beat me here last year and he also beat me in Australian in April, so I am hoping to switch those results around. I have come third, second and a first would be wonderful," he said.

Other athletes to watch are two Roth debutantes: Aussie Tim Berkel, winner of Ironman Western Australia; and short course athlete Catriona Morrison of Scotland having her first hit out over the long course.

Berkel is looking forward to his debut at Roth and testing himself out against such a strong field.

"Racing against Stadler will be awesome because of what he has achieved and of course, Vernay and Pete Jacobs who I know from duelling with them in the Australian Ironman. So it will be good to get back at them."

"I have heard good things about this race and I have always wanted to do it. Roth is such a beautiful place and I am looking forward to looking around and checking out the course," he said.

A very honest Morrison said she is petrified of what is ahead of her but is stoked to be in Roth.

"This is one of the most established events on the planet and if I ever wanted to do a long distance race I wasn't going to waste my time and go to the highlands of Scotland and do the Scottish Long Distance Championships with five people watching. I want to be out there thousands of people on the course, all giving me support. But I don't think I have ever been so scared in all my life because this is new territory for me," she said.

Watch for live coverage via the race website at www.challenge-roth.com.


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