Course Records Smashed as Smith & Lee Win CHALLENGE Championship

Sunday 19 May 2024

It was a day of fast, furious and thrilling racing with perfect conditions in both the men’s and women’s fields at The Championship 2024 with Kyle Smith (NZL) taking home the win in 3:27:10 and smashing the course record in the process. And it was back-to-back wins for India Lee (GBR) who not only successfully defended her title in 3:56:45 but also broke her own course record by more than two minutes.

The men’s swim provided no clear leader with 18 men exiting the water within 20 seconds of each other, led by Rico Bogen (GER) and Mark Dubrick (USA) neck-and-neck in 22:21. With all leaving T1 within 30 seconds of each other, the Challenge Family 20m rule ensured fair racing on this fast, flat course. There followed two hours of fierce racing between some of the sport’s strongest cyclists as the lead constantly changed before Kristian Høgenhaug (DEN) made the move and put distance between himself and the chasers. However, Frederic Funk (GER) was having none of it, pushing hard at speeds of up to 60kph to take the lead and come into T2 nearly two minutes clear with a split of 1:48:48, breaking his own bike course record from 2023.

Funk started the half marathon with a comfortable lead, but Smith had his eyes on the prize. He had been at the front of the large chase pack throughout the ride and came off the bike looking strong. Within a couple of kilometres he had taken the lead with a confidence that showed he would be happy with nothing but the win. He continued to extend his lead over Funk but behind them the battle for third was playing out as Bogen began to struggle and Høgenhaug began closing in. Smith crossed the line with a new course record in 3:27:10, followed by Funk who once again had to make do with second in 3:29:24 while Høgenhaug rounded out the podium in third in 3:29:56.

Smith said of his race, "It was an amazing day out there as it always is here in Šamorín. I’m stoked to take the win and as you saw, I was super emotional. The race was incredible, we were absolutely hauling on the bike for the first 45km, we were going 50kph and I knew then it was going to be tough day and quite an attritious race and I just had to keep riding my race and stay patient. I’ve been putting so much work into my run and so it was really nice to come here and have the run of my life!"

In the women’s race, Caroline Pohle (GER) was the fastest out of the water in 24:29, immediately followed by Fenella Langridge (GBR), Lee and Rebecca Robisch (GER). On the bike, Pohle led for the first half but after about 50km Lee had closed the gap to take the lead while behind a chase group of Els Visser (NED), Langridge, Laura Madsen (DEN), Robisch and also Kaidi Kivioja (EST) tried to close the gap.

By T2, however, the gap between these women had grown considerably. Lee was first back, followed by Pohle 40 seconds later. The chase group returned to T2, 3:10 behind, with a clear mission: to catch up during the run.

However, Lee had no intention of that ever happening and once again showed her dominance on this course, taking the win in record time of 3:56:45. Behind her, the battle for the remaining podium spots was exciting, Pohle and Madsen fought closely but Pohle lost time as she tired rapidly. Meanwhile, Kivioja and Visser stayed together in positions four and five for most of the race, although after about 15km they were caught by Anna Bergsten (SWE) who was on the hunt for a place on the podium. Madsen, the youngest professional competitor at just 21-years-old, took second in 3:59:52 and while Bergsten achieved her goal and finished third in 4:00:32.

Lee said of her race, "Last year I was a lot more of a surprise while this year I had a lot more expectation on me from others. It was really good to consolidate a good start to the year and show I wasn’t just a one-hit number! I knew from last year that I was strong on the second half on the bike, so I took my time to make my way up to Caroline. The run can feel really good to start with and when it gets hard, it gets hard really quickly so I was steady out the blocks and it worked really well for me."

MALE PRO:

1 Kyle Smith NZL 3:27:10

2 Frederic Funk GER +2:14

3 Kristian Hogenhaug DEN +2:46

4 Stepniak Kacper POL +3:11

5 Jan Stratmann GER +4:45

 

FEMALE PRO:

1 India Lee GBR 3:56:45

2 Laura Madsen DEN +3:07

3 Anna Bergsten SWE +3:47

4 Kaidi Kivioja EST +4:49

5 Els Visser NED +5:11

CHALLENGE Family (Photo: Activimages)


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