Thanyapura’s Triathlon Academy Senior Head Coach and legend of the sport Juergen Zack notched up a second place in his age group as over 6,000 racers and 250,000 spectators turned out on a warm, sunny Sunday for the 2013 DATEV Challenge Roth, one of the sport’s annual highlights.
Zack’s sensational showing led a charge by Thanyapura triathletes, which resulted in a string of personal bests and podium places, including a Thai record for Jaray Jearanai, best-ever times for Arnd Hill, Michael Lindinger, Stefan Scherer, Johannes Rabl, Joey-Lynn Musselman and Kathrin Puff, who came third in her age group.
The women’s race winner, Caroline Steffen, will arrive at Thanyapura next month as part of the inaugural Thanyapura’s Month of Women campaign, to team up with another legend of the sport, who was racing her last Challenge Roth, Australian Belinda Granger.
“It was a great showing for Thanyapura in front of the whole triathlon world,” Zack said. “There was a lot of visibility for us, a lot of buzz and interest in Phuket as the hot emerging triathlon destination for racing and training.
“Personally, I wasn’t planning to race again. When I hung up my bike and running shoes, I didn’t even train for five years. But the work we do at Thanyapura got me back to a place where racing again looked feasible. It feels great to perform on one of the sport’s big stages again.”
Challenge Roth is unique in the gruelling three-legged world of triathlon racing. It’s the sport’s version of the Tour de France, with crowds lining the shaded, charming streets of the historical Bavarian village and a carnival atmosphere prevailing. It’s also the fastest course in the world over the full Ironman distance (70.3km).
This year, it also has a direct link to Phuket’s premier race series, with the Challenge Family announcing a partnership with Asia’s longest running triathlon: 2013 sees the launch of Challenge Laguna Phuket Tri-Fest from 24 November, a week-long celebration of the sport, which will incorporate the iconic Laguna Phuket Triathlon and half distance Challenge Laguna Phuket.
At Challenge Roth, Zack covered the course in 9:18:41, a second behind another Thanyapura trained triathlete, Selukov Arnaud, with a bike leg split of 4:39, some way off his best Roth bike split of 4.14. “But not bad for someone who didn’t race for seven years and didn’t even train for five years,” Zack said.
“It was amazing seeing my old rival (and fellow five-time Roth winner) Lothar Leder. He is still racing professionally as he was a younger man than me at the height of our rivalry. I was riding with him for quite a distance. It wasn’t until I got on the bike that the old racing instincts began to kick in and I got a little bit excited.”
Leder was the first man to dip under the eight-hour barrier at Roth in 1996, when he went 7:57:02. The following year, Zack lowered that mark with a 7:51:42, a time that would have won him this year’s trophy – 2013 winner, Dirk Bockel, clocked an impressive 7:52:01. Steffen, the newly christened ‘Queen of Roth’, made it across the line to take winning honours in 8:40.35.
Zack said he would now focus on getting Thanyapura’s Triathlon team ready for the Challenge Laguna series, which he said was an exciting development in the sport and would help put Phuket even more firmly on the map as a world triathlon destination to be reckoned with, with Thanyapura front and centre in terms of training and a focal point for the triathlon community. I will race the triathlon event and will be the race marshal of the Challenge event,” he added.
Robert Hauck, Thanyapura President, said he was delighted with Zack’s successful return to racing and offered his congratulations to Thanyapura’s triathlon team. “It’s heartening to see so many personal bests as a result of our unique three dimensional coaching, in improving performance which is what Thanyapura does best.”