Belgium's Bart Aernouts took his biggest title and his second long-distance win of 2017 by running his way to the title at Challenge Roth.
July 9, 2017 | NEWS|
Belgium's Bart Aernouts may have just made himself a Kona contender - OK, even more of a Kona contender than he was say, yesterday. Today he took Challenge Roth, beating a tough field in hot, humid conditions. In May he beat a tough field in Lanzarote, taking on the wind and challenging mountains of that course. Seems like the kind of combo that prepares you well to take on the world's best on the Big Island in October.
Aernouts had to run past BMC-Etixx team-mate Maurice Clavel (GER) during the last half of the marathon to take the win today after Clavel had led off the bike. In fact Clavel had led out of the water, too, but was quickly joined by a group of seven more, who blasted through the first 50 km of the bike course in close proximity before things started to break up. Heading up the famous Solarberg climb at about 70 km it was Nils Frommhold (GER) in front, driving himself way from the rest of the group that by this time included also Terrenzo Bozzone (NZL), Timo Bracht (GER), Clavel, Sean Donnelly (GER) and Per Bittner (GER). Frommhold would pull himself to a five-minute lead heading into the last 30 km of the race when disaster struck - while passing an age group athlete who was still on their first loop he crashed and broke his handlebars - he was out of the race.
That put Clavel, competing in his first full-distance race, into T2 first and out onto the run ahead of some very experienced chasers - Bracht, racing in his last pro race here in Roth, won here in 2014 and was just a bit over two-minutes back. Bozzone (+4:47), who broke eight hours in winning Ironman Western Australia last fall, was third on to the run with Aernouts in fourth at 6:44. Last year's runner-up, Great Britain's Joe Skippers, was sixth off the bike, just over eight minutes down.
Clavel would hang on to the lead through the first half of the run as Aernouts steadily gained ground, passing the others ahead and then moved out ahead a few kilometers into the second loop of the new run course. Skippers was also moving well and also managed to get passed the long-distance rookie.
That's how things would stay coming into the famous stadium is the Challenge Roth finish line. Aernouts looked completely at ease as he crossed the line (I did mention that he kind of looks like someone we should be talking about in Kona, right?) while Skippers and Clavel looked simply crushed after they finished. They did, however, managed to hold off Bracht, who still did the hometown crowd proud with a fourth place finish - a fitting end to a phenomenal career.
Challenge Roth | Men
July 9, 2017 | Roth, Germany
3.8 km Swim
180 km Bike
42 km Run