Andreas Raelert of Germany and Gina Crawford of New Zealand won the men’s and women’s titles at the Challenge Walchsee-Kaiserwinkl half distance race in Austria.
Raelert combined a 3rd-best 24:33 swim, the 2nd-fastest 2:08:28 bike split and a dominating, race-best 1:12:28 run to finish in 3:48:48. Raelert finished with a 4:02 margin of victory over runner-up Timo Bracht and 4:36 over 3rd-place finisher Nils Frommhold to make an all-German men’s podium.
Frommhold led the swim in 23:44, followed by James Elvery of New Zealand in 24:30, Raelert in 24:33, Germans Timo Bracht in 24:40 and Markus Fachbach in 24:48 and Bruno Pais of Portugal in 24:51, with the ever-dangerous Ronnie Schildknecht of Switzerland at 25:47. At the finish of the bike, Schildknecht’s race-fastest 2:07:38 that brought him to T2 third behind Raelert, whose 2:08:28 split brought him to the lead with a 13 seconds on Frommhold, 24 seconds on Schildknecht, and a 1:31 advantage on Bracht.
Raelert than laid down the law with his dominating 1:12:28 half marathon that outpaced Bracht by 2:28, Frommhold by 3:31, and Schildknecht, who fell to 4th, by 6:08. At the finish, Raelert told Challenge media that his victory was due to his “fantastic legs” on the day.
Raelert’s win comes in a solid 2012 season that includes 2nd at Ironman 70.3 Austria, 4th at Ironman Frankfurt and 1st at the ETU Challenge Kraichgau. Raelert, who finished 3rd last year and 2nd in 2010 at the Ironman World Championship, is ranked second to Craig Alexander in the Kona Pro Ratings.
Crawford fought a fierce duel with Mary Beth Ellis of the United States through the swim and bike before edging away on the run for a 1 minute, 4 seconds margin of victory.
While Crawford trailed Ellis’s race-best 25:31 swim by 52 seconds, Austrian Eva Wutti charged to the front after her 27:43 swim with a sizzling 2:18:15 bike that gave her a 5-minute lead at T2. Meanwhile, Crawford gained back the toime she lost to Ellis’s swim lead with a women’s 2nd-fastest 2:24:16 bike that out split Ellis by 1:10.
On the run, Wutti fell fast out of the lead with a 1:36:56 run that left her 4th at the finish. With differences in transition, Crawford and Ellis took off together on the run and Crawford’s women’s-best 1:25:22 half marathon out split the fleet feet of Ellis by 1:03. Crawford finished in 4:20:08, Ellis in 4:21:12 and Kaisa Lehtonen of Finland rounded out the podium in 4:23:16.
At the finish, Crawford told Challenge media said she had “sore legs” after her race at Zell am See last week.
Wutti was happy just to reach the finish: “I was comfortable on the bike, but the run was unbelievably hard for me," she told Challenge media.
Crawford’s win follows her victory a week ago at Ironman 70.3 Salzburg. Crawford wrote about her exhilaration in Facebook: “Came off bike with Mary Beth Ellis and I was [extremely nervous] as she is such good runner. Somehow I managed to hang on even though hamstrings were killing me. I broke course record, stoked!!” These recent wins add to an excellent 2012 season in which Crawford won Challenge Wanaka, was 5th at Ironman Melbourne, 4th at Challenge Roth and 2nd at Ironman France.
September 2, 2012
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Andreas Raelert (GER) 3:48:48
2. Timo Bracht (GER) 3:52:50
3. Nils Frommhold (GER) 3:53:24
4. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 3:55:06
5. Markus Fachbach (GER) 3:59:41
6. Massimo Cigana (ITA) 4:02:00
7. James Elvery (NZL) 4:04:08
8. Bruno Pais (POR) 4:05:02
9. Daniel Niederreiter (AUT) 4:05:09
10. Christian Lorber (AUT) 4:06:05
1. Gina Crawford (NZL) 4:20:08
2. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 4:21:12
3. Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) 4:23:16
4. Eva Wutti (AUT) 4:25:51
5. Daniela Sämmler (GER) 4:26:59
6. Erika Csomor (HUN) 4:28:30
7. Meike Krebs (GER) 4:33:09
8. Nina Kuhn (GER) 4:33:26
9. Mirjam Weerd (NED) 4:35:31
10. Wenke Kujala (GER) 4:40:07