Challenge Copenhagen debut

August 15, 2010

Denmark's very first Ironman distance event set in its jewel of an urban
capital, Copenhagen, happily coincided with a celebration of the 500th year
of the Royal Danish Navy and fashion week. Triathlon made a big enough splash to draw some 125,000 (police estimate) to the historic and modern touristic draws along its fabled waterfront that hosted a three-loop marathon. A smaller but intensely enthusiastic crowd of about 8,000 crowded around the historic Christianborg to cheer some pretty impressive finishes -- Rebekah Keat's 8:54:36 with a 4:48:04 bike, and Tim Berkel's 8:07:39,
featuring a 4:28:01 bike and a 2:46:54 marathon.

The swim started under mysteriously gray and soggy skies in a lagoon
protected by the the slim Amager Strand. The bike route passed historic Amalienborg castle, much of the waterfront, and then featured a spectacular run north along the coast. Next came a highly technical zig zag jaunt along picturesquely narrow roads that roamed through well-manicured farm and pasture land, as the riders were cheered on by cheerful Danish locals -
almost every nook and cranny of a surprisingly up and down landscape.

The run started down the waterfront past much of Copenhagen's acclaimed
modern buildings, then reversed course past much of several Scandinavian navies there to toast the Danish navy's 500th, reversing course and then swinging past T2 and the finish line on three loops in which all runners were cheered up and on by the citizens of Hans Christian Andersen's home.

Somehow, a very young Challenge Copenhagen triumvirate that includes COO
Thomas Veje Olsen and Andreas Rasmussen pulled together all the permits and support of the city officials. They also overcame the chaos of a pre-race night rain that flooded much of the city - and some of the first transition zone - on the eve of battle.

At the end, the skies were blue, the streets were dry and the walls of this most ancient and modern city were ringing with the shouts for top Danish finisher Jens Groenbek (3rd) and for two visiting Aussies - Tim Berkel and Rebekah Keat - who broke out of victory dry spells to notch their first Iron
distance wins in a few years.

Nineteen images are © Timothy Carlson. The photo of local favorite Martin
Jensen suffering a race-ending second flat tire is © Brian Martin Rasmussen.

Copenhagen resident Aleksander S. Markovic was honored with the race's very
first number 1. The honor was thrown to a vote and Markovic, who authors
Denmark's most popular triathlon blog, out polled Belinda Granger. He
rewarded the faithful with a 9th place finish in 8:31:07.

The elite wave hit the water a few seconds before 7 AM disappeared into grey
skies, gray waters and gray rain.

Age groupers and relay participants, including local hero Rasmus Henning, swelled the entries to 1,600.

Just up the coast, cyclists ride past a statue dedicated to polar explorer Roald Amundsen, who now seems to be perpetually staring out to the horizon of the Baltic.

Belinda Granger, riding hard in this shot, has been known to crack the 5-hour mark, but this day a sensitive stomach and a flat conspired to leave
all the women's two wheel glory to winner Rebekah Keat, who stormed to a 4:48:04.

Copenhagen's technically demanding bike course isn't all windmills and tulips. Here's a very tight corner around a tree set a few inches from a narrow country road.

Denmark's rising 26-year-old star Martin Jensen was favored, but a second flat ended his hopes for a first big win. Photo by Brian Rasmussen.

This is where Tim Berkel made his break - about 120 kilometers into the

Danish friends and families gathered every kilometer or so to toast the riders as the course wound inland on the way back to the city.

Refueling on the run demands some agility.

Think Denmark is all flat? This climb rises 350 feet at a 5 percent grade and must be negotiated three times.

Denmark's greatest gift to world design is the Sydney Opera House, done by neophyte Joern Utzon in 1957. But master designers abound today, as witnessed by these granite, glass and steel cubes that capture all the subtlety of light inherent in Copenhagen's lovely waterfront.

After a sub-par bike, Belinda Granger ran to second place past lone of Denmark's mighty navy ships.

Tim Berkel runs under the glass and steel of the Royal Library on his way to a 2:46 marathon and a five minute margin of victory.

A young woman racing with an eclectic modern mash of bold color runs past the very historic Christianborg palace, site of five former structures which housed the royals and often fell prey to fires.

Tim Berkel raises his arms high with pride after attaining his second
Ironman distance victory.

Rebekah Keat milks the moment, running down the finish chute with six minutes in hand under nine hours, accompanied by several lovely balloon bearers, one of whom is the lovely Caroline Henning, daughter Rasmus and

Keat was so focused on the chase for her first Ironman-distance win in three years that she ignored this nasty gash on her knee until she received first aid in the medical tent at the finish.

After the tumult and shouting of the overall winners quieted down, the age
groupers continue the serious business of finishing the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2 mile run.

One dedicated runner glides past an advertisement mural extolling Denmark's rural and coastal pleasures.