Cunnama, Joyce supreme in Roth

James Cunnama ran a very fast 2:40:06 to take the 2012 Challenge Roth in a time of 7:59:59. Rachel Joyce took the women's title and also earned the ETU Long Distance European Championship crown.

Runner-up Timo Bracht became the 2012 ETU European Long Distance champion after battling James Cunnama virtually all day in front of roughly 200,000 spectators.

French Pro Benjamin Sanson was first out of the water in 45:58 with German age grouper Alexander Janitzki next in 46:18, but neither really had an impact on the race at the end. Janitzki finished in a respectable 9:34:30, but Sanson had a super rough day and crossed the line after 14:20:20 and said post race that he is done racing as a Pro.

The bike segment meanwhile was dominated by Konstantin Bachor from Germany who rode hard all day and managed a 4:19:30 race best bike split. Not bad for someone who apparently works as a police officer during the day and only trains 15-20 hours. For quite a while a group that contained Bracht, Cameron Brown, James Cunnama, Mike Aigroz, Stephen Bayliss and Georg Potrebitsch were chasing reasonably hard, and at one point Potrebitsch actually managed to bridge up to the hard riding Bachor. But the man known by friends as Little Georg was unable to hold that pace and in the end finished the big segment behind the main chasers. Cunnama, Bracht and Aigroz pulled away from Brown and Bayliss toward the end of the bike segment, but were down to Bachor by almost 11 minutes once they reached the bike-run transition.

Bracht and Cunnama ran side-by-side in pursuit of the fast German and they quickly gained time on him. The two actually worked together and at one point even agreed to take a pee stop in tandem. Bracht though started to get difficulties in the latter stages of the run and had to let the South African go. Cunnama had promised a race best run a few days earlier in the press conference and he did indeed that with his 2:40:06 marathon. Combined with his solid efforts during the swim and bike he crossed the line in first place in a very fine time of 7:59:59. Timo Bracht looked crushed when he came across the finish line, but the European Long Distance title most likely helped ease the emotional pain. Quite a bit of expectations had been resting on his shoulders and the crowd though let him know that they very much appreciated his brave effort. Mike Aigroz rounded out the podium and he looked super happy with his finish.

Lucie Zelenkova-Reed led the women out of the water in 47:31, but Rachel Joyce was only a few seconds behind her.

Once on the bike, Joyce charged into the lead and she quickly got a nice gap. Mirjam Weerd, Julia Gajer and Gina Crawford were next on the road about 2.5 minutes behind the leader, but that gap started to grow too. Joyce had the race best bike split in a time 4:54:37, and while Sonja Tajsich was only 37 seconds slower on the bike, she had lost over 8 minutes to the Brit during the swim. Dutch Pro Weerd was actually off the bike in second place after a 50:11 swim and a 4:56:07 bike.

Weerd was running well slower than Joyce and started to drop back. Tajsich though charged though the field and made up time on the leader too, but it just was not enough to reel in the reigning ITU Long Distance World Champion. Joyce took a reasonably comfortable win in 8:45:07 and earned the European Long Distance title in the process. Tajsich crossed the line in second 4:43 later and Julia Gajer finished third in 8:57:02.

Challenge Roth
Roth, Germany / July 8, 2012
3.8k swim / 180k bike / 42.2k run

Top men

1. James Cunnama (RSA) 7:59:59
2. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:03:28 *
3. Mike Aigroz (SUI) 8:08:01
4. Cameron Brown (NZL) 8:10:05
5. Stephen Bayliss (GBR) 8:13:01
6. Konstantin Bachor (GER) 8:13:36
7. Dorian Wagner (GER) 8:19:47
8. Georg Potrebitsch (GER) 8:21:39
9. Per Bittner (GER) 8:22:51
10. Roeland Smits (NED) 8:32:10

Top women

1. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 8:45:04 *
2. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 8:49:47
3. Julia Gajer (GER) 8:57:02
4. Gina Crawford (NZL) 8:59:35
5. Britta Martin (GER) 9:01:10
6. Mirjam Weerd (NED) 9:02:39
7. Beate Goertz (GER) 9:13:26
8. Wenke Kujala (GER) 9:25:19
9. Lucie Zelenkova-Reed (CZE) 9:26:20
10. Belinda Granger (AUS) 9:26:48

* ETU European Long Distance Champion