Frederic Funk charged to the front at the start of the bike and remained totally in control of the men’s field for the remainder of the race. Funk arrived at T2 with a 4-minute lead, then cruised to the finish in 3:44:49 with a 4:36 margin over Jan Stratmann and 5:07 over Maurice Clavel for a 1-2-3 German sweep of the podium at Challenge St. Polten.
“I was in the mix after the swim, took the lead on the bike and kept pushing hard all the way and arrived at transition with a 4-minute lead,” Funk told Challenge Media. Explaining the dynamics of his domination, Funk said. “When I am leading, I can push 10-20 watts more. I never knew how far behind me they all were, so I just kept pushing. On the run I was not sure the gap was enough, but I found I could run faster [than usual] after that bike, and my gap was enough for the win.”
By contrast, the women’s race was a nail biter as Ironman World Champion Anne Haug arrived at T2 with a 2:30 deficit to Imogen Simmonds of Switzerland, then suffered a one-minute penalty in the bike to run transition to further her deficit to more than 3 minutes.
After a blazing half marathon, Haug finally caught Simmonds with 200 meters to go and crossed the line in 4:20:17 with a 14 seconds margin on Simmonds and 4:47 over third-place Juliane Hofer of Germany.
When asked by Challenge Media if she thought it was impossible to come back from such a deficit on the run, Haug said: “Nothing is impossible in a race. I think to myself: If something happens unexpected, can I change it? If I get a penalty, I have to accept it and make the best out of it. A race is only over when you cross the finish line. Before that anything can happen. Yeah. I am always fighting.”
Timo Hackenjos of Germany led the swim in 24:26, which gave him a 30 seconds margin over Christopher de Keyser of Belgium, followed a few seconds later by pre-race co favorite Pablo Dapena Gonzalez, then a closely packed a group including Michael Raelert, Jan Stratmann, Maurice Clavel and Frederic Funk.
Once on the bike, Funk sliced through the men ahead like a knife through butter. For a few kilometers, top cyclists Magnus Ditlev, Raelert, Pieter Heemeryck, Stratmann, Dapena Gonzalez and Phillip Bahlke hung on grimly before Funk left them in his supercharged wake.
After 60 kilometers, Funk had a 2-minute lead on Ditlev and Bahlke, and 2 more minutes on the rest.
By the bike to run transition, Funk arrived with a 4-minute lead on Bahlke and 6 minutes on Stratmann and 7 minutes on Raelert and Maurice Clavel.
Fueled by his heady bike leg, Funk did not give away his lead and finished in 3:44:49 with a 4:36 margin on Stratmann, who had a hard fought 31 seconds advantage on 3rd place finisher Maurice Clavel, who fought off a hard charging Dapena Gonzalez by 8 seconds.
Anna-Lena Best-Pohl led the women's swim with a 28:41 split that gave her a small lead on Lisa Norden of Sweden, then 30 more seconds on Simmonds. Further back were Maja Stage-Nielsen, and Anne Haug.
On the bike, Norden and Simmonds took charge and both women had a 2:30 lead over Stage-Nielsen and Haug. Soon thereafter, Simmonds passed Norden, while Haug charged hard and sliced into Simmonds’ lead. With 30 kilometers to ride, Haug trailed Simmonds. by 90 seconds.
At that point, Simmonds recharged and rebuilt her lead to 3 minutes over Haug by T2. Regrettably, Haug made a mistake in transition suffered a one-minute penalty that increased her deficit to 4 minutes starting the run.
Motivated by a never-say-die attitude, Haug flew through the run and caught Simmonds with meters to go. Challenge Media asked Haug: “How much did it hurt?” “Very much the last [kilometer],” said Haug.
Haug finished in 4:20:17 with a 14 seconds margin on Simmonds and 4:47 over third place finisher Juliane Höfer.
How did it feel to lead for much of the race and lose at the end? ”If you feel really good you gotta go for it,” Simmonds told Challenge Media. “So, I just tried to play my cards as best I could. I pushed very hard and I got a bit of a gap. But clearly not enough. I am pretty happy with my race. This was the best run I have ever done.”
Challenge St Polten
St. Polten, Austria
May 30, 2021
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 Mi.
1. Frederic Funk (GER) 3:44:49
2. Jan Stratmann (GER) 3:49:25 +4:36
3. Maurice Clavel (GER) 3:49:56 +5:07
4. Pablo Dapena Gonzalez (ESP) 3:50:04 +5:15
5. Thomas Steger (AUT) 3:51:01 +6:12
6. Ruedi Wild (SUI) 3:51:08 +6:19
1. Anne Haug (GER) 4:20:17
2. Imogen Simmonds (SUI) 4:20:31 +00:14
3. Maja Stage-Nielsen (DEN) 4:29:36 +9:19
4. Laura Siddall (GBR) 4::29:46 +9:29
5. Laura Jensen (GER) 4:31:03 +10:45
6. Laura Zimmerman (GER) 4:32:02 +11:45