Michael Raelert captured the inaugural Challenge Bahrain and hefty part of the $500,000 purse with a time of 3:36:04. after he ran down long time leader Andreas Dreitz. Helle Frederiksen took the women's title in 3:55:50 after a long battle with Jodie Swallow, Rachel Joyce and Annabel Luxford.
Dylan McNeice led the men out of the water in 21:12 with Pete Jacobs and Michael Raelert next and a host of others coming in soon after. Sebastian Kienle reached T1 about 2 minutes later and then set out on chasing down the frontrunners. Timo Bracht and Dirk Bockel did not have a good swim and continued to struggle as the race continued.
Once on the bike Pete Jacobs set the early pace but it did not take very long for Michael Raelert to take over. Tim Reed, Brad Kahlefeldt, Luke Bell, Nils Frommhold and Tim Don were also riding in strong positions after solid swims and as expected Sebastian Kienle moved up through the field. At the 30k mark Raelert was still in the lead, but by now German Andreas Dreitz had moved into second position with Reed and Kienle next. Sadly though Kienle pulled over to the side soon after with a reported flat tire and that meant the end of the race for the current Ironman and multiple 70.3 World Champion. Dreitz, who is an upcoming German talent, smoothly pedaled along and pushed into the lead near the 50k mark and stayed up front until the second transition with a race best 1:57:21 bike split.
Raelert came off the bike next about 2 minutes later and he was followed by Reed. A group of four with Don, Frommhold, Plese and Bell were next and Eneko Llanos also finally was in the picture.
Dreitz looked quite stiff as he started the run but Raelert on the other hand was much more fluid and relaxed looking. On paper the younger Raelert clearly was the faster runner of the two front running Germans and he had recently shown that he was back in good form with nice wins at 70.3 Ballarat and 70.3 Mandurah. Raelert indeed showed again that he was in form and moved closer to Dreitz and made the pass in the second half of the run. Meanwhile behind them the chasers also started to sort themselves out. Reed ran well and kept running in third position, but behind them that group of 4 quickly exploded. Plese and Frommhold charged out of T2 with determination, but both men started to struggle soon after and ended up dropping out of contention. Don on the other hand was very steady and dropped all his compatriots, but could not gain time on Reed and that left him in 4th place. Raelert up front steadily pulled away and captured the win in 3:36:04 after a race best 1:10:19 run and earned $100,000 - one of the richest payouts in triathlon these days. Dreitz struggled at the end but hung tough for second place in 3:38:24. Timbo Reed made the Aussies and himself happy with the final podium spot in 3:39:26.
“If you win such a great race, it feels fantastic,” said Raelert. “It is great to win, but even better to be back.”
Jodie Swallow led the women out of the water in 22:39 with Annabel Luxford, Meredith Kessler, Helle Frederiksen, Mary Beth Ellis and several other favorites not far behind.
Swallow then set the pace up front, but Rachel Joyce, Helle Frederiksen and Annabel Luxford were staying in striking distance. ITU stars Jodie Stimpson and Lisa Norden were also near, but started to drift away slowly. At the 30k mark Caroline Steffen, and Meredith Kessler were already 2.5 minutes down and continued to lose time, with Kessler feeling more of the damage. 3-time Ironman World Champion and 2014 Challenge Roth champion Mirinda Carfrae was not even in the picture and never really factored in. Angela Naeth had lost 3 minutes to the swim leaders but with a race best 2:10:14 bike split the Canadian moved into 5th place right behind the front running quartet of Swallow, Joyce, Frederiksen and Luxford. Those four all ended up with bike splits around 2:12:30 and that meant Naeth had closed the gap to about a minute. Melissa Hauschildt reached the bike-run transition in 6th place about 4 minutes outside of the lead. We are unsure as to what happened to Mary Beth Ellis, but the fast American also known as honey badger somehow disappeared from the front of the race.
Frederiksen and Luxford charged out of transition first, with Swallow and Joyce next a few steps behind. Swallow then turned on the afterburners on the run and moved up to Frederiksen who had dropped Luxford. Frederiksen pushed the pace hard on the run to get rid of her companion, but Swallow hung tough. Eventually however the elastic band snapped and Frederiksen pulled away. At the 8.6k mark Frederiksen was 23 seconds up on Swallow, 1:22 on Joyce, 1:39 on Luxford and 2:53 on Naeth, and Hauschildt still looked at a disadvantage of over 4 minutes and just could not close the gap. Joyce eventually pulled up to Swallow and passed her, but Frederiksen was simply out of reach. The fast Dane looked very smooth and strong and captured the win in 3:55:50 and just like Raelert earned $100,000 for her effort. Joyce finished second in 3:58:14 and Swallow stayed on the podium with a 3:58:39 and thus also got nice paychecks.
“I’m speechless because as many know I didn’t have the race I wanted at the World Champs so I wanted to make Challenge Bahrain my world championship and the field was actually better,” said Frederiksen.
2014 Challenge Bahrain
Bahrain, Bahrain / December 6, 2014
1.2m swim / 56m bike / 13.1m run
1. Michael Raelert (GER) 3:36:04
2. Andreas Dreitz (GER) 3:38:23
3. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:39:24
4. Tim Don (GBR) 3:41:06
5. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 3:42:06
6. James Cunnama (RSA) 3:44:29
7. Jeff Symonds (CAN) 3:44:55
8. Massimo Cigana (ITA) 3:45:40
9. Luke Bell (AUS) 3:46:24
10. Tim Van Berkel (AUS) 3:47:01
1. Helle Frederiksen (DEN) 3:55:50
2. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 3:58:14
3. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 3:58:39
4. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:00:17
5. Angela Naeth (CAN) 4:00:48
6. Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) 4:02:31
7. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:05:28
8. Jodie Stimpson (GBR) 4:05:51
9. Camilla Pedersen (DEN) 4:06:29
10. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:12:56