A long-running and iconic iron distance race set in a beautiful part of Germany. More than 200,000 spectators make it one of the most atmospheric tris in the world but don’t be fooled – it’s tough.
Where: Roth, Germany
Official race website HERE
- Make sure you put the right things in the right transition bags
- Train for an undulating bike course that will prevent you getting a rhythm.
- Be careful with your pacing of the bike section because on the second lap you can go too hard on the hills which can sting your legs.
- Make use of the feed stations on the run as there isn’t much shelter from the sun
- Listen to music on the run – it’s unusally that triathlons allow this so make use of it!
- Enjoy the scenery and say ‘guttentag!’ to all the people cheering you on.
What’s the organisation and set up like?
This is well-established and well-oiled machine. You sign up online (if you’re lucky enough to get a spot as it is very popular!) and you’re kept up to date on things through regular email updates.
Most athletes will make a full weekend of it and days of activities are put on for traveling triathletes. A massive expo is set up in a specially built triathlon park where there is a pasta party the night before the race.
A large, purpose-built arena is also set up for the finish line and there are tons of bars and restaurants catering for racers and their spectators.
In the build up you get given different draw-string bags for your swim, bike and run plus one for your kit for after the race. Make sure you read the instructions and put the right bits of kit in the right bags or you could be running in your bike shoes and swimming in your cycle helmet! The transition is split so it’s really important to make sure you have the right bag in the right place.
On race day everything is really well organised. There are tons of stewards telling triathletes where to go and there are shuttle buses put on to help with transport for races and spectators.
The bike part is held on empty roads and local police make sure no cars interfere with things which is great.
As part of the cycle you go through loads of small German towns where there are lots of people to cheer you on and stewards with megaphones are at the feed stations shouting out your name as encouragement.
What’s the course like?
It all takes place in a beautiful part of Germany with castles on rugged hillsides, tree-lined roads and cobbled streets on the run. It’s all very traditionally German – not a touristy part of the country at all.
The 3.86 km swim takes place in the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal around 10 km outside Roth. The water is lovely – flat and warm.
It’s just legal for a wetsuit and although the visibility is very cloudy, there is lots of space in the wide channel for swimmers to spread out and not beat each other up too much.
The 180.25 km bike course uses a two-lap course on the countryside, mostly south of Roth. The southernmost point is Greding. The course is mostly relatively flat with a tough hill once per lap.
The run goes once around a course with several turning points. Mostly the course goes on the same road after each turning points, so competitors meet each other. A major part of the course is along the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal. The finish is in central Roth in the purpose-built stadium which is brilliant.
How difficult is Challenge Roth?
It’s not easy! The atmosphere makes up for a lot of the painful parts but it’s still a tough, and usually hot day of racing.
The bike leg is fast but rolling along smooth roads. Some of the hills can sting your legs a bit but the only real challenge is the famous Solar Berg which is a 1/2 mile long monster. The good thing is there is a wall of people on the hill cheering you on which means you don’t really realise how step it is. Another big hill is in Greding which is about 2 miles long but not as steep.
The are a lot of iron distance races with more hilly bike courses but this one is undulating all the way so hard to get a good pace going.
The run is pan flat and along gravel so on a good surface for running but there isn’t any shelter from the sun so it can sap energy. However, there are plenty of feed stations along the way.
How’s the atmosphere?
It’s amazing almost the entire way around. During the swim , lots of people walk along the entire length with rattles and balloon bashers. It’s so loud you can hear it underwater!
Throughout the bike there are loads of people in the towns cheering you on with traditional Brevarian outfits drinking in bars outside. Likewise on the run there aren’t many quiet moments.
The whole town comes alive for the weekend of racing and the finish line atmosphere is really something special.
What is there to do Après Race?
Tons. Outside the town there is a large swimming lake with a beach and the campsites are really good in the area not to mention the excellent bars and restaurants. There’s a festival atmosphere in the town so the fun isn’t over when you cross the line.
My Race Diary
By Mark White
Top age group racer and triathlon coach
Lots of events and night runs and the finish is like a festival
Raced in: 2013
Time: 9hrs 23mins
Course PB: 9 hrs 6 mins
This was my 7th time at Challenge Roth. My best is 9:06 so I was trying to break the 9hr mark. I came out of water at 57 mins so within the hour I was on the bike which was a great start for me.
I was feeling strong on the bike and on course for a 4hr 45min bike split but then at about 80miles disaster struck. My bike started rattling and chain wobbled about then my pedal arm fell off and I was peddling with one leg!
Within 5 miles I went from feeling good to disaster. I pedaled for 5 miles on one leg until a German bloke came and helped with his alan key.
It got the bike going again but I only had one gear and it was still not fixed so I ended up with a 5hr 5mins bike split.
I was 20 mins down on the time I wanted so found it hard to dig deep on the marathon so I just enjoyed it and took it all in on my 3hr 17min marathon.
I ended up with 9:23. I’ll be back again to try and break 9hrs!