Timo Bracht may be picked as the favourite for DATEV Challenge Roth 2013 but he will have a fight on his hands from defending champion, James Cunama (RSA). Last year, Bracht had to acknowledge defeat to Cunnama. Now, the 37-year-old athlete, who finished sixth in Hawaii, is planning to have his revenge, taking his place on top of the winner’s podium – because a victory at Challenge Roth is still missing in his career. Cunnama from Port Elizabeth, who is eight years younger than Bracht, will not make it easy for Bracht. With his victory at the 11th Challenge Roth in 2012, in just under the magic eight hours (7:59:59 hours), he was not only able to celebrate his second success in a long-distance race, but he also reached 14th place in the current ranking of world-record times.
Two further Olympic athletes join the field: Dirk Bockel (LUX), and was among the squad of the Olympic Games of Beijing in 2007, along with 35-year-old Maik Petzold (GER) who recently competed in the London Olympics and is aiming for the Roth long-distance competition to become the highlight of his triathlon career. Cameron Brown (NZL) could again be among the best athletes as well, after having finished fourth in last year’s Challenge Roth and he is joined by fellow Kiwi and Challenge Wanaka 2013 champion, Dylan McNeice.Other athletes of note in clude Georg Potrebitsch, Markus Fachbach and Konstantin Bachor who delivered the fastest split in 2012. Lothar Leder, the "king of Roth", will again return to the place of his greatest success. His fans in Roth will again roll out the red carpet for him.
Roth will again live up to its reputation of having the season’s best field of female starters. Current world champion Leanda Cave will lead the field that features four out of the seven top finishers in Hawaii. 35-year-old Cave from Great Britain is widely regarded as one of the best female triathletes in the world. Since her last Challenge Roth appearance in 2008, she has attained the title of World Champion four times and is now seen as the favourite for 2013. With an impressive field of world-class athletes, Leanda Cave will have to face more competitors than she will probably like. Rachel Joyce (GBR) is back to defend her last year’s title while Joanna Lawn from New Zealand will also come to Roth and is strong enough to reach a top position. Since 2003, she has won Ironman New Zealand seven times – with only one interruption in 2009.
Yvonne van Vlerken, the "flying Dutchwoman" is also returning to Roth. She has won Challenge Roth twice in 2007 and 2008, and even established a new world record of 8:45:48 in 2008, making triathlon history. Caroline Steffen is switching cities for 2013. Last year’s winner of the Ironman Frankfurt, has often proved that she is part of the world’s elite – most recently with her second place in Hawaii.
The strong international field will certainly spur top German athletes Julia Gajer and Sonja Tajsich for a home victory. For 31-year-old Gajer it would mean gaining the final place on the Challenge Roth podium after a second place in 2011 and a third in 2012. Since her maternity leave, Sonja Tajsich has won Ironman Regensburg and IM South Africa in 2010. The latest success of 37-year-old Tajsich was her fourth place in Hawaii 2012.
And the fans of the "best old race" may look forward to two special darlings of the Roth public: double Roth winner (2003 and 2004) Nicole Leder will again take part after several years of absence – and of course Belinda Granger, the 2005 Challenge Roth winner from Australia who calls Roth her second home, will race her 10th and final Challenge Roth.
Challenge Roth 2012 champion, Rachel Joyce, climbs the famous Solar Berg on her way to victory - Picture Credit: Getty Images