10 July 2012
James Cunnama raced to a first ever victory by a South African triathlete in the 2012 Challenge Roth – which also served as the European Long Distance Triathlon Championships – in Germany on Sunday.
It was Cunnama’s third attempt at the race. Previously he finished sixth in 2010, while he was forced to withdraw last year.
Recognised as the “heart of the triathlon”, the event consists of a 3.8 kilometre swim, a 180 kilometre cycle and a standard marathon of 42.2 kilometres.
Around 3 100 athletes, along with 600 relay teams, from over 50 nations took part, with about 200 000 spectators lining up along the course to take in the action.
Broke the magical eight-hour mark
With a stunning performance, Cunnama just broke the magical eight-hour mark for a long distance triathlon, clocking seven hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
After the swim, he, along with race favourite Timo Bracht of Germany, was about a minute-and-a-half behind the leader, Benjamin Samson of France, who clocked 45:58 for the 3.8 kilometres.
The cycle stage belonged to another German, however, with Konstantin Bachor putting in a superb ride to open up a 10 minute lead over Cunnama and Bracht at the transition.
On the final stage, the pair ran together for the first part of the run, but at about the halfway mark Cunnama started to pull clear of the German star. Bachor, meanwhile, was taking strain and Cunnama soon took the lead away from him before pressing on to take an inspiring victory.
‘I am extremely happy’
At the finish, he said: “This is an iconic race. You hear about it, you dream about it. You read the names of the big ones that win and now I am standing here. I am extremely happy!”
He added: “When you win Roth, you are someone in our sport. For me, a dream comes true today.”
Discussing his break from Bracht on the run, Cunnama said: “I could keep up my speed while Timo had problems for a little while. That made the difference today.”
Bracht finished second to lift the European title, for which Cunnama was not eligible, in 8:03:28. Switzerland’s Mike Aigroz claimed the final podium position in 8:08:28.
Victory in the women’s race went to Britain’s Rachel Joyce in 8:45:04, with Germany’s Sonja Tajsich and Julia Gajer in second and third respectively.
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