|Not a member? Sign up now!|
New Zealand professional triathlete Merryn Johnston has finished third in the latest Challenge event in Germany, Challenge Kraichgau.
A strong international field lined up for the half Ironman distance race, including multiple Ironman champion Rebekah Keat (AUS), Tiina Bowman (FIN) winner of Ironman Lanzarote 2007; Wenke Kujala (GER) second in last year's event and 3rd in Ironman Germany 2008 and the late registration of multiple Ironman winner Lisbeth Kristensen (DEN).
The day dawned perfectly: cool, calm, sunny. It promised to be hot with temperatures forecast to reach 30 degrees.
The swim took place in a small lake with a water temperature of a comfortable 20 degrees. Rebekah Keat first woman and Lisbeth Kristensen second. Wanaka’s Johnston emerged from the water in the top 10.
The course tested athletes' ability to pace themselves on some tough climbs. In total there were 1200 vertical metres of climbing amongst the forests, old towns, and cobble stoned streets with spectators enthusiastically cheering. The bike course is considered one of the most challenging on the world circuit.
Rebekah Keat, winner of Challenge France a week ago, led from the swim and extended her lead during the bike, whilst further behind her, women jostled for the minor placings with Johnston ending the bike leg in 7th.
The temperature reached the 30 degrees predicted by the time the athletes hit the run, making the 3 lap course all the more demanding. The run became quite congested with 1800 athletes on the small 7km loop.
Rebekah Keat maintained her lead throughout and Lisbeth held on to her 2nd placing, however the surprise of the day was Johnston posting the second fastest run split of the women's field, her 1 hour 27 minutes taking time out of Keat and gaining 3 places to finish just 20 seconds behind second at the line.
Johnston now turns to her main focus, Challenge Roth Germany in mid July but will have a few days recovery from this event before her buildup to Roth begins in earnest.
1.8km swim, 90km bike, 21km run
1 Rebekah Keat (AUS) 4:32:59
2 Lisbeth Kristiansen (DEN) 4:40:40
3 Merryn Johnston (NZL, Wanaka) 4:41:25