Petr Vabrousek (CZE) and Yvette Grice (GBR) have taken out the inaugural titles at Challenge Henley-on-Thames at the weekend.
The men’s race started off looking like the battle was going to be between Aaron Farlow (AUS) and Stephen Bayliss (GBR), who was first out of the water, with Lothar Leder (GER) retiring early on the bike leg. But with only 20k to go there were just two minutes separating the top six men. Farlow was first off the bike in 4:43:13 but it was the man from the Czech Republic, Petr Vabousek who proved to be the strong man on the day becoming the eventual Challenge Henley champion by just over a minute after a 2:53:47 run split in a final time of 8:37:58. Nicholas Peter Ward Munoz took second in 8:39:33 with Aaron Farlow holding on to third spot in 8:40:10.
“Despite the cold start, the race went very well and for me, as a former rower, it was quite iconic. I paced myself properly through the whole race and it paid off,” said Vabrousek.
The ladies race was equally dramatic, with its own twists and turns throughout the day. Three-times Norseman winner Susanne Buckenlei (GER) had to withdraw on the run and after an impressive bike, it was UK athlete Yvette Grice, who looked the strongest at the start of the run course, despite being four minutes off the pace set by Kiwi Candice Hammond. This strength was carried through the entire marathon run as she became the Challenge Henley champion in a time of 9:47:35, just 50 seconds in front of Charisa Wernick (USA). They were over seven minutes ahead of 3rd place Lou Collins (GBR) in 9:54:58. Despite having the fastest bike split of the day and leading out on to the run, Kiwi athlete Candice Hammond dropped down to 4th spot missing the top three spot by just 40 seconds.
The inaugural Challenge Henley on Thames took place against a historical backdrop with stunning scenery. Thousands of spectators lined the routes to support athletes of all abilities as they took on the Challenge of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run.
Competitors started the race at the prestigious Henley Business School and as the mist cleared and the sun shone through the competitors completed their 3.8k swim on the Royal Regatta Course made famous by GB Olympic rowers.
The triathletes then put themselves through a fast paced three-lap closed road cycle which featured a steady 15km climb up Pishill and a slightly steeper ride on the dual carriageway from Henley to Nettlebed with sweeping descents through the Chiltern Hills. This was followed by a fast four lap run course next to the River Thames, with thousands coming out to support the athletes.