ALT ROTH: BAVARIA’S OTHER BUCKET LIST RACE
Are you drawn by the allure of racing in Europe, with idyllic backdrops and courses packed full of frenzied triathlon fans? Is Challenge Roth, which sells out in record time ( less then a minute), on your bucket list, but does its lightning-fast-to-fill registration elude you? Then check out Challenge Regensburg, now in its second year, for a Roth-like alternative that delivers big on a Roth-like atmosphere. It also delivers big on the athlete experience, in part due to the fact that Bavarian pro Sonja Tajsich shares race director duties with her husband Tom, who is also an avid sportsman.
But hurry. With the buzz following the 2016 inaugural race’s success and the news that Challenge Regensburg 2017 will serve as the DTU German Triathlon Long Distance Championship and that in 2018 the race will host the ETU European Triathlon Long Distance Championship, it’s only a matter of time until this recent addition to the Challenge Family race calendar draws its own sell- out crowd. Here’s what has Challenge Regensburg on the fast track to becoming a triathlon favourite.
Mirror- calm, the swim venue of Guggenberger See invites personal best performances. This immaculate lake sits 12 km from Regensburg centre (race morning shuttles deliver athletes to the start). Under a mesmerizing blanket of morning mist, you’ll attack the two-loop swim course, which switches directions at the midway point after a short sprint along the shore. It’s exceptionally well marked; you’ll never lose sight of the next buoy and strategically placed lane lines in the lake keep competitors clearly on course. Water temperatures waver between 22 to 24 C in summertime, so pack your neoprene but be prepared for both wetsuit and nonwetsuit conditions.
Also two loops, the bike course is a tour of fairytale charm. The Bavarian countryside is replete with rolling open farmland and thick forest, plus occasional quaint villages that break up the natural vistas. You’ll start a long stretch (nearly 14 km) of climbs at the 12-km mark and, although there’s a fair amount of uphill, it’s neither relentless nor too steep. Instead several flat and downhill sections staggered through the ascent provide relief, plus there’s plenty of shade to keep you comfortable. After you hit the bike course’s highest point in the town of Brennberg and enjoy a sweeping descent, the remainder of the course is relatively flat, with just enough bumps to keep it interesting. Throughout the course are several hotspots, and though these fan-generated cheering sections are in their infancy compared to infamous Solar Hill or the Biermeile (Beer Mile) at Challenge Roth, the spectators on hand are no less crazed with excitement for each and every competitor.
No matter how hard you’re struggling as you start the marathon, the Challenge Regensburg run course is bound to give you a boost. It’s four loops, making it mentally manageable to break out and tackle one 10-km loop at a time. Your spirit (and legs) will be lifted at the start of each lap by a 2-km section that traverses over a stone bridge and through the medieval city centre, with fans crowding the edges of the cordoned- off course. You’ll barely notice the cobbled streets underfoot, buoyed by the fervour of thousands of Germans emboldened by their love of endurance sport and strong Bavarian beer. (A food and music festival also takes place in Regensburg on race weekend, with attendees adding extra numbers to the race spectator ranks.) Continuing on, the course transitions to a shaded park path (a mix of paved and soft surface) alongside the Danube River, with enough onlookers cheering en route to help maintain your motivation.
After your fourth lap, a short final leg leads through the cheering masses to a length of red carpet and the twin spires of “The Dom” (St. Peter’s Cathedral), a Gothic architectural masterpiece that serves as a beacon in the city centre and marks the finish of the race. It’s an unparalleled finish venue that Sonja and Tom Tajsich were adamant about securing when they revamped the former Ironman Regensburg (which ran from 2010–2012), bringing it under the Challenge Family umbrella.
Around and About Regensburg
Outside of the race itself, the UNESCO world heritage city of Regensburg and the surrounding region are chock full of European charm and unadulterated scenic beauty. It’s an ideal easy access racecation destination full of familiar comforts to keep race week stress at bay and activities to keep your triathlon support crew entertained. Fly into Munich (serviced by non-stop flights from Toronto and Montreal) and reach Regensburg by rental car or train (about an hour and a half journey). Once inside the medieval city centre don’t rely on your GPS, as directions are easily muddled; but after a few hours spent exploring you’ll easily know your way around. Or, ask anyone for directions. English is widely spoken and residents in the city are friendly and eager to help.
Often referred to as “Italy’s northernmost city,” Regensburg retains a Mediterranean feel reflected in its casual café culture atmosphere and endless culinary offerings. Italian fare (ideal for carbo-loading) features prominently, plus beer gardens, bakeries and gelaterias abound. Stop into L’osteria Regensburg for delicious pastas and giant woodfired pizzas, nearly equal in size to the circumference of a race wheel. Carnivores will delight in the Historische Wurstkuchl, a 500-year- old sausage kitchen serving typical sausages with homemade sauerkraut and mustard. Do not leave town post-race without sampling one (or many) of several featured chocolate flavours at craft gelato maker Diba Chocolat. There’s also a large grocery market (Rewe) and two natural foods stores in the city centre for all your fuelling needs. Stay at Hotel Münchner Hof, just 200 metres from the Challenge Regensburg finish line and full of modern amenities mixed with old world appeal.
Last minute training opportunities abound in Regensburg, with endless miles of bike/run paths stretching out in all directions and safety conscious cycling specific traffic lights at every major intersection. You – and the multitudes of triathletes, day cruisers and cycling tourists – will ride almost entirely protected from vehicle traffic, with plenty of space to navigate around your two-wheeled brethren. Regensburg is also home to an all-weather track and two lap swimming pools, just a short walk from the city centre. Endurance sports retailer Purendure (owned by race directors Tom and Sonja Tajsich) has you covered for any forgotten gear.
You and your support crew will stay happily occupied with the hundreds of unique boutique shops scattered throughout the city’s winding streets, plus interesting architecture, historical sites and photo opportunities galore. There’s even a fascinating golf museum, if that’s what you and your entourage are into. And while there’s a trendy element to Regensburg (in addition to its medieval history it’s a hip university town), you’re sure to see men, women and children dressed in traditional Bavarian dirndls and lederhosen – plus plenty of shops where you can buy your own, from budget to couture.
Cheers – from Everyone!
The support you’ll experience at Challenge Regensburg is worthy of special mention. For one, your fellow competitors are a warm and welcoming bunch, cheering one another on in the thick of competition. As an international athlete, with the Canadian flag affixed to your race bib, you’ll be revered with special respect and encouragement (especially as the event is still in its early stages and athletes from outside of Europe are somewhat of an anomaly).
The race staff and volunteers are seasoned pros, many having personal race experience and all exhibiting boundless enthusiasm for your big day. And the fans? Racing in Europe – and Bavaria in particular – is simply something you need to experience first-hand. The gastfreundschaft (German for hospitality) is rampant on race day. Cheers of “Hop, hop, hop!” “Jawohl!” “Bravo!” and “Respect!” – plus a number of German phrases you’re unlikely to understand outside of their positive, pumped up sentiments – will ring in your ears long after you cross the finish, and will pull you to return year after year.
The second edition of Challenge Regensburg takes place on Aug. 13, 2017. In addition to the traditional individual full- distance race (3.8-km swim, 180-km bike, 42.2-km run), the event offers a relay division (teams of three) and a new Challenge For Two option, wherein an athletic duo each tackles half the distance of each discipline. There’s also a Women’s Run, a Kids’ Run and a Beginners’ Triathlon. For details and to register for the 2017 race, visit en. challenge-regensburg. com.
TRAINING Go to Your Happy Place
GEAR Huub Kickpant TRAINING Does Your Cycling Need Work? 24
GEAR Garneau Gennix TR1
Bring your grumpy mood to the pool.
Everyone has off-mood days, but recognize that the people around are not to blame for whatever is bothering you. ( Well, hopefully they aren’t.)
Disrespect the coach or the workout.
Whether you are complaining in front of everyone or just sowing seeds of discontent in the showers after the workout, you’re bumming everyone out. If you don’t feel the coach or her sessions have earned your respect, train elsewhere.
Ultimately what you need to ask yourself is this: “If everyone did what I’m doing, would it be chaos or harmony?” A positive training environment starts from the top down, but ultimately it’s up to the athletes to create the space they want to be in.