A spectacular day’s racing at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee saw Frederic Funk (DEU) and Simone Kumhofer (AUT) take victories but they had to work hard for it with plenty of exciting battles in both the men’s and women’s races during the long, hot day. For Funk it was the successful defence of his title and for Kumhofer, it was her first middle distance victory as a professional athlete.
Svenn Thalmann (SUI) led out of the water in 22:01, followed by Florian Angert (DEU) 30 seconds down and Mattia Ceccarelli (ITA) in third. Then there was a gap to a group of four that included Funk who led the group out of T1 1:13 down. There was no surprise when Angert and then Funk quickly took ownership of the bike, at time hitting speeds of 90km on the downhills and no-one could keep up! But Funk was here to win and he dropped his Erdinger team mate and within 5km had put 1:30 into Angert, continuing to extend his lead to 4:10 by the time he arrived into T2. Perhaps the surprise in the early part of the bike was that Long seemed to be struggling to improve his eighth position and could not close the gap. However, by the halfway point he’d found his yo yo yo mojo and had ridden up into third before overtaking Angert and taking second at the 65km mark. Heading out on the run, it was Funk’s race to lose. He had 3:45 coming out of T2 on Long and Angert was 5:41 down. There was some drama at the end of the first lap when Long was awarded a dismount penalty, increasing his deficit to Funk by a further minute and in the meantime, the youngest professional of the day, Panagiotis Bitados (GRE) moved into third, pushing Angert off the podium. Each lap, Long was taking about a minute out of Funk but the question was, did he have enough real estate to overtake and take the win. In the end it was Funk who successfully defended his title to take the win in 3:36:01. Long took second place in 3:38:07 and also claimed the fastest run split of 1:12:45 and Bitados rounded out the podium in third in 3:42:20, a successful first middle distance race as a professional at just 18-years-old.
“It’s my favourite race as it’s my home race,” said Funk. “I grew up 20km from here across the border in Germany and trained here during my youth and it’s so good to see so many familiar faces. The organisation is amazing and the scenery is incredible. It’s not every day that you beat somone like Sam Long and in this respect it was probably one of my best races. The overall performance was solid. It was really hot on the run and I was really happy I brought I home.”
Here you’ll find interviews with the top three athletes. Text continues below the videos.
In the women’s race, Lotte Wilms (NED) led out of the water, as expected, in 25:25 followed by Amy Cymerman (USA) in second and Franzi Reng (DEU). Behind them, Kumhofer was gaining pace using her knowledge of the course and confidence on the climbs and descents to pick off all three and take the lead by the halfway point. She came into T2 with a lead of over three minutes on Wilms and Sarah Schönfelder who was in third 3:57 down having ridden up from sixth place out of the swim. Throughout the 21.1km run, no-one came close to challenging Kumhofer and she took a convincing win in 4:17:11, the first Austrian female to take victory in the history of the event. For a while it seemed Wilms may relinquish her second place as the heat and tough bike took its toll on the run. However, she rallied in the final lap and held on to take second in 4:18:17 and Cymerman took the final place on the podium in 4:21:30.Text continues below picture
““I’m so stoked because it’s the biggest victory of my career,” said Kumhofer. “I have a full time job, so triathlon is my big passion and to win at home is amazing. I’m super proud to be the first Austrian woman to win at Walchsee. It was really hot but I really love a hilly and technical course, it suits me well and that was my biggest benefit today. I was so done in the last lap but I knew I could do it, I knew the gap with Lotte was getting closer but, well, now we will have a big party tonight!”