In Uzbekistan, Samarkand, Frederic Funk and Ellie Salthouse have just recorded phenomenal victories at the eponymous Challenge. The first edition of Challenge Samarkand was characterized by almost insane speeds, a beautiful race location and Emma Pallant-Browne who crossed the finish line completely broken. Sebastian Kienle unfortunately did not start; he was too sick to race.
In the men’s race, Frederic Funk still came out of the water behind Aaron Royle; the swim part took place in a beautiful rowing course amidst several luxurious hotels and the wind made for pretty tough conditions. Royle then stayed out of Funk’s hands on the bike for about fifteen kilometers, but the German athlete was so relentlessly strong, riding almost constantly above 50 kilometers per hour, that he quickly caught up to Royle and also rode away from him immediately. From then on, Funk kept pushing full speed and saw his lead increase all the way to T2.
Along the way, the athletes visited the historic “old city” of Samarkand and a striking detail was that even the professional athletes occasionally feasted their eyes and enjoyed all the splendor the city has to offer. The locals had turned out en masse and at times lined up along the course. Funk hung his bike back in T2 when there was an average of about 47 kilometers per hour on his counter.
Funk eventually started the closing half marathon with a lead of about two minutes over Royle and three minutes over Filipe Azevedo. In the first ten kilometers, the differences remained about the same, but in the second half of the run Funk managed to increase his lead a bit. In the end, Funk won the race in 3:38:34. Royle was second in 3:41:35 and Azevedo third in 3:43:45.
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Ellie Salthouse supreme, Emma Pallant-Browne breaks
In the women’s race, no one was equal to Ellie Salthouse today. Biggest favorite was Emma Pallant-Browne, but as expected, Australian Salthouse came out of the water first and already had an excellent lead over her British competitor. Nothing changed on the bike; even the opposite happened, Salthouse’s lead actually only increased. There were two reasons for this: Salthouse was of an impressive level today, but at the same time Pallant-Browne simply experienced a difficult day.
This was especially evident during the run, when Salthouse, in turn, just kept going in an impressive way to the finish. Pallant-Browne briefly had to stop sometimes to vomit and was visibly struggling with the heat. The temperature rose to around 25 degrees, but today that proved too much for the British athlete.
Salthouse eventually won the race in 4:02:54. Nearly ten minutes later, Pallant-Browne crossed the finish line in 4:12:50, visibly broken and fully reaching her limit. She was barely able to walk herself anymore and, of course, could not give interviews. Soon the British athlete was taken away by medical personnel so that she could recover the best way possible. Third place went to Italy’s Margie Santimaria, who crossed the line after 4:18:16.
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Here you’ll find interviews with the top three men and women (except Pallant-Browne, ed.):