It may be the first edition of Challenge Canberra, yet this coming weekend will immediately kick off with a superb pro field. A great battle is expected in both the women’s and men’s races, with Fenella Langridge and Daniel Baekkegard as the biggest favorites.
Fenella Langridge has had a great season so far, finishing seventh at The Championship this season, fourth at Challenge Roth and also picking up a blistering victory at Challenge London. The top British athlete would love to add another win to 2023, and so she will start at Challenge Canberra full of confidence. Langridge knows the eyes are on her, but knows better than anyone how to deal with the pressure and might even perform a little better when it’s showtime.
On paper, Langridge’s biggest competitor is Radka Kahlefeldt. The Czech born has lived in Australia for years and also has that nationality nowadays, so enjoys the benefit of the home crowd for sure. More importantly, Kahlefeldt has had a more than stellar season, finishing second in no less than five major races. However, a win is still missing in 2023, and so Kahlefeldt will be looking to change that in Canberra.
In addition, many eyes are on Els Visser as well. The top Dutch athlete also had a wonderful season, culminating in winning the European Long Distance title at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam. In front of home crowds at the time, the pressure was high, but Visser handled it superbly and ran to victory in phenomenal fashion. At Challenge Canberra she will do everything possible to take her place on the top step of the podium again. Visser (fourth) and Langridge (eighth) also rank high in the Challenge Family World Bonus standings, so extra reason to battle for a top ranking in Canberra. Other women to watch out for will include Chloe Hartnett, Kate Gillespie-Jones and Cassie Heaslip; all Australians.
Among the men, the biggest favorite is Daniel Baekkegard: the Dane is currently fifteenth within the Challenge Family World Bonus standings and could move up a huge number of places – and thus prize money – with a victory in Canberra. With several fine performances under his belt so far, with a third place at Clash Miami and fourth place at Challenge Roth being the standouts this year, Baekkegard is still waiting for his first win of 2023. At Challenge Canberra, therefore, the pressure will be high, but he too has proven several times that he can handle it just fine.
Biggest competition for Baekkegard is expected from four Australians: Kurt McDonald, Caleb Noble, Benjamin Hill and Jarrod Osborne. Among these four powerhouses, these men may also be looking out for each other, because in their own country it is extra nice to be the first Australian to cross the finish line. Of course, the main focus remains the Challenge Canberra win, as that would immediately give the Australians the ‘double’.