Kyle Smith wins blisteringly fast and exciting The Championship

Kyle Smith calls home after The Championship victory (Picture: Triathlon Today)

It was perhaps the most thrilling edition of The Championship in years – and it was a lightning fast edition as well – that people could enjoy from start to finish. In a race where a lot happened and where several athletes seemed to have a claim to victory, in the end it was New Zealander Kyle Smith who took the prestigeous win.

The Championship, Challenge Family’s Middle Distance flagship event where dozens of the world’s best professional athletes show up every year, started out striking right away. Where it might have been expected that some athletes would break away from the large group already in the water, that actually hardly happened. 70.3 World Champion Rico Bogen at least took the initiative and got out of the water after 22:21 minutes, but within 24 seconds seventeen men followed and actually all the favorites were still together.

This logically made for a large leading group on the bike, where there was remarkably fair riding and athletes clearly stayed within twenty meters of each other. After Bogen and Funk took the lead a few times, it was then Dane Kristian Hogenhaug who boldly went on an adventure and grabbed a lead of about twenty seconds. That stayed that way for quite a long time, but about halfway through the 90 kilometers he saw the chasing group approaching again and everyone got back together.

That was not entirely to Funk’s liking; the German accelerated once again with about 25 kilometers to go and with speeds that sometimes reached almost 60 kilometers per hour, he saw his lead grow to one minute within a few kilometers. Even that wasn’t enough for him, because in the last ten kilometers he doubled that lead and so he returned to T2 with a gap of almost two minutes. That the race was lightning fast was evident when Funk’s bike time became clear: 1:48:48 over 90 kilometers, good for a new bike course record. The biggest absentee in the chasing group was Pieter Heemeryck, who initially had a good connection, but eventually lost more than a minute in the closing stages of the bike leg.

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Frederic Funk hits a new bike course record at The Championship (Picture: Challenge Family)

Funk started the half marathon with a comfortable lead, but already in the first kilometers it became clear that he really could not take it easy towards the finish. Indeed, the German could not prevent Kyle Smith, who was really flying, from approaching with lightning speed and after only five kilometers had already made up his two-minute deficit and immediately took over the lead in the race. Meanwhile, Bogen, about thirty seconds behind, was also closing in.

In the kilometers that followed, it appeared that Smith was going all out for the win; his lead grew to over a minute and a half on Funk between kilometer 5-15, but then there were still six kilometers to run. Behind them, the battle for bronze seemed to be a particularly exciting one, as Bogen began to struggle more and more with the high pace, suddenly losing a lot of time and seeing both Hogenhaug and Stepniak closing in. Not much later, completely beaten by the heat, he was overtaken by them.

In the final kilometers, Smith, who did exactly what he had to do, was no longer in danger of winning. His lead even widened slightly before he won the race in 3:27:10. Funk took a nice second place in 3:29:24. Behind them was an exciting battle for bronze, between Hogenhaug and Stepniak, which was eventually won by Hogenhaug. He finished third in 3:29:56.