Penagiotis Bitados and Julie Derron to wet victories Challenge Walchsee

Julie Derron wins Challenge Walchsee (Picture: Challenge Family)

It was a maiden win for Panagiotis Bitados (GRE) today at Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee as he crossed the line in first place in 3:41:42 after a blistering 1:09:24 run. Julie Derron (SUI) took her second win of the year in 4:03:38 with the next race on her schedule, the Olympics in Paris.

Despite the low cloud obscuring the mountains, there was no wind and swim conditions were perfect. The women set off first, 10 minutes ahead of the pro men and it was local athlete, Therese Feuersinger who led out the water in her first middle distance race in 24:01. She is also reserve for the Austrian Olympic team. She led with a comfortable 1:39 over Alanis Siffert (SUI), Olympian Julie Derron (SUI) and Lilli Gelmini (ITA) who all exited the water within seconds of each other.

Feuersinger dominated through the bike – despite the wet roads – extending her lead to over four minutes on Derron until disaster struck in the final kilometres and a mechanical forced her to withdraw from the race. This saw Derron take the lead, coming into T2 over two minutes head of Siffert who had remained in third throughout the bike. Once out on the run, there was no stopping Derron and she took the win convincingly in 4:03:38 after running a 1:12:37 and taking Anne Haug’s record from 2021. Alanis Siffert came in second in 4:13:28 and Sarah Schönfelder (GER) rounded out the podium in third in 4:21:05.

“I think I had good start, I tried to get onto Therese’s feet and I didn’t quite manage it,” said Derron. “She had a great swim and bike. I pushed really hard on the bike and I was really happy with my performance. Onto the run and I know I’m in good run shape and even if Therese hadn’t had a mechanical, I think I could have run her down. I’m really happy with the win and it was a really great atmosphere and a great race!”

Olympian, Justus Nieschlag (GER) led the men out of the water in 22:50 with Panagiotis Bitados (GRE) just three seconds down, closely followed by Magnus Männer (GER). A further 50 seconds back were Max Sperl (GER), Olympian Stefan Zachäus (LUX) and 2019 Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee champion, Maurice Clavel (GER). Nieschlag set the pace early on and led throughout the bike while behind him he had Bitados, Männer and Zachäus hunting him down, who in turn were holding off a large chase group that included Tom Hug (GER). In the final kilometres of the bike, Hug picked up the pace, taking the lead of the second chase group and trying to bridge the gap to the first group, finally catching them just before T2. Nieschlag headed out onto the run first followed by Bitados with Hug in third. It soon became clear that Bitados was the fastest man on course as he ate into Nieschlag’s 2:30 lead and behind him Hug was also catching. Into the third lap at the 12km mark, Bitados took the lead and then on the final lap, Hug also overtook Nieschlag into second. Bitados took the win in 3:41:42 after posting a 1:09:24 run split, smashing the run course record, and Hug was just one minute behind in second in 3:42:43 while Nieschlag took third in 3:43:26.

“It was amazing, I felt really good from the start to the finish,” said Bitados. “I’m very happy with my result, and in the run, I can’t believe my legs ran so fast! I’ll always have great memories of this weekend.”