In a race that had more plot twists than a Quentin Tarantino film, Lucy Charles became the inaugural Challenge Family’s “The Championship” winner on Saturday.

Text By Rob Sheeley | Images By Getty Images

 

Charles’ victory was a thriller, crossing the line just 30-seconds in front of Australia’s Annabel Luxford with Canadian Heather Wurtele a mere minute behind.

Amazingly, all three had looked a probable winner at some stage within the last 3.5km, in what can only be described as an epic finish.

The Brit has shown vast improvement in 2017 and is amid a rich vein of form, winning the last three races that she has contested. Her progress is such that it may be even taking her by surprise.

“It’s feels a little crazy to think I could be seen as a threat on any start line from here in,” Charles told Witsup.

“I don’t think I’ve sat down for long enough to allow my recent results to sink in. I certainly feel like my progression is on track. As of April this year (after Challenge Gran Canaria) I went properly ‘full time’ as a pro as this has really helped with recovery after sessions.

“I definitely know I have a lot more to come, which is exciting!”

Whilst always the strongest swimmer in the race, Charles has made quantum leaps on both her bike and run legs which was never more evident than when she overhauled Luxford and Wurtele in the concluding stages of the race.

“My run felt strong today which is always nice after 90km’s on the bike.

“It honestly wasn’t until the last 2km of the run that I thought the win could be in sight. I was getting time splits on the bike but on the run it was a matter of gauging the gaps yourself.

“I made my final move with less than 1km to go and I still can’t believe it!

“It was so close to the end when I passed Annabel and Heather that I didn’t have time to think. I was just praying my legs had a final sprint in them, luckily they managed to dig deep and find something!”

Charles was the first out of the water as expected with Luxford staying in touch just 25-seconds behind. Ellie Salthouse was in third, in company with Rachel Klamer.

An exciting bike leg unfolded, with Luxford working hard to gain the upper hand from Charles. However, it was another Brit who took centre stage over the 90km circuit.

Kim Morrison wasted no time in erasing the three-minute deficit that she had after the swim and then set about trying to open up a lead. She biked a sizzling 2:12:08, which was two minutes quicker than anyone else in the field and gave her a lead of 53-seconds over Luxford as they went onto the run.

Wurtele biked strongly and moved into third, looming as a big threat. Charles was fourth into T2, a little over four minutes off the lead.

An engrossing run-leg saw more moves than the chess world championship. First it was Luxford who took the lead over Morrison, with the Australian looking to be a massive winning chance.

Wurtele then made her way into second, running strongly and appearing to be the main danger to Luxford.

At the 8km mark Wurtele hit the front, making it seem as though a win would be a fait accompli.

Charles was ticking away back in the field, moving to third at the 11km mark, but still three-minutes astern of the leaders.

Wurtele looked in control, still maintaining ascendency with less than 4km left to run.

But Luxford had one last ace up her sleeve, surging to the lead just 2km from the red carpet.

While all eyes were on the Luxford/Wurtele battle royal, Charles was unleashing a stealth attack behind and quickly claimed Wurtele.

Luxford still appeared to have a winning break, however Charles saw an opportunity and was running home like a hungry school kid, with a gaze of steely determination in her eyes.

Charles put paid to Luxford in the twinkling of an eye and, with the finish chute in sight, went on to score a memorable victory.

Luxford’s effort in second cannot be understated and was consistent across all three disciplines. She appeared to have timed her race to perfection before the Charles ambush.

For Wurtele it was a solid return from a calf injury that has kept her on the sidelines for the past few weeks.

“My calf was great, thankfully,” Wurtele said

“I was a little concerned, of course, as my first race back from a strain, but I think it was just an overall lack of run fitness – being unable to put in my usual training miles due to the recovery from the injury – that was my undoing more than anything.”

“Arguably I could have been a bit more conservative to start, but I really I believed I could win it, raced aggressively and gave it all I had, so no regrets!

“Of course, I would have liked to have the perfect lead up to this race, and to feel like my run fitness was where it needed to be to hang on to lead for that last 1750m, but I’m proud of how I handled my recovery (erred on the side of caution, kept my cool, stayed patient (mostly!) and did what I needed to do to recover etc.)

“So while being so close to the win, and ending up 3rd is heartbreaking, I’m definitely happy with my day in the big scheme of things!”

Behind all the main action, half-distance debutant, Rachel Klamer, produced the fastest run-split of the day (1:23:28) to claim fourth place. Given her limited preparation, this result could be a sign of bigger and better things to come for the noted short-course athlete.

One of the features of The Championship was the 20-metre draft zone, which appeared to be well received by the athletes, Wurtele was one such fan.

“This rule makes such a big difference!

“It is so nice to know that all your competition actually has their noses in the wind, and that everyone gets off the bike with a full 90km of riding in their legs.

“As someone who is often a couple minutes down from the lead swimmers out of the water, it’s really difficult to make up deficit to a large group riding together, even when riding legal at 10 or 12m, so it definitely made me happy to be riding well and seeing the time gaps to the front decreasing as a result.

“There were these great “check your distance” signs 20m apart on the road, since people are not as familiar with how big the gap needs to be, and I saw lots of officials.  I definitely appreciate the initiative that Challenge is taking to make races as fair as possible.”

If the first installment of The Championship is anything to go by, this race could develop into one of the features on the triathlon calendar.

The Championship 2017 Results

1 CHARLES Lucy GBR 4:13:59
2 LUXFORD Annabel AUS 4:14:33
3 WURTELE Heather CAN 4:15:36
4 KLAMER Rachel NED 4:17:19
5 SALTHOUSE Ellie AUS 4:20:49
6 MORRISON Kimberley GBR 4:22:30
7 BERANEK Anja GER 4:23:51
8 HENGARTNER Corina SUI 4:25:06
9 VAQUERA Judith ESP 4:26:02
10 VODICKOVA Radka CZE 4:26:49
11 KOTFICA Paulina POL 4:29:50
12 SIDDALL Laura GBR 4:31:17
13 MAKSIMAVA Hanna BLR 4:38:05
14 SCHWALBE Ulrike GER 4:51:05
15 NEC LAPINOVA Kristina SVK 4:51:05
DNF PALLANT Emma GBR DNF
DNF CSOMOR Erika HUN DNF
DNF CORONA Adriana Fabiola MEX DNF
DNF GEHNBOCK Sylvia AUT DNF
DNF RADCZUK Daria POL DNF
DNF SEIDEL Kirralee AUS DNF

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