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PRO tips for racing Challenge The Championship – Lucy Buckingham shares her top tips for age groupers

Get ready to take on Challenge The Championship with confidence, as Lucy Buckingham shares her insights on what you need to know before race day to have your best performance yet.

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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Challenge Family’s world championship event, aptly named The Championship, is a key event in the middle distance race calendar for age-groupers and PROs alike. Each year a selection of the world’s best elites line up ahead of top-level age groupers who’ve earned their spot by qualifying at another Challenge Family event. And 2024 will be no exception, with almost 2,000 athletes set to race in Šamorín.

Being on the start line at The Championship is an achievement in its own right. But chances are you’ll want to get the very best performance out of yourself no race day to see how you stack up against such a strong field. And while the course is fast, flat – and fun. It’s also surprisingly tough.

We caught up with PRO triathlete and middle distance star Lucy Buckingham, who finished 3rd at The Championship in 2022, to get her top tips for age-groupers to make the most of their time out on the race course in Šamorín.

Don’t panic about the swim

Historically, the swim at Challenge The Championship took place in the Danube River. Scenes of even the PROs opting to wear neoprene hats under their race caps because of low water temperatures in years gone by, and talk of the strong current might have you feeling worried. But as of 2023, Challenge have opted to move the swim into a canal adjacent to the fast-flowing Danube.

Challenge The Championship swim
The swim course at Challenge The Championship now takes place in a canal adjacent to the Danube River [Photo: Bartłomiej Zborowski/Activ’Images]

“That’s probably a good thing,” says Lucy Buckingham, “particularly for weaker swimmers worried about withstanding the conditions, as the current won’t be as strong.”

“It’s probably more enjoyable now, though it was cool to be able to say you’ve been swimming in the Danube!”

Along with less of a current to contend with, the new swim course also means you’re that bit closer to T1. Great to know, when every second counts!

The bike course is flat, fast and fun – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy

Take a look at the elevation gain alone, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the bike course at Challenge The Championship is going to give you an easy ride. But it’s actually “relatively tough,” says Lucy.

“Because it’s so flat, you don’t have a reason to get out of the saddle or to freewheel. It’s very much full on, for the whole ride.”

It might be tempting to really push the pace on the bike to make the most of the flat profile. And hopefully you’ve been dialling in your aero position enough that you can hold it. But it’s worth bearing in mind that you might want to take a quick break once or twice to stretch out – perhaps while you’re going through an aid station – so that you’re not completely tight and tied up for the run.

Pace yourself on the run course

“My biggest tip is to make sure you pace yourself on the run course, because it’s deceptively hard,” Lucy advises. “It’s very twisty and turny in places and you have different terrains. Sand, grass, tarmac – you have it all.”

Lucy Buckingham running her way to a podium finish at Challenge The Championship 2022 [Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade]

“It always tends to be relatively warm this time of year in Samorin, so that’s something to consider as well. Either stop or jog through at each aid station to make sure you get your nutrition on board.”

“I spoke to some age group athletes when I did the race back in 2022, and the run course definitely caught them out. I’d say they were triathletes who’s strongest discipline was the run. So it’s a challenging course – but definitely very fun as well.”


Check out our race guide for more details on The Championship – from details on the course to the best places to check out after your race!

Jenny Lucas-Hill
Written by
Jenny Lucas-Hill
Jenny Lucas-Hill is a writer, content creator and communications professional. A long-distance triathlon enthusiast, she has three full Iron-distance finishes to date & also loves watching the sport.

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