This is a preview feature written ahead of The Championship 2022. You can read how the events actually unfolded in our post-race reports, which saw Gustav Iden roar back in style in the men’s race and Sara Perez Sala take the women’s title.
Having been held on Collins Cup weekend in August last year, Challenge Family’s The Championship returns to standalone mode this coming Sunday for its fifth edition.
With €100,000 up for grabs, the return to racing of Gustav Iden and the potential of a fifth consecutive British winner of the race, there’s a fair bit to look forward to – especially as you can watch it all live as well via the embed below.
Start time and how to follow live
Challenge Family The Championship takes place on Sunday 22 May 2022.
Race start time is 0900 local time (Pro Men). That corresponds to 0800 in the UK and 0300 Eastern time. The Pro Women start 10 minutes later at 0910 local time.
Commentary for the live broadcast comes from Challenge Family’s Pro Liaison, Belinda Granger. Belinda was recently part of our Experts Panel ahead of the IRONMAN World Championship in St George, and is a regular part of both Challenge and CLASH coverage.
It’s also accessible via he Challenge Family website under the Live tab, along with a timing / tracker link.
No doubting the headline name, with the news of the late addition of reigning IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion, Gustav Iden. Add in his PTO 2020 Championship win at Challenge Daytona to his two 70.3 titles, and the Norwegian is objectively the best middle distance male athlete in the world, winning the biggest race of the season for the last three years. All three were achieved seemingly without pushing to his absolute limits.
That will put a target on his back of course – but likely one he will welcome with a smile and that endearing Norwegian confidence. An awful lot of training went into his St George preparations with nothing to show for it. You would have to think that, assuming he’s now healthy (and why would he be here otherwise?), there’s a lot of frustration to get rid of.
You can’t really bet against Iden for the win – but with Kyle Smith (NZL), Josh Amberger (AUS) and Richard Varga (SVK) racing, he will surely have some chasing to do. That’s a small, but very high quality swim trio – one that Collin Chartier (USA) will hope to make a quartet, perhaps.
It’s not like they all can’t ride either – Smith, for example, led off the bike and the first 6km of the run at the IRONMAN World Championship two weeks ago. Whether he’ll be flying high from that or feeling tired, I suspect he won’t know himself until the gun goes…
Miki Taagholt is a name that typically goes under the radar, but the Danish athlete was fourth at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in St George last year. That’s not the sort of result you can fake – he’s a class act.
Frederic Funk is rising star of German triathlon with strong family heritage in the sport. Exceptional on the bike in particular, he won the Europe Triathlon Middle Distance Champs last year – one of three Challenge Family wins – and started 2022 with a win at the German classic, the Buschhutten Triathlon recently. He will certainly want to reach T2 with a decent margin on Iden, if he has sights on topping the podium this weekend.
When all is said and done though, few will bet against Gustav Iden winning. I’m not one of them.
Fourth in Lanzarote and third in Gran Canaria so far in 2022, defending champion Lucy Buckingham hasn’t quite hit the heights that she showed so consistently through 2021 yet. With a big year ahead, including the PTO Tour and the 70.3 World Championship in late October (a race she missed last year), that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You certainly can’t peak for everything.
Four weeks on from that last race, she’ll likely have stepped up another level though – along with the confidence of returning to a race you have done well at. Given the competition, that will surely be needed to take another win and keep the ‘Lucy’ streak (see below) going in Samorin!
Plenty of additional British interest which should have podium potential too, via Emma Pallant-Browne, Fenella Langridge, India Lee and Lucy Byram.
After wins in Riccione and Mallorca recently, Emma has regained some of the confidence that her early season issues at CLASH Miami will have taken away. Fourth at the race in 2018, her cycling development and aerodynamics in particular, are now more suited to this (flat) course than they were back then, thanks to a lot of input from Specialized and coach, Tim Don. She showed at the Collins Cup last year that she can now perform on this type of terrain with confidence.
Fenella arrives off the back of her eighth place finish at the IRONMAN World Championship, while as we found out this week, India will play a key role in the team supporting Kat Matthews at the Sub8 Project in a few weeks time. She was fourth last time out in Riccione, one place behind Lucy Byram.
One of the strong favourites will surely be Ashleigh Gentle (AUS). Now fully focussed on non-drafting events, she cruised through to victory at CLASH Miami, while everyone around her was seemingly melting. Fourth – with the fastest run – at the strong 70.3 Oceanside was also an impressive result in a quality field. Only two scoring races sees her currently ranked #69 in the world – but a performance in line with either of those, will likely see her not far short of the top-10 next week. A former World Triathlon Grand Final winner, she is a top tier performer.
The swim pace will be on from the gun, with both Buckingham and Sara Perez Sala (ESP) racing. The Spanish athlete has won twice already this year – Volcano Triathlon and Challenge Gran Canaria – and we know she can TT, as long as she avoids the cones…
I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Gentle vs. Pallant-Browne battle late into the race. Both excel on the run, but if Gentle does gain an advantage on the swim, it could set up another memorable finish in Samorin. That really could put the Pallant-Browne run speed and her recovery from Miami, to the test.
The first edition of The Championship took place at the x-Bionic sphere, Samorin in 2017. I remember it well, when I got a (very) late-notice call-up to co-host the live broadcast coverage with Belinda Granger. Both races were truly fantastic – and we’ve had many more since – so same again this weekend would be very welcome.
To date, you have needed to be both British and called Lucy in order to win the women’s Pro race at least… so no pressure then on defending champion, Lucy Buckingham and Lucy Byram, who finished second recently in Riccione!
With defending men’s champion, Florian Angert (an impressive fifth in St George recently), a late withdrawal, that leaves Lucy Buckingham as the only previous winner set to race on Sunday. Previous winners:
2021: Lucy Buckingham (GBR) and Florian Angert (GER)
2019: Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) and Sebastian Kienle (GER)
2018: Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) and Lionel Sanders (CAN)
2017: Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) and Lionel Sanders (CAN)
The swim is a one lap, anti-clockwise circuit of 1.9km in the Danube River.
While always flat and fast, the 90km bike course differs from both the first three editions of the race (2017-19), and the course last year when the race was on the same weekend as the Collins Cup.
The 21km run comprises of three laps totally within the x-Bionic sphere venue. With lots of out-and-backs, turns and differing surfaces underfoot, it’s a very compact course. Again, slightly different to prior years, but it should still be a good one to watch as well as providing athletes with lots of chances to see their competition.
Prize Money: What’s on the line?
As the biggest event in the annual Challenge Family middle distance calendar, The Championship offers a significant total prize purse of EUR 100,000 – that approx. $105k equivalent.
The total funds will be paid ten-deep, as follows:
Of course, thanks to the formation of the Professional Triathletes Organisation, financial rewards from performance are not solely from on-the-day performances.
The PTO World Rankings will see a total of $2million awarded at the end of 2022, based up on the final standings in those points tables. The rewards there can be substantial, with a move up or down the rankings system potentially earning you more than any individual event.
As a Challenge Family event, there’s also a third potential source of earnings for athletes too, courtesy of the Challenge Family World Bonus!
Challenge Family offers a $125,000 bonus pot, which is paid out as $25k / $16.5k / $12k / $6k / $3k to the top five ranked male and female athletes across the Challenge Family/CLASH Endurance race season.
That World Bonus has additional importance for the Samorin event, as the points for winning (400) are significantly above a regular middle distance event (250).