The wind was blowing and the temperatures pretty chilly – but the debut of the 2XU Challenge Wales in Fishguard was never likely to be an easy challenge for anyone.
There was close racing at the front of the men’s race from an experienced Olympian to take a narrow win, with a first professional middle distance victory for the women’s champion.
Three athletes broke clear from the start of the race over the two-lap swim. Australian Aaron Royle, Commonwealth Games-bound Josh Lewis (who will be representing Guernsey), and Tom Bishop. All three raced last weekend in Leeds; Royle and Bishop in the WTCS event, and Lewis in the British Triathlon Super Series race that proceeded it.
Royle was first out of the swim in 21-minutes flat, with Lewis (21:06) and Bishop (21:11) right in touch, before a gap of almost 20 seconds back to James Chantler-Mayne, who was a solo chaser. Tom Davis lead the bigger chase group out in 22:16.
While best known for his short course career, Royle has won an IRONMAN 70.3 previously (Sunshine Coast 2020), and was also second last year at IRONMAN 70.3 Cascais, Portugal. He was no middle distance novice.
Royle continued to push the pace on the bike, but couldn’t drop Lewis and Bishop on the rolling course.
Josh Lewis was actually first into T2 after a 2:15:32 bike split, but not far behind, eight athletes would start the run in very close order with the Channel Islander chased by Royle, Bishop, Tom Davis, Harry Palmer, Sam Wade, Jack Hutchens and, with the fastest bike split of the day, Germany’s Markus Thomschke.
Those eight athletes would fill the top eight positions 21km later – and there really wasn’t much between them. The experienced Australian, Royle, came out on top with a 1:13:28 run split, but the men’s podium was separated by less than a minute. To add a little extra into the mix, Royle also had to serve a bike dismount line penalty.
Jack Hutchens – who recently won the Outlaw Half Triathlon – just pipped Harry Palmer (another Outlaw Triathlon Series winner), for second. That makes it a great week for Palmer, who just six days ago was finishing fifth at IRONMAN 70.3 Warsaw.
Hannah Munday set the pace in the water for the women, her 24:12 giving her a one-minute advantage over Megan McDonald and Lucy Byram.
With just three Pro women starting (Byram, plus Tara Grosvenor and Claire Weller), it would be an opportunity for some of the top age-group women to be mixing it towards the front of the race too.
Second recently at Challenge Riccione, Lucy Byram took an early lead on the bike, but Megan McDonald was not giving up much time, while the fastest rider of the day was Laura Addie, who as an amateur champion at the IRONMAN World Championship back in 2019.
Once onto the run, Byram took control and with a 1:26:21 run split, she finished well clear of what would be four age-group athletes, with Addie (2nd) and McDonald (3rd) being next across the line.
Challenge Wales 2022 results
Saturday 18 June 2022 – 1.9km / 90km / 21.1km
- 1. Aaron Royle (AUS) – 3:51:48
- 2. Jack Hutchens (GBR) – 3:52:34
- 3. Harry Palmer (GBR) – 3:52:37
- 4. Thomas Bishop (GBR) – 3:52:55
- 5. Joshua Lewis (GBR) – 3:53:02
- 6. Thomas Davis (GBR) – 3:53:07
- 1. Lucy Byram (GBR) – 4:26:59
- 2. Laura Addie (GBR) – 4:37:15 (AG 25-29)
- 3. Megan McDonald (GBR) – 4:41:09 (AG 25-29)
- 4. Rhianne Hughes (GBR) – 4:42:05 (AG 18-24)
- 5. Hannah Munday (GBR) – 4:45:16 (AG 30-34)
- 6. Tara Grosvenor (GBR) – 4:46:32
- 7. Claire Weller (GBR) – 4:52:20