He may be known as an uber-biker but Magnus Ditlev reckoned the biggest difference between his record-breaking Challenge Roth triumph this year and his first title 12 months earlier was down to his swim improvement.
In 2022, Ditlev was out of the water in 12th place and had work to do on the bike before bridging up to the front group.
‘I had a few more cards to play’
But on Sunday in Germany something very different unfolded. He was out of the water in sixth place but crucially there were just a handful of seconds between himself and leader Ben Kanute.
It was noticeable in transition that Ditlev seemed incredibly relaxed – no wonder given his close proximity – and early into the bike he was leading the way with Sam Laidlow, the pair soon pulling clear.
They would work well together until early in the run when Laidlow started to struggle, leaving Ditlev to forge clear for a famous victory.
Whether it was a new world best is a moot point – though the magnitude of it was underlined beautifully by Sebi Kienle – but it was certainly a Roth record (by a mindblowing 11 minutes) as well as the fastest ever full-distance bike split.
And when I asked Magnus afterwards about his race, he was quick to reference that swim: “I think the biggest difference to last year in the race itself was the fact I was able to swim in the front pack. That set me up for the day – I had a few more cards to play.
My swim level has actually been quite good for a long time but I just haven’t shown it at the races yet.
“I’ve been working hard with a personal swim coach, focusing on the technique. And we have known for a while that my swim level in the pool is quite good, so trying to translate that into open water was the challenge.
“I think it’s a lot about getting that experience with the mass starts. And I think the swim course in Roth suits me quite well in the way that it is a very long way onto the first turn buoy. Sometimes when it’s more like 200 metres to the first buoy, it’s much more of a lottery when you don’t have the top speed.”
Speaking before the race, the Dane has talked about how different things were to 12 months ago when he came to Roth virtually on his own but now has a big team behind him.
And referencing that he added: “This win means so much to me. I felt a lot of pressure before the race. I wanted to defend my title and I want to thank my team that gave everything for this win.
“I never expected to be this fast. I don’t really know how I pulled that off. It was a very special moment when one of the first people to congratulate me was the former record holder Jan Frodeno.
“First and foremost, I ran for the win. But the fact it turned out to be such a good time makes me all the happier. I thought that once it was going to be a wetsuit swim it would probably be a bit quicker than last year.”
And in terms of the whole Roth experience, in common with so many of the other athletes, he said: “From the moment I arrived in Roth this year and the whole week leading into the race, I’ve been feeling very welcomed by the Germans and everyone involved with the race. So I really wanted to give everything out there to give something back. And I think I did my best and managed to do that.”