The Championship: Our analysis and predictions for the professional races in Šamorín

Our predictions for The Championship, which takes place this weekend in Slovakia and is the crown jewel of the Challenge Family middle distance calendar.

Staff Reporter
Last updated -

This weekend, a world class field will assemble in Slovakia for The Championship, which will host its seventh annual edition of the event at the x-bionic sphere in Šamorín.

The race, pitting top athletes head-to-head for bragging rights, Challenge Family World Bonus points and a slice of the €100,000 prize purse, has become a staple in the European middle distance calendar.

In our pre-race analysis below, we look at who to watch out for and when, before making our predictions for the professional podium in both the men and women’s races.


Pro Women

In the women’s race, its easy to forget that India Lee suffered from a mechanical on the bike last year, and given how comfortably she ended up winning in 2023, it will be hard to look past the defending champion this weekend.

India Lee wins the Challenge Championship in Samorin 2023 [Photo credit: Activimages / Challenge Family]
[Photo credit: Activimages / Challenge Family]

Lee has the ability to come out of the water within 30 seconds of the leaders, who will most likely be Spaniard Marta Sanchez and Britain’s Fenella Langridge, before bridging that gap through transition or early on in the bike.

Having set the course record on the bike last year, the PTO World #12 has the power necessary to make a break on two wheels. Sanchez and Langridge will be hard to drop, and Denmark’s Laura Madsen will be trying to close from behind, but Lee does have what it takes in her locker.

If she bikes off the front, the 35-year-old demonstrated last year and this season at the Miami T100 that she is a brilliant runner, with only Dutch pro Els Visser possibly having the edge over her in this discipline.

Marta Sanchez wins 2024 IRONMAN African Championship / IRONMAN South Africa
Photo Credit: Richard Pearce for IRONMAN

Across the board, Lee in my opinion is too strong for the rest of the field, and will defend her title on Sunday. Visser will pick up her seventh consecutive podium of the season with a strong bike-run, with the in-form Sanchez rounding out the podium.

Podium Prediction:

  1. India Lee (GBR)
  2. Els Visser (NED)
  3. Marta Sanchez (ESP)

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Pro Men

In the men’s race, I am confident that we will see a German on the top step of the podium, but picking between Jan Stratmann, Frederic Funk and Rico Bogen is proving to be incredibly difficult.

Men's podium at the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships
[Photo Credit – Nigel Roddis Getty Images for IRONMAN]

With such great swimmers in the field, not making the front pack in Šamorín could be devastating, with the podium in 2023 all coming from the breakaway group of Funk, Mathis Margirier, Tom Bishop and Aaron Royle.

The aforementioned German trio, Bishop, American Marc Dubrick, Kiwi Kyle Smith and Britain’s Joshua Lewis are all likely to make that front pack this weekend, and with such bike firepower in their midsts, may well enter T2 with a huge lead.

Whilst athletes such as Pieter Heemeryck and James Teagle, who will most likely be in the chase pack, are brilliant runners, a three minute deficit off the bike was too much for Heemeryck, who finished in fourth.

James Teagle wins IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire
Photo Credit – Z70 Photography

If the leaders come off the bike with a similar buffer on Sunday, I am backing Stratmann for the win, as the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship third place finisher comes into this race off the back of some solid results in Valencia and Mallorca.

Dubrick, who recently won St. Anthony’s Triathlon, is my pick for second, with Smith rounding out the podium with a strong run on a challenging course, and Heemeryck coming up just short in fourth in a thrilling finish.

Podium Prediction:

  1. Jan Stratmann (GER)
  2. Marc Dubrick (USA)
  3. Kyle Smith (NZL)
Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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