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Bækkegård and Visser and Take Inaugural Titles at Challenge Canberra

Australia’s capital city played host to some of the biggest names in the sport this weekend with Daniel Bækkegård (DEN) and Els Visser (NED) taking the inaugural Challenge Canberra wins in a thrilling day of racing.

Set against the backdrop of Parliament House, the swim saw Michael Boult (AUS) exit the water in the lead in 24:28 with the three athletes who would become the main players of the day just seconds behind him – Kurt McDonald (AUS), Bækkegård and Caleb Noble (AUS). McDonald took an early lead on the bike with Noble and Bækkegård in hot pursuit. At the top of the National Arboretum climb, Bækkegård’s race nearly ended when a fogged visor coupled with a fast tight turn resulted in him crashing. Fortunately he was able to get straight back into the race with nothing lost but a couple of minutes. Ahead of him Noble had caught McDonald and the first lap they switched back and forth, both looking strong and both hungry for victory, Noble with the Challenge Family World Bonus win in his sights. By half way through the second of three laps Bækkegård caught the leaders and took the lead. A wrong turn by Noble at the end of the bike meant it was a running race between McDonald and Bækkegård, running neck and neck until the halfway point when Bækkegård made his move and never looked back, crossing the line in 3:54:04 to take the inaugural win with McDonald 1:59 behind him in second in 3:56:04. Noble rounded out the podium in 3:58:28 finishing his season in second place in the Challenge Family Pro World Bonus.

“It was good to blow off a few cobwebs today!,” said Bækkegård. “I didn’t have a great swim and a terrible transition, then I had a crash going downhill in the Arboretum but after checking nothing was broken I jumped back on the bike and tried to keep as calm as possible. Then I just had to chase the front group and Kurt and Caleb did an amazing job on the front, really pushing the pace. When I caught them I kept charging. It was amazing to race Kurt on the run, he’s one of the young guns and it was awesome to race and see how eager he was to go out there and leave everything on the race course. It was beautiful scenery and a great course!”

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While the men’s race drama was at the beginning, the women left it until the run! Fenella Langridge (GBR) lead out the water as expected, just two seconds ahead of Chloe Hartnett (AUS) and Radka Kahlefeldt (AUS) with Visser 3:08 down in sixth. Langridge quickly broke away on the bike with Hartnett and Kahlefeldt in pursuit. Behind the Visser was slowly but surely gaining and by the 60km point she had reduced the deficit to 1:39 and had ridden up into second. Langridge came into T2 30 seconds ahead of Visser and they both set off at a blistering pace. At the end of the first of three lap, Visser was just six seconds down and for the next two laps they raced neck and neck, neither able to shake the other. As they approached the last small hill just metres from the finish line, there was still nothing in it, but it was Visser who used the hill to her advantage to get ahead, both sprinting down the finish chute with Visser taking the win in 4:20:48. Langridge was just eight seconds behind in second while Kahlefeldt rounded out the podium in third in 4:26:58.

“That was one hell of a finish!”, said Visser. “It’s a really challenging bike course so I just thought be patient but try to push hard and I was getting closer and closer. It took me the first lap of the run to close the gap to Fenella and we were pretty much running side by side and it became a mental game. I gave my absolute best and I’m super pleased to take the win. It’s such an amazing event, it couldn’t have been any better, a big congratulations to the organising team!”

For full results, visit https://rtrt.me/ulink/SSPLA/SSPL-CHALLENGECANBERRA23. For further information, visit www.challenge-canberra.com.