Hug and Zimmermann Secure Wins at Challenge St Pölten

A thrilling finish in the women’s race and a successful title defense in the men’s marked Challenge St Pölten 2024 with Tom Hug (GER) taking the win in 3:52:48, and Laura Zimmermann (GER) securing victory in 4:27:06.

Unique to Challenge St Pölten, the race started with the pro females, who took to the water 20 minutes ahead of the pro men. Chloe Sparrow (GBR) dominated in the women’s swim in only her second professional race over this distance, exiting the water in 27:19, nearly two and a half minutes ahead of Australia’s Milan Agnew and Sarah Kallous (GER) who exited just four seconds apart. Sparrow continued to rule the race on the bike, growing her lead to over four minutes in the first half. However, Sarah Schönfelder (GER) started making inroads into that lead from just over the halfway point and by the time the pair reached T2 the gap was down to just 27 seconds, with Zimmermann 2:41 down on the lead as they headed out onto the run. Schönfelder quickly took the lead from Sparrow in the first couple of kilometres and from that point, it appeared her victory was clear. However, the final stages of the women’s race provided to be the most exciting of the day, as first Sparrow and then Zimmermann overtook Schönfelder. But the race was not over, Zimmermann dug deep, overtaking Sparrow in the last kilometres to cross the line first in 4:27:06. Sparrow took second in 4:27:46 and Schönfelder finishing third in 4:28:57.

“My race wasn’t perfect, another athlete had taken my bag and I had a puncture on the bike course! But in the end, it was a pretty tight race and I took the lead in the final five kilometres and was really happy to take the win,” said Zimmermann.

Challenge St Pölten’s unique two-lake swim provided no surprises in the men’s race with Hannes Butters (GER) exiting the water in 23:01, nearly two minutes ahead of Ognjen Stojanovic (SRB) while behind him Jonas Kreckel (GER) and Philip Pertl (AUT) exited neck-and-neck in third. Hug was more than two minutes back but quickly rode up into the top 10 and from that point on, continued to gain time and positions, arriving in T2 in second behind Butters who had led throughout the bike. Ondrej Kubo (SVK), Michael Weiss (AUT) and Will Draper (GBR) came in in third, fourth and fifth and the battle continued on the fast, flat two-lap run with less than two minutes between them all. Within the first kilometre, Hug took the lead and never looked back, taking the win in 3:52:48. Behind him, by the halfway point Kubo and Draper had overtaken a flagging Butters, and secured second and third in 3:54:59 and 3:55:28 respectively.

“First of all, I’m over the moon to defend my title,” said Hug. “The crowds were amazing, I really love this race. I had a solid swim, I came out of the water with Nicolas Mann who I thought would be one of the best opponents. Unfortunately I had a crash early on the bike and lost most of my nutrition. But I managed to still do well and tried to attack on the second climb of the bike and open a gap and managed to defend this gap over the run course.”


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