During his unprecedented triathlon career, Frodeno has achieved almost everything. He has an Olympic gold medal, won in Beijing in 2008, and is the current Ironman Hawaii winner along with many other outstanding successes. However, two major milestones elude him – a victory at the world's largest long distance triathlon and the world record over 226km. On 17 July, the native of Cologne who grew up in South Africa, will attempt to achieve both.
"Roth is a European triathlon legend, a start at Challenge Roth is on every triathlete's bucket list," he said. After a calf injury in February, Frodeno is now back in full training mode, mentally stronger than ever and determined to achieve his goals: to win at Roth and break the world record of 7:41:33 that was set by Andreas Raelert in Roth in 2011. "I will do everything in my power to make the world record a reality."
Given the circumstances, last year's winner, Nils Frommhold is facing a tough battle to defend his title but as is well known in triathlon, everything is possible. The Berliner's 2015 winning time of 7:51:28 was the seventh fastest ever over the long distance and under 10 minutes from the world record. In addition, the 29-year-old is in top form and knows the course. On a good day, a victory for the reigning German champion, two-times Ironman champion and top five Hawaiian athlete is within easy reach.
Other German contenders are Jan Raphael and Dirk Bockel. Raphael won his long distance debut in Florida in 2006, took the Ironman Sweden title in 2012 and was second twice in Frankfurt, most recently in 2013. Bockel, who now lives in the USA, won DATEV Challenge Roth in 2013 and at that time held the sixth fastest even long distance time (7:52:01).
Also in the fight for the podium is 33-year-old Tyler Butterfield from Bermuda. He took part in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2012 Games in London and in 2014 was the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon champion. He also has a number of top 10 finishes over the long distance in his career, including a fifth at Hawaii in 2015. Butterfield is internationally known as a strong cyclist and will bring some excitement to the bike leg of the race.
Frenchman Cyril Viennot has also taken fifth placed in Hawaii, along with a win in 2014 at Ironman UK and the ITU Long Distance World Championships title in Sweden in 2015. Now he heads to Roth for the first time. Always just behind him but always in sight is the young Englishman, Joe Skipper. Second at Ironman UK (2014), Texas (2015), New Zealand (2016) along with his first long distance victory at Challenge Weymouth in 2014, he is a 26-year-old with a strong future.
From Spain comes experienced triathlete and duathlete, Marcel Zamora Perez, who is regarded as a mountain specialist and has won Ironman France for five consecutive years including in 2014, just weeks after competing at one of the world's toughest races, Embrunman. Current ITU Long Distance World Champion runner-up, 33-year-old Martin Jensen also joins the field with his strong swim and a win at Ironman Japan on his resume.
Per Bittner (GER), Alessandro Degasperi (ITA) and Nick Kastelein (AUS) round out the men's professional field together with a true Roth legend who is returning to celebrate the 15th anniversary. Thomas Hellriegel was the first German Hawaii winner in 1997 and has several Roth top five finishes although despite his brilliance, he was always denied a Roth victory. He has a huge following in Roth and he is returning to show just how he earned his nickname "Hell on Wheels".
In the women's field, the entire 2015 podium returns for DATEV Challenge Roth 2016: champion Yvonne van Vlerken, runner-up Carrie Lester (AUS) and local hero Anja Beranek.
Words are not needed to describe van Vlerken in Roth, she is already something of a legend with three wins (2007, 2008, 2015) at the 'best old race'. Previous only Paula Newby-Fraser and the incomparable Chrissie Wellington had celebrated three consecutive victories at the Franconian triathlon mecca. In 2008 she set a new world record at Roth and in the same year finished second behind Wellington in Hawaii. If she makes 2016 her fourth victory she will make history as the only four-time champion. Lester was just two minutes behind van Vlerken in 2015 and two minutes after that Beranek crossed the line.
This year victory is possible for both Lester and the reigning German champion, Beranek. The 31-year-old German is especially focused to take a home victory. In addition to several recent half distance wins, she won Ironman Wales half an hour ahead of Tineke van den Berg. However, she must battle with Lester who has already proven she can produce an excellent time on an unfamiliar course, a course she now knows.
Strong competition comes from the USA in the form of Meredith Kessler, Mary Beth Ellis and Caroline Gregory. Based in San Francisco, Kessler has no less than 10 Ironman victories on her CV with her most recent success at Ironman New Zealand which she won for a fifth time with a new course record. The personal best of the strong swimmer is 8:44.
Rival Mary Beth Ellis, based in Boulder, Colorado, is the reigning ITU Long Distance World Champion. At her first long distance race at Klagenfurt in 2011 she not only set the course record but recorded the fastest Ironman debut of all time in 8:43:34. Within seven weeks, she had another two titles to her name. Young Gregory can still only dream of such success. Despite several top five rankings, a victory over the long distance still eludes her.
Two promising athletes are travelling from the north to Roth. Michelle Vesterby got fourth in Hawaii last year and is already known in Roth from her 2014 start when she got eighth but she has significant potential for a better performance. The 32-year-old Dane is trained by Roth legend, Luc van Lierde and took her first victory 2012 in Lanzarote and with her excellent Hawaii result could now add a Roth victory to her list. Scandinavia is also represented by Jessica Fleming (SWE) who got third at Ironman Australia while still an age grouper in 2013. She followed up with a second place in 2015, plus runner-up results at Challenge Taiwan and Ironman Japan.
There are also two professional triathletes from Great Britain. Susie Cheetham is actually a half distance specialist but she can also tough it out in the full distance, proven by a respectable sixth place in Hawaii in 2015, followed by a win at Challenge Forte Village Sardina and a runner-up finish at South Africa just a few days ago. Fellow countrywoman, Laura Siddall, who splits her time between San Francisco, Australia and New Zealand, is a relative newcomer to the distance but already has two second place finishes at Challenge Wanaka, secured with the fastest bike split, to her name, along with a fourth at Ironman New Zealand.
There is also a very special Hungarian athlete who has been part of Challenge Roth since it began rounds out the women's field: Erika Csomor. At 42, the popular athlete will say farewell to triathlon after her last race where it all began, on the Challenge Roth course in 2002. For the triple duathlon world champion it was a strong entry into triathlon with a second place. In 2008 there was laughter and tears at the finish line. While Csomor managed to break Paula Newby-Fraser's world record, Yvonne van Vlerken was a minute faster so despite a personal best it was again only second place for Csomor. She has never won in Roth but her friendly and modest manner has earned her a place in the hearts of the spectators. They will give her a fond farewell together with the athletes, volunteers and fans.