Triathlon - The Powerhouse of Franconia - Sport
7500 volunteers set up the small town of Roth as a stage for the triathlon challenge. Detlef Kühnel once imported the idea of endurance triathlon from Hawaii - now Roth is a big name in the scene.
At the beginning of July, they experience a kind of fifth season every year in Roth, which is always the same and always a little different. Then the place, which is otherwise comfortable in the Franconian Lake District, changes into a focal point of the endurance scene. Shops decorate their shop windows with racing bikes and running shoes, students paint flags that hang everywhere in the place. And more and more athletes can be seen; some train on bicycles as expensive as a small car and live with a family in the surrounding area - because the hotels are not nearly enough to accommodate only those 3400 starters, this time participate in the triathlon in Roth; On Sunday, it's time again. And something else is always the same, says Felix Walchshöfer, the race director: The message that everyone hears as soon as he arrives in Roth: "There is really everyone here in the triathlon," says Walchshöfer, from grandmother to first grader.
There are these small places, which find by the sport to a size, you only once a year looks at them properly. Kitzbühel and Wengen with their alpine descents, Wimbledon with tennis, Götzis with athletics. Or just the Middle Franconian Roth with its 25,000 inhabitants, who are almost all networked with this triathlon, which may be understood without exaggeration as the cradle of long distance in Germany. It was Detlef Kühnel who imported the idea of the often mythically inflated endurance three-way fight from Hawaii to Roth in the 1980s; he had participated in the original race on Kona. 35 years ago he organized the first German triathlon with international cast with the TSV 1859 Roth. Four years later they offered the first long distance: 3.8 kilometers swimming, 180 kilometers cycling, 42.195 kilometers running. By 2001, they were buying the license from the American Ironman chain hosting the Hawaii competition, Roth was one of the qualification races for the year's peak. Until Kühnel and Herbert Walchshöfer, the organizers at that time, became too outrageous with the Americans.
The Challenge series has long been a business, with races in Mexico and Vietnam
The Rother invented then their own race from which soon grew a series of competitions, the Challenge, challenge. At first this was especially true of their new format. They did not know whether they would remain loyal to sponsors and athletes or join the Ironman in Frankfurt, who has since been considered a qualification for Kona - and briskly promised that Roth would run out of rank. "It was anything but easy," remembers Felix Walchshöfer, this is anything but exaggerated. But his family kept the peace even when Walchshöfer's father Herbert died in 2007. Today, Mother Alice, Felix and Sister Kathrin belong to Teamchallenge GmbH, and if you look at the story behind it, you can learn a lot about the originators of the spectacle, the Franks themselves.
A call to Ralph Edelhäußer is enough, he is mayor in Roth and speaks with this idiom, which also tells a lot about the Franks: a bit gnarly, peppy, hearty. "If you are new here, go into an economy, then the Franke waits until you come to him," says Edelhäußer. "But if you have convinced him, then you have a friend for life." Of course, the Walchshöfers knew how to tackle their compatriots. They told them that Roth "is not the race of the family Walchshöfer," as Felix Walchshöfer says, but that of a region. And so soon (almost) all of them joined in: Families who have been hosting the same athletes for 25 years without cost, as one of 1000 "homestays"; Three-year-olds who wear the helper t-shirt like a nightie and athletes hand wet sponges to cool off; the spectators at the Solarer Berg, who are not even the slowest roar the slope as in the high mountains at the Tour de France - what Felix Walchshöfer, when he joined himself in Roth five years ago, the tears in the eyes drove ("Thank God had I have a pair of sunglasses "). And there are the helpers who provide the morning after the race with coffee and rolls all the athletes who camped in the night before the race office, because they want to get there one of the 1000 starting places for the next year.
Their basic idea, they have hardly changed in Roth in 35 years: intermeshing competitive and competitive sports, from the junior race on the mayor squadron to the great triathlon. But Felix Walchshöfer knows, of course, that in times of event culture, there are hardly any certainties even for classics: "We want and have to put on something every year," he says. This time they have transformed the finish stadium into a closed arena and equipped it with digital advertising boards, they have expanded the exhibition grounds with its many stalls to a small cinema in which they show documentaries, the Bayerischer Rundfunk broadcasts the race for the first time - also on the Internet, where the future generation of regulars is on the move. It is still not difficult for them to present themselves as an alternative to the cool shops of the Ironman chain. It was sold to the Chinese Dalian Wanda Empire nearly four years ago, for $ 650 million (which is one reason why Jan Frodeno launched in Roth three years ago instead of Frankfurt, creating his world record). The Challenge series of the Walchshöfers has long been a business, with races in Mexico, the Czech Republic and Vietnam. But there is "nothing upstate", says Edelhäußer, and the success is indeed right - 260 000 spectators are expected this time, which makes the race the largest one-day event in Bavaria, as they have calculated in Roth. 12 million euros are to hang in the region. It took 30 seconds until there were 1000 starting places advertised on the internet. Among the professionals are six of the top ten men of the past Hawaii Ironman at the start (but none of the best Germans, who last secured their Kona participation in Frankfurt), among the women is the British Lucy Charles favorite.
And even with the helpers, they expect a new record: 7500 should be this time, and in times when many clubs find fewer and fewer volunteers. That's why every year Felix Walchshöfer and his sister drive all the stops by motorbike to thank as many volunteers as possible. The big can only work if it is aware of its power cell on a small scale.